This card reader proves that not all technology is sexy. As gadgets go, it's certainly not the most exciting, but it is useful and does exactly what it promises.
What's in the pack
The card reader, a USB cable, a manual and a software installation disk. The card reader is small (about 4in x 2.5in x 0.5in), light and a sort of silver-sheened purple. At the front are four slots for (left to right, top to bottom): 1)compact flash and IBM Microdrive; 2) Sony Memory Stick; 3) Smart Media and 4) Secure Digital and Multimedia card.
The card reader supports Windows 98 (and 98SE), Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP as well as MacOS 8.6 and beyond.
Installation is simple and the screens and messages you will see during the process are outlined in the enclosed manual, which comes in 7 languages, with 3 pages in English. This doesn't sound a lot but is all you need.
First of all, plug the card reader into your computer.
For Windows ME and 2000 installation is via the included software CD and is quite simple. Locate the setup file, click on it and keep pressing 'next' until the driver has been installed. Finally, restart the computer.
If you're running ME or Xp, your job is easier as those systems come preloaded with the right driver and will auto-detect the card reader, using the 'found new hardware' interface. When the process is complete, restart the computer.
After restarting When you click on 'My Computer' you should see the icons for four new disk drives, named for the card types described above. For some reason on my computer the drives just had drive letters (F, G, H and I) with no indication as to which card they related to. When I loaded a card, I had to guess which drive letter to click on, and eventually learned which was which by a process of trial and error. This was not very satisfactory but only a minor annoyance in the long run. (If I'd been a bit more patient, which I'm not, I could simply have let windows auto-load the files.)
How does it work?
Well. Just put the right card in the right slot and you can read it like any other drive. However, it works best when plugged directly into your computer (it didn't like my USB hub) and it doesn't like hibernation. Whenever I restarted my computer from hibernation or sleep, I had to unplug the cable and plug it in again. This was a minor annoyance. I used the drive to access the pictures on the compact flash card that came with my old digital camera and to read the SD card that was included with my Palm and had no problems apart from the minor ones already outlined. Writing files to the memory cards is just as easy using drag and drop or copy and paste.
Value for money
I bought this from Lidl at around £7. At the time (three years ago) it compared well with other models at more than double
the price. There are now other versions of this card reader that read more types of removeable media, including XD cards and which come with USB 2.0 cables. That said, if you found one on Ebay (they're on at about £5), it would still be worth buying. Three years on, it still works as well as the day I bought it. I would recommend it.