One of my main duties here at TrustedReviews is to photograph most of the new products that arrive on our doorstep. In a typical day, it’s not unusual for me to take over two hundred shots, and transferring that many photos using the USB1.1 interface on my Canon 10D digital SLR can take rather a long time.
That’s why I was most interested in the latest USB2.0 CompactFlash reader from flash memory specialist PNY Technologies. As well as offering backwards compatibility with USB1.1, USB2.0 can handle transfer rates of up to 480Mbits/sec – that’s equivalent to 60Mbytes/sec.
Of course, this may look good on paper, but the current CompactFlash cards out there are nowhere near sustaining that sort of transfer speed. For example, if a 1x card can only sustain 150Kbytes/sec, a bit of arithmetic tells me that I would need something like a 400x card to take full advantage of the USB2.0 standard.
Anyway, enough about numbers. Lets take a closer look at the actual reader. After converting from Euros to Sterling, the reader costs around £11.33, which to be honest is not exactly going to break the bank. We couldn't find anywhere stocking it yet, but when stock does hit the channel, you may find it going for even less.
The device itself has a rather plastic feel to it, although it is finished in a stylish silver colour. For those difficult to reach or crowded USB ports, the PNY reader is also supplied with a 1.2m cable. In addition, the reader is compatible with both Type I and Type II CompactFlash memory cards and therefore will happily accommodate IBM’s MicroDrive.
Typically, the memory slot is also keyed so that CompactFlash cards can only be inserted in the correct orientation thereby minimising any possible damage to the reader's pins or your card. There’s no eject mechanism, so to remove the card all you do is pull it straight out.
If you’re running Windows XP, 2000 or ME this card reader can be used straight out of the box. It’s also compatible with MacOS 8.6 and higher, so Mac owners shouldn’t have any issues. However, if your running Windows 98 you’ll need to install the supplied USB2.0 driver before the reader will be recognised. Once installed, Windows will display the card reader as a removable drive and assign it with a new drive letter.
Transferring files from the card to the PC is then just a matter of dragging and dropping to the desired location on your hard disk - surely a welcome change to those CompactFlash-based devices that use awkwardly designed drivers for file transfer. When plugged in, a green LED stays illuminated until the memory is being accessed (upon which it will start to flicker). As with most USB devices, it's best to stop the device first using the ‘Unplug or Eject Hardware’ applet in Windows before disconnecting it from your PC. Of course you can rip it straight out, but in my experience this occasionally results in a PC crash or hang.