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Crucial Hi-Speed USB 7-in-1 Card Reader: With digital cameras, MP3 players, and PDAs being so popular, it makes sense to look into a device that can clear desktop clutter when transfering data from those devices.

Date: November 17, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:
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If you own multiple devices that use different kinds of memory media, a multi-card reader can provide a convenient way of transfering data to your PC. Sure, most of these devices already allow that, but it's more convenient having just one memory device on your desktop rather than four or five devices causing clutter.

We looked at Crucial's 6 card reader earlier, and although it did the job well, it was limited to USB1.1 transfer speeds. USB1.1 is fine for items like keyboards and mice, but not well suited for anything requiring more bandwidth.

Since their last product, Crucial's latest adds support for one more card (Memory Stick Pro), and increased the transfer speed to USB2.0.

Specifications

Fast data/files access and transfer rate up to 12Mbps (USB 1.1)/480Mbps (USB 2.0)
Supports Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Mac OS 8.6, 9.x, and X (from 10.1.2)

Compatible media:

CompactFlash Type I/II
IBM Microdrive
SmartMedia
MultiMediaCard
Secure Digital
Memory Stick
Memory Stick Pro (1 bit)

Dimensions: 3.98" x 2.99" x .57" (10.1cm x 7.6cm x 1.45cm)
Weight: 2.29 ounces (64.9g)

OS support covers Windows 98/ME/2K/XP, MacOS 8.6 and above, though no mention of Linux is mentioned. I would guess that so long as your Linux kernal has the proper USB support, the card reader will work, but there are no guarantees, and you should probably contact Crucial's support prior to purchasing. Other than the card reader, you'll also receive a USB extension cable, an installation guide, and a software CD.

About the size of half a deck of playing cards, and weighing in at a couple ounces, the 7-in-1 card reader can easily fit into most shirt pockets. Good aesthetics are key to any modern day gadget, and the card reader's brushed silver (it is made of plastic though) is a nice touch. The swing door serves to hide the memory slots, as well as slightly angling the card reader for easy access. In practice, the angling doesn't really do much since the device is too light to stay still while changing memory cards.

While it is a 7 card reader, there are only 4 slots available. These slots serve dual memory types, and keeps the size of the unit down. As soon as the reader turns on, all the slots in the drive are automatically enabled, each being assigned a drive letter.

The USB cable has its own wire management located on the underside of the card reader. This will help protect the cable when not in use, and keeps the unit compact while in transit. The included USB extension cable will help for those hard to reach places. The unit is powered completely by the USB connection, so no need to worry about a power brick.

Testing

MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+, 2x512MB Kingston HyperX, 120GB SATA Seagate, ATI AIW 9600 Pro, Windows XP SP1, ATI Catalyst 3.8.

We will be benchmarking the Crucial Hi-Speed USB 7-in-1 Card Reader, with a Sandisk 256 Ultra CF card, using Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark, as well as copying a folder with mixed media files, totaling 246MB. The comparison device will be the Mushkin Flashkin 256MB USB2.0 flash drive.

SiSoft Sandra 2004 Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark

The Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark is a good synthetic benchmark to get an idea of your USB device's performance. The benchmark writes a number of files to the device, reads, and delete speeds. It then summarizes the results, and compares it against some of the more popular devices.

Combined Device Index


Operations per minute

The Mushkin performs about 69 operations per minute faster than the Crucial card reader. Basically the Flashkin is capable of reading and writing faster than the card reader.

512B File Test


Read/Write in KB/Sec

Here we can see that the Flashkin is a lot faster at reading small chunks of data than the Crucial reader, though the gap does close in the write tests. The Flashkin still maintains a noticable lead though.

2MB File Test


Read/Write in KB/Sec

Much the same story here with larger files, though the write tests tip to the card reader's favor.

Real-World 246MB Copy Test


Lower Numbers are better

Here, the Flashkin wins convincingly over the Crucial reader. At first, I thought the Crucial was running at USB1.1, but it was not (times were almost doubled at USB1.1). Using the same write tests as in our 6-in-1 review, the 7-in-1 wrote the files a good 20 seconds faster than the older card reader.

Final Words

The biggest strength of the Crucial Hi-Speed USB 7-in-1 Card Reader is the convenience of having one card reader, rather than up to seven. Compared to the USB1.1 reader, this one is a heck of a lot faster.

However, when going up against USB2.0 flash drives, the speed differences are apparent. Now, to be honest, though the products are similar in terms of convenience, both cater to different needs. Flash drives are designed to be portable, and fast. Card readers, though portable, is more for people who bring devices with memory sticks to the PC with the reader.

Pros: Faster than USB1.1 readers, portable, support for 7 media types.

Cons: A lot slower than USB2.0 flash drives.

Bottom Line: At 28$ USD, the price certainly isn't a problem, and given the usefulness of the card reader, it is well worth your while to look into it if you are one of these consumers with multiple devices, each needing their own card reader. If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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