SD cards aren't the most exciting of products, they pretty much do what they're supposed to - slip into your digital camera, PDA or whatever and act as removable storage. I'm therefore not in the habit of reviewing SD cards, since most of the time there's little to differentiate them from each other, bar read and write speed. But this particular SD card is very different indeed and definitely deserves a closer look.
I was attending a press conference at the Consumer Electroncs Show in Las Vegas when SanDisk announced this product and it's taken over half a year for me to finally get my hands on a retail sample. The SanDisk Ultra II Plus USB SD card is very different from any other SD card you're likely to find and it's definitely far more convenient. You see the problem with digital cameras is getting the images from the camera to your computer.
The most direct way of transferring your digital images to your PC is to connect the camera directly to it, via a USB cable - but this is far from an elegant solution and it also means that the battery in your camera is running down while you're doing the transfer. A much better idea is to remove the card and plug it into a card reader, preferably a USB 2.0 model for fast transfer. But the card reader approach brings with it a new set of problems, since you need to have the reader with you all the time if you want ultimate flexibility - and if like me, you're travelling with a notebook and need to offload your images, a card reader is just another bit of kit to squeeze into your already bloated bag.
So, what's the answer? SanDisk thinks that the answer is the Ultra II Plus USB SD card and I'm inclined to agree. What SanDisk has done is produce an SD card that can slip happily into any SD compatible device, but which will also connect directly to the USB port on your computer, thus negating the need for a card reader.
This ingenious feat has been achieved by leveraging off the design of a different type of card – the reduced size MMC card. You see, the actual part of the Ultra II Plus USB that houses the memory and the contacts, is to all intents and purposes, a reduced size MMC card. Although this card looks like a normal SD card when it’s not in USB mode, when you fold back one half to reveal the USB contacts, it’s crystal clear that what you’re actually using is a reduced size MMC card that’s had the Secure Digital treatment. The main difference between the business end of this card and a reduced size MMC card is that it has a couple more contacts, which is probably due to the added DRM functionality.