CompactFlash has become common as a storage solution thanks to the growing popularity of digital cameras, MP3 players, and PDAs. However, transferring information between the CompactFlash device and your computer can be inconvenient if you have to carry around your device just to access the data. One quick and easy solution is to use a CompactFlash card reader, a simple device that plugs into your computer and transfers the information to and from your machine. We tested two of the latest CompactFlash card readers from Microtech and ADS.
Microtech's ZiO CompactFlash Card Reader supports a USB interface and is powered directly from the USB bus, which means that it requires no external power supply. The device plugs directly into a USB port on your CPU or a powered USB hub, and it comes with a 3-foot extension cable. However, it won't work when it's plugged into the USB port on your keyboard. The ADS PYRO 1394 Reader for Digital Media also requires no external power supply and can be plugged directly into a FireWire port in the back of your computer. It also sports a cord that's long enough to make the card reader easily accessible from the front of your computer.
Setup of both card readers was elementary-school simple. After double-clicking on the installer icon, letting the installer run, and finally restarting the computer, we observed that both devices worked well right away. The CompactFlash card mounts on your desktop similar to a hard drive or Zip disk. You can drag files from the card and copy them onto your desktop or into a folder. Each card reader is equipped with an indicator light that turns red or amber when a CompactFlash card is inserted and blinks green when data is ready to be transferred.
The difference in file transfer speed between the USB and FireWire connections was barely noticeable. Although FireWire supports a much higher transfer rate than USB, the files on a CompactFlash card remain relatively small. For example, the high-quality images we transferred from a digital camera ranged from 600K to 800K. As file sizes grow larger in the future with higher resolution cameras and the like, which interface a card reader supports may become a more significant factor.
The ZiO is literally pocket-size. It's smaller than the palm of your hand, which is ideal if you plan to take your card reader on the road for use with a laptop computer. The PYRO 1394 Reader for Digital Media is huge in comparison. While it's only about the size of a CD jewel case, it's likely too big to slip into your pocket like the ZiO. However, either CompactFlash reader can insure that you tote around only the data you need instead of a cumbersome device.