With the number of devices on the market today that requires portable memory, it's a shame not any one standard has been accepted. For the most part, CompactFlash (CF) is the most popular, but competing standards such as Secure Digital (SD) are also very popular… particularly among PDAs.
Most devices have the ability to transfer data to and from a PC using whatever connection they are equipped with. The problem with the multiple memory types though, is that if you have a PDA that uses SD, a digital camera that uses CF, and a Sony device that uses a memory stick, you'll have to hook up all these devices to your PC to transfer data. If you're lucky enough to have the free spots, you can certainly hook them all up the same time, but that means you'll have a lot of wire clutter. If you only have room for one device, it will just be time consuming to swap out devices when transferring data.
Memory readers are nothing new, but when it comes to memory, and the markets revolving around it, you can always count on to have their hand in things. They recently announced a new product, the , which as the name implies, has the ability to read and write to six different memory types. They actually have several readers available, but we chose to look at their top-of-the-line reader.
Type I/II CompactFlash
Mac OS 8.6/9/X
Supports USB 1.1
There isn't any mention of Windows 95 support, which to be honest, doesn't surprise me since Windows 95 didn't have native USB support. Windows NT is not supported either. There isn't any mention of Linux support on their site.
The package consists of the 6 in 1 card reader, one USB, a driver CD and an instruction guide. Sadly, the reader is only a USB1.1 device, which means we don't have the bandwidth of USB2.0 for file transfers. If you only got a 16MB to 64MB memory card, this probably isn't that big a deal, but 256MB cards will take forever if you have to move a couple hundred megabytes of data. In Crucial's defense, the majority of portable devices use USB1.1 anyways, so it's not like you're going to be "downgrading" yourself.
The card reader is designed to be portable, and considering it can read six different memory types, Crucial did a great job of packaging a product that is not only compact, but looks really sharp. With its soft curves, and silver finish, it will not look out of place even on Martha Stewart's desk. Then again, if her desk ends up in a prison cell, I guess it may not suit the décor.
Cards are inserted through the front of the device. There are only four slots available, but a couple serve dual memory types. There is one slot for Compact Flash/IBM Microdrives, one slot for Memory Sticks, one slot for SD/MMC cards, a slot for Smart Media Cards.
A bit of a surprise for me is the fact that the card reader requires no external power. I guess this shouldn't be much of a shock since memory cards don't draw much power, so the power supplied by the USB port is sufficient enough.
Turning on the drive is as easy as plugging it into an available USB slot. As soon as it turns on, all the slots in the drive are automatically enabled.
Each drive is assigned to a specific memory type. Unfortunently, in Windows Explorer, there is no way to differentiate between drives since there's no description. What you can do though is reassign the drive letters in such a way that you can make it easier for yourself to remember. Since I am only using CF memory for now, I chose to make it the highest drive letter not used by my hard drive partitions or optical drives.
Next Page - Testing and Conclusions