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Why do you need a Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader?

SD cards have fast gained popularity as one of the best storage and data transfer media due to their portability and a secure mode of data transfer.

The media industry has vastly used SD cards as its primary mode of storage due to its portability. Most, if not all, cameras use them as their sole mode of storage.

Apart from the media industry, their use is slowly becoming familiar to a significant number of users. Most of these users have decided to use them as a means of data transfer because of its convenience.

With more users embracing SD cards as their mode of data transfer and backup, the technology has advanced to new standards such as the SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity), SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) which support the SD 4.0 UHS-I (Ultra-High Speed) and UHS-II speeds.

This advancement has created the need for card readers that can conveniently read and write data at high speeds, hence the invention of the Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Readers.

The following section will explain what Thunderbolt 3 is and how to make your device Thunderbolt 3 compatible.

What is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is a connection port that supports the fastest data transfer on a single cable. It offers multipurpose connection to data devices, displays, and docks with speeds of up to 40 GB/s. The Thunderbolt 3 port is similar to the USB Type-C ports; however, not all USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 3 Compatible.

Thunderbolt 3 has fast gained popularity among computers and computer accessories manufacturers, with most of them ensuring their latest devices are Thunderbolt 3 compatible.

If you have recently acquired a MAC, PC, a laptop, or even a High-End phone with OTG support, then there is a high chance your device is Thunderbolt 3 compatible.

If your device does not automatically support Thunderbolt 3, you can still enjoy the fantastic speeds by purchasing a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card to enable your motherboard to support Thunderbolt 3. Please check out with your manufacturer to establish if your motherboard supports Thunderbolt 3 before purchasing the Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card.

Now that we’ve explained what Thunderbolt 3 is let us find out why we need a Thunderbolt 3 compatible SD Card Reader.

Read below to find out why the Thunderbolt 3 SD card reader is one of the essential gadgets if you are using SD cards to transfer and store data.

  • Offers fast access to additional storage space (SD Card)
  • Eases transfer of data from one gadget to the other, e.g., from PC’s to Phones, Cameras, Laptops
  • Provides an easy option for external data back up on your SD
  • Portability- It’s easier to carry data on the SD card as compared to other devices

Things to consider when buying the Thunderbolt 3 card reader

Before acquiring the card reader, it’s essential to consider the below aspects to ensure the card reader solves your data transfer needs rather than being another useless gadget in your backpack.

  • Device compatibly- Confirm if your devices are compatible with Thunderbolt 3 technology
  • Types of cards Supported- Check if the reader supports all cards such as micro SD, SD card and CF
  • Cost – Find out the most efficient card reader and its cost-effectiveness. Everyone will love to get value for their money. Compare several devices that meet your needs and check on the cost; the warranty can also be a guiding factor when analyzing the price.

Now lets sample some of the best Thunderbolt 3 card readers available in the market.

At a Glance – Our Top Picks

ImageProductDetailsCheck Price
1. StarTech.com 6-Slot Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader
StarTech.com 6-Slot Thunderbolt 3 SD Card ReaderSpecs:  6 SD Ports, Integrated Thunderbolt 3 Cable, Supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, Compact Casing
Benefits: Years warranty, free lifetime technical support, Potable, TAA compliant, access 6 SD Cards concurrently
Check on Amazon
2. IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader (GTR360)
IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader (GTR360)Specs:  6 USD card Slots, LED Indicators, SD 4.0 & UHS-II Support, Integrated Thunderbolt Cable, Aluminium Casing
Benefits: Durable, Portable, can be used outdoor, 1-year Warranty, FREE lifetime technical support
Check on Amazon
3. Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader
Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 SD Card ReaderSpecs:  6-Card Capacity, Integrated the Thunderbolt Cable, Compact casing, LED Indicators
Benefits: 1-year replacement warranty, Service support, Compact, Portable, fast data transfer
Check on Amazon
4. Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro
Akitio Thunder3 Dock ProSpecs:  CFast 2.0 and SD 4.0 Ports, Aluminum Casing, Display ports, Ethernet ports
Benefits: Can be used to charge other devices that support charging from a 20V/3A power source, Can be as a display port, Ethernet port, etc., two years Warranty, Best for home use.
Check on Amazon

 

1. StarTech.com 6-Slot Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader 

The StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 SD card reader tops our list as one of the best Thunderbolt 3 SD card readers available in the market.

This SD card reader supports up to 6 SD cards simultaneously.

