A few weeks ago, I talked about ExpressCard-slot card readers, which let you view the photos on your memory cards without taking up much space in your bag. But what if you’re already using your ExpressCard slot for something else, or you have a MacBook or other Mac laptop without such a slot? You turn to your USB ports. The only problem here —hey, every article needs a setup, right?—is that plugging in a USB card reader takes away one of your USB ports.
Moshi’s $35 Cardette aims to provide a solution via a combination of a card reader and a two-port USB 2.0 hub; when connected, not only can you read most memory-card formats—including several new types—but you also gain a USB port.
Available in matte black or white, the 3.7- by 2- by 0.8-inch Cardette isn’t the smallest card reader on the market, but it weighs only 2.5 ounces, includes the aforementioned two-port USB hub, and has a built-in 2-inch USB cable/plug that fits into a groove on the bottom of the unit for travel. (Also included is a 1-foot USB extension cable for those times when you need a longer reach or you want clear out some space near your ports.) The Cardette’s USB ports are bus-powered, so, like most bus-powered hubs, they may not be able to fully power USB hard drives or optical drives, but most other devices should work fine.
The Cardette supports CompactFlash Types I & II, MicroDrive, Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard (MMC), SD (Secure Digital) and eXtremeDigital (xD-Picture) cards without an adapter; MemoryStick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick Pro, Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (RS-MMC), miniSD, and microSD formats fit using the adapters usually included with those cards. In addition, the Cardette is “tested to comply with the emerging SecureDigital High Capacity (SDHC) standard as well as the specialty Type M and high speed Type H xD memory cards—making Cardette one of the very few future-proof card readers out on the market today.” (That’s taken directly from the Moshi specs; I obviously wasn’t able to test this claim, given that such cards aren’t exactly easy to find.) The only common card format that’s not supported is SmartMedia.
In my testing, the Cardette worked with every type of card I had on hand, and its performance was comparable both to other card readers I’ve tried (both USB and ExpressCard-slot), as well as to fast cards with built-in USB plugs, such as SanDisk’s Ultra II SD Plus USB.
As with other Moshi products I’ve seen, the Cardette offers style to go with its functionality. The body of the Cardette is simple and attractive. A slot at one end lets you attach an included short strap, made of the same material as Moshi’s Codex sleeve; the strap features a small clip for securing the Cardette to, for example, the key fob found in many laptop bags. And the “moshi” logo on top of the Cardette is actually translucent and glows when the Cardette is connected to a USB port.
The Cardette isn’t the least expensive card reader on the market by any means, but it’s a handy gadget if you need the additional USB ports. And although I’ve even seen a few other reader/hub combinations, the Cardette’s design is definitely unique.