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I am a semi-professional photographer and as such I am always looking for easier ways to back up my photos. Until very recently I carried an Epsom photo storage device that has served me for years and years - but unfortunately it has just died on me and I couldn't afford to buy another new one immediately. I chanced upon the Integral Single Slot USB Compact Flash Adapter and as it just cost £3.99 from Amazon I really thought it was an option for me to be able to back up my photos on my Macbook Air quickly and efficiently. I felt that £3.99 was an incredibly good price and I was very impressed. The idea behind this device is that I can plug my CF cards into the adapter and then this can be plugged directly into the USB slot on my computer. None of my computers have a CF card slot and so this just makes it so much easier than having to carry around wires to transfer files - and it is considerably quicker! Once I plug it into the computer, the device shows on the screen and then you have the option of transferring all of the files or selecting the ones that you want to transfer. I cannot emphasise how much quicker this is than connecting my camera to my laptop and doing it that way - and time can be really important when you're talking about some pretty large file sizes. There is also no installing needed as such......it's just a matter of plug in and off you go. Besides the speed, the other real benefit is its size. It's very small and light and can be carried in my purse without any difficulty. Of course the downsize of this is that it can be easily lost, but obviously at this price it's not the end of the world if you do loose it. I have found this device to be really reliable and I've not really encountered any problems with using it. I suspect, in time, I will invest in another photo storage device so I'm not clogging up my computer with photos, but for now this will do nicely.
If you're into digital photography, the chances are you have a few CF (Compact Flash) cards lying around. These are really handy things because they can store vast amounts of data that can then be easily transferred to a PC for later editing. The only trouble is that many new laptops and PCs don't have a slot to read a CF card, potentially rendering all your carefully stored information unusable. Thankfully, this is where the Integral USB CF Card Reader comes in. Shaped like a standard USB flash drive, it has a slot down the side into which any Type I or II CF card can be inserted. Compatible with both Windows and Mac it's a handy and portable way to get access to your Flash Card photos once more. I confess that what first attracted me to it was the price. I wanted a cheap solution that would enable me to occasionally transfer files from my laptop across to my old Commodore Amiga. Since this is not something I do on a regular basis and I have no other devices which use CF cards, I didn't want to spend a fortune buying a top-of-the-range reader. Instead, I opted for this which I got brand new from Amazon Marketplace for just £2.75 - delivered. For that price, you even get a two year warranty thrown in, which is bordering on the ridiculous! In design, the Integral Card Reader is not particularly attractive; in fact it's rather cheap looking. The USB circuitry is encased in a thick white plastic which gives the whole thing a rather tacky look and also makes it rather large. On the plus side, despite being fairly bulky, the device is nice and light - weighing just 32g - although its increased size does mean that it might be quite uncomfortable (though not impossible) to carry around in a pocket. The build quality also feels somewhat flimsy and I suspect it wouldn't take a lot to break it. Personally, this isn't an issue: mine never leaves the house, so I don't need to worry about it getting dropped or knocked against something. However, if I did need it to be portable, I don't think I would be terribly sure that it would survive in one piece for long. The plastic casing makes the unit fairly bulky and when inserted, the CF card also sticks out quite a way width-wise. Both of these may cause problems when trying to use it side by side with another USB device - particularly if the other device is also of above standard size. For example, my memory stick is a Play.com branded one which is also encased in thick plastic. Putting that and this card reader into adjacent USB ports is impossible - they simply won't fit and if I want to use them simultaneously, I have to use ports on opposite sides of the laptop. Thankfully, I'm not short of USB ports, but you might want to bear it in mind if most of yours are already in permanent use. I've been using mine now for a good long while now and have never experienced any problems with it. It's genuine Plug and Play and worked well for me out of the box. The first time it's used on a new PC or laptop, it takes a couple of minutes to install the necessary drivers, but on subsequent occasions is recognised and ready for use straight away. I've used it with about three different machines now, and have never had any issues with getting it installed. Once installed it simply acts like a standard flash drive and the files on any card inserted in it can be viewed on Windows Explorer or opened using the relevant Windows program. I've also found it to be very reliable. I was a little wary when I first bought it, because a few previous reviewers had said that theirs had been a little flaky, either breaking completely after a short period of time or only working intermittently. I've never had such problems. It's always recognised the instant I put it into PC and (touchwood) I've experienced no problems with corrupted files. To be honest, even if it did stop working after a while, you can't really complain for the price; and anyway, it comes with a 2 year manufacturer's warranty, so you're guaranteed at least two years use for your £3! If it breaks after that time, I'll quite happily fork out for another. The device is USB 2.0 compatible, so is slightly faster at transferring data between the card and your PC. To be honest, though, I can't give you any real indicator of speed. Most of the files I transfer to/from it are very small (rarely more than a couple of megabytes, usually much smaller) so they are never going to take long to copy across. How it copes with larger, more complex files such as photographs, I've no idea; but then transfer speeds are also reliant on other aspects of your setup too, such as the CF card itself or the specifications on your PC, so any transfer rates are only indicative anyway. You do need to note that this card is not multipurpose - it is only designed to read CF cards, so if you are looking for something that will read other formats (SD/SDHC), you will need to look elsewhere. If you're after a heavy duty CF card reader that you can safely carry around with you and that will be robust and long-lasting, then this isn't the product for you. On the other hand, if like me, you only need it occasionally and just need something that works and is cheap, then I'd definitely recommend purchasing it. Sure, you get what you pay for, but if you don't want much to start with, that's not going to matter. © Copyright SWSt 2011