Digital Focus: Master Your Camera's Flash Modes

Dave's Favorites: Faster Transfers With a USB 2.0 Card Reader

To move files from a camera to my PC, I usually pop the memory card out of my camera, insert it in a desktop memory card reader, and then drag-and-drop the files from there. Until recently, I was plugging along with a USB 1.1 card reader (an old 6-in-1 model from Dazzle). I didn't know what I was missing by not switching to USB 2.0. I recently made the leap with Crucial Technology's 7-in-1 Hi-Speed USB card reader.

I can't believe the difference that USB 2.0's higher top speed limit makes: 480 megabits per second as opposed to USB 1.1's 12 mbps. Crucial's card reader is a compact device--about the size of a deck of cards--that uses USB 2.0. Of course, nobody has yet found a device that achieves transfers anywhere near the theoretical limit. But in the real world, using USB 2.0 means the memory card's transfer speed is the real limiting factor, not the USB pipe.

How fast is that? Here's one test: using the same collection of digital image and MP3 files (41MB in total), it took my old Dazzle USB 1.1 reader 59 seconds to make the transfer from memory card to desktop. The Crucial reader, on the other hand, copied the same files in 28 seconds--twice as fast. Those tests were performed with reboots in between sessions to erase any cached file advantages.

The Crucial reader is elegantly designed. It's small and portable. The card slots can be closed and protected by a small hinged door that, when open, acts like a leg to prop the front of the unit up a bit. The card reader is available from Crucial's for a surprisingly low $26. It's a steal--you should definitely grab one of these.

If you don't have a newer PC with USB 2.0 ports, you'll have to buy a USB 2.0 card and add it to an open PCI slot. (Make sure your PC has one available.) If your PC has only USB 1.1 ports, there's little point in upgrading to a USB 2.0 reader; the reader will work with USB 1.1 ports, but only at the slower speeds. I found a card for about $20 at the PCWorld.com's Product Finder that would add two USB 2.0 ports; check out D-Link's USB 2.0 2-Port PCI Adapter.

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