It is a perfect companion for any videographer and or photographer working with 4k or 3D content. The card supports up to 5Gbps data transfer rate. Its sleek and compact design with an integrated cable ensures maximum convenience and easy to carry around.

Compatibility

The StarTech.com 6-slot Thunderbolt 3 card reader supports the below card types:

  • SD (Secure Digital)
  • SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity)
  • SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity)
  • Micro SD (Adapter Needed)

The card reader slots are UHS-II enabled to ensure data is accessible up to UHS-II speeds. The card reader is compatible with all devices that support Thunderbolt 3. You can quickly transfer your files between a Thunderbolt 3 computer, Phone, or tablet that has OTG Support and SD cards.

The card reader is operating system independent and does not require additional software or drivers when connected to any device.

Design

The 6-Slot Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader has a sleek, compact design to ensure durability and an integrated cable for convenience.

The card reader is powered by the Thunderbolt 3 port on your computer and doesn’t require an additional power source.

It has LED indicators that show active SD cards. The card reader is available in black and silver color and weighs around 90g. The material used to make the casing is plastic and has a height of 19mm, length of 5.3 inches, and 3.2 inches width. The cable is 8.5 inches long.

OUR TAKE
The StarTech.com 6-Slot Thunderbolt 3 SD Card Reader is one of the best card readers for professional photographers and videographers. Its sleek and compact design makes it portable and easy to carry around. The integrated cable ensures convenience and is length ensures some of your ports are not blocked when connected to your device.

The Card reader’s ability to read six cards at the same time gives room for secure, fast backup and transfer of files from one SD to another.

The price of the card may be a bit high compared to the rest of the card readers, but its two years warranty gives it an upper hand and guarantees the buyer the value for their money.

PROS

  • Universal compatibility- OS independent and works on all devices supporting thunderbolt 3
  • The SD card reader is portable
  • Allows one to access up to 6 SD cards simultaneously
  • No additional power adapter needed. The card readers draws power from the Thunderbolt 3 port on your device
  • The integrated cable ensures one doesn’t forget the cable behind when traveling
  • Comes with a StarTech.com 2-year warranty and free lifetime technical support on purchase
CONS

  • Once the Integrated cable is damaged, you may need to buy a new card reader
  • No direct port for a microSD card, one has to use an adapter
  • The plastic casing may break when packed with other equipment
 

2. IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader (GTR360)

The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is yet another masterpiece from IOGEAR. This card reader boasts of a reliable, high-quality aluminum casing. It also supports Ultra-high-speed data transfer rates with reading and writing speeds reaching 312 and 260 MBps. The card reader has 6 SD card ports with SD 4.0 & UHS-II standards, which are accessible simultaneously.

The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is a must-have for professionals that highly rely on SD cards for digital storage.

Compatibility

The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is compatible with any Thunderbolt 3, and USB-C equipped tablet or PC. It supports both SD 4.0 & UHS-II standards. The card reader can read the cards with the below specifications;

  • SD (Secure Digital)
  • SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity)
  • SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity)
  • non-UHS (Ultra-High Speed)
  • UHS-I
  • UHS-II

This card reader is a plug and play device and works on all operating systems.

Design

The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is built to suit the needs of professionals who prefer to work outdoor.

The card reader features an aluminum casing and a compact design for durability. The reader weighs 4.8 ounces and measures 5.3 x 0.6 x 3.2 (Lx W X H) in size.

Its design makes it the best bet for a traveler as they don’t have to worry when packing it with other stuff, e.g., Cameras and stands. The thunderbolt port powers the card reader on your device via the integrated cable.

All the six slots have an LED indicator which shows when there is data processed.

OUR TAKE
The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is among the top Thunderbolt 3 card readers in the market.

The aluminum casing makes it suitable for outdoor use, making it an excellent choice for photographers and videographers. The speeds offered by the card reader are also commendable as they give room for copying large chunks of information at ultra-high speed.

The IOGEAR card reader is a good card reader for people who work outdoor or travel a lot and use SD cards as their primary mode of storage. It is worth every penny.

PROS

  • Supports connection & access of any 6 SD cards simultaneously
  • Each Card slot has an LED indicator to indicate accessing, reading and writing of data
  • Full Support for SD 4.0 & UHS-II with read/write speeds of reaching 312/260 Mbps respectively
  • Built for outdoor use with its compact, sturdy aluminum casing making it suitable for packing with other equipment
  • Card comes with IOGEAR 1-year and FREE lifetime technical support
CONS

  • Cannot connect to Micro SD if you don’t have an adapter
  • The cable is integrated and is not replaceable if damaged the card reader can be rendered useless
 

3. Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader

The Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader appears on this list because of its outstanding features. This card reader also boasts of 6 card slots that can are accessible simultaneously.

