Review: Crucial Card Readers and Flash Cards
Ian Waugh plugs them in and checks them out - quick as a flash!
|Product||Card Readers and Flash Cards|
|Price||USB 12-in-1 Card Reader £10.28
USB 8-in-1 Aluminium Card Reader £9.00
USB 8-in-1 Card Reader £7.71
USB 4-in-1 Card Reader £5.78
USB CompactFlash Card Reader £5.13
USB SD/MMC Card Reader £5.13
CompactFlash 1GB £47.60
CompactFlash 128Mb £10.93
|We like||Plug 'n' go, robust, unfeasibly well-priced|
|We don't like||Nuthin'!|
An increasing number of devices use flash cards - everything from digital cameras to handhelds. However, few include a card reader to copy the contents of the flash card to your computer so that's pretty much a de facto requirement.
Just to confuse matters, there are several types of flash card, each with a different connector so - you guessed! - you need a different card reader for each card.
One for all
Enter Crucial's range of Hi Speed USB card readers. The company currently has no less than six units with compatibility to suit virtually every type of flash card on the market. We'll look at three from the range.
The CompactFlash Card Reader reads Microdrive cards as well as CompactFlash cards. It's a neat, solid, black plastic unit with a transparent hi tech blue window which shows the card when it's inserted. A LED lets you know the unit is connected.
It plugs into the computer via a USB cable which is supplied, and no drivers are required under Windows XP/Me/2000 or the Mac OS - you just plug it in and go. You do need drivers for Windows 98 and the pack includes drivers on a CD.
When you insert a CF into the reader, the card pushes quarter-of-an-inch into the unit and then it finds two guide rails which run about half-an-inch taking the card to the pins where it's pushed home. Some card readers have very short guide rails and it's very easy to misalign the card causing the pins to bend. That would be extremely difficult if not impossible to do with this unit. It may seem only common sense to design a unit in that way but not all manufacturers do, so 10/10 to Crucial for that!
The 4-in-1 Card Reader reads Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard formats. These cards are smaller than CF cards and the unit is consequently smaller, too, but otherwise looks the same as the CF reader.
All the sizes
If you need to read several card formats, there's the 12-in-1 Card Reader. This handles 12 card types: Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro/Pro Duo (needs adapter)/Duo, Secure Digital, miniSD, MultiMediaCard, RS MMC (needs adapter), Smart Media, Microdrive, and CompactFlash Types I/II.
It's a small, smart grey and beige plastic box containing four slots. You only need to install drivers if you're running Windows 98/2000 (without Service Pack 3) or the Mac OS. It has the same long-run guide slots as the other units and is quite robust.
You could buy a single card reader to match the flash card in your camera but, as is the way with technology, you may have devices that use different card types or you may buy a device in the future that uses a different type of card to your camera. If that's you then a multi-card reader may be the most convenient solution and it certainly won't break the bank.
And speaking of prices - how do they do it for the money! The readers represent amazing value and Crucial is currently offering free delivery within the UK. Beat that!
Quick as a flash
As well as using flash cards with peripheral devices, you can use them to copy data between computers. All the Crucial readers are easy to carry with you and even the 12-in-1 would easily slip into a pocket. Most cards have a much larger capacity than a floppy disk and it's far faster and easier to use a flash card as a removable drive than to write data to a CD. The 1Gb flash cards have more capacity than a CD, too.
Crucial has a range of flash cards, too; all types and capacities. We looked at the 128Mb and 1Gb CompactFlash cards. They are Type I CF 50-pin cards that conform to the industry standard PCMCIA ATA and IDE specification and can be used in any CF device.
Although they are PCMCIA-compatible, they are smaller but can be used in PCMCIA devices with a 50-pin to 68-pin PCMCIA adapter. Useful if space is tight.
Data transfer is rated as 6Mb/s burst rate. In real world applications, data copied from a PC's hard disk to fill a 128Mb card took about a minute and a half. Using a utility designed to transfer and name images from a camera will take a little longer and speed will depend on other factors, too. Direct copying from the card to the hard disk took a matter of seconds.
The range of Crucial flash cards and readers under test worked superbly. The readers in particular are smart, robust and offer incredible value for money. Highly recommended.