The SD card uses the Thunderbolt 3 connection standard which guarantees ultra-high-speed data transfer making it a handy gadget when processing data and video on multiple cards. The card reader supports read speeds up to 320MBps and write speeds up to 270MBps.

It is compatible with a wide variety of SD card types, ranging from SDHC, SDXC, non-UHS, UHS-I to UHS-II class cards, not forgetting the Micro SD cards via an adapter.

The can reader can be handy to professionals that use SD cards as their primary mode of storage, especially people in the media.

Compatibility

All devices that support the Thunderbolt 3 standard and USB Type-C will work seamlessly with the Monoprice card reader. The reader works on all devices regardless of the operating system and does not require any software support or drivers. This card reader can read and write data on the following card type and standards;

  • SD (Secure Digital)
  • SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity)
  • SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity)
  • Micros SD (Adapter needed)
  • non-UHS (Ultra-High Speed)
  • UHS-I
  • UHS-II

Design

The card readers features an integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable that doubles up as a power cord and a data cable.

The card reader has six ports that can be accessed simultaneously. The card has LED lights to show when an SD port is processing data. The card reader has a compact casing that has the dimensions 5.3″ x 3.2″ x 0.6″ (135 x 82 x 15 mm) while its cable length is 26cm. The size and the casing make it easy to pack for outdoor use.

OUR TAKE
The Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 6-Slot SD Card Reader is undeniably one of the best Thunderbolt 3 card readers. The card reader’s features ensure the user enjoys maximum speeds when reading/writing data. Its design also tips it to be perfect for both outdoor or indoor use. The compatibility specs also don’t disappoint, making it earn a reputation of being one of the best that there is.
PROS

  • Operating system independent
  • Works on all devices that support Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C without any additional drivers
  • No additional power adapter required as its integrated cable powers it
  • Can read and write data up to six cards simultaneously with speeds of up to 320MBps and 270MBps respectively
  • Its size and compact design guarantees portability
  • Comes with a 1-year replacement warranty and support
CONS

  • The option of using a Micro SD card needs an adapter
  • Does not offer CF card reading option
 

4. Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro 

The Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro is not originally a card reader but deserves mention on the list of the best thunderbolt card readers in the market because of its card reading capabilities.

This dock offers users with an option of 1 SD 4.0 (UHS-II) and a C Fast 2.0 card reader with Thunderbolt 3. The card reader has a maximum data transfer rate of about 370 MB/s.

Other functionalities supported by the dock include:

  • USB 3.1 (10 Gbps)
  • DisplayPort devices,
  • 60W power output that can recharge compatible devices
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • e-SATA host port

Compatibility

The Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro supports all devices that are Thunderbolt 3 compatible. The device is OS independent when used as a card reader.

The built-in card readers support the following card types and speeds:

  • C Fast 2.0
  • SD (Secure Digital)
  • USH-II

Design

The dock designed features a high-quality aluminum casing. It comes with an inbuilt one SD 4.0 (UHS-II) card reader and one C Fast 2.0 card reader. The size of the dock is 21.2cm x 10.8cm x 3.45cm (L x W x H). It features a Thunderbolt 3 cable, which is 70 cm in length and a power adapter.

OUR TAKE
Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro is a great device when used for indoor purposes. Its size and design make it difficult to use for outdoor expeditions such as photography, considering you require a power source to power it on.

The device is a meaningful addition for tech enthusiasts for its other uses but is not convincing for people in creative media and users who primarily depend on SD cards for data back up since it only supports one ESD at a time. The speeds offered by the SD card port is commendable for someone who needs to back up data from their SD card to a PC or other device supported by the Dock.

PROS

  • Offers an option to copy data from CF and SD Card
  • Has a data transfer rate of about 370 MB/s
  • Position of the SDC card port allows for easy insertion and removal of the SD cards when backing up or copying files from the SD card
  • Guarantees a long life because of its robust metal casing
  • Comes with a 2-year limited warranty
  • Provides users with several functions that can be useful in everyday computer use
CONS

  • Does not support copying of data from multiple SD cards simultaneously
  • The dock cannot be used for outdoor tasks as it requires external power source
  • The size and the presence of the power cord and additional cable limits its portability