Conclusion - Lots Of Good Choices & Three Clear Winners
After completing all of our testing, a few facts were clear. The performance difference between the standard USB units was very close, and not until we made the jump to either the USB 2.0 or 1394 FireWire interface did the scores really start to fall. As we have pointed out in this review, the choice of reader/ writer, as well as flash card, can also influence the performance results. More investigation needs to be done on the specific performance of CompactFlash modules in general, and we will tackle that topic in our next article on CompactFlash module performance that is coming in a few weeks.
Now, to announce the winners and award our Editors' Choice Award. We were relatively pleased with the performance of all of the units that we reviewed, except for the PRO-Mouse. It was not that the PRO-Mouse didn't perform adequately, it was a design issue that caused us not to like the PRO-Mouse. Three units really caught our attention, and those are the three that we selected. Each of these units addresses a certain segment of the market, which is why we felt that it was best to select one product for the portable space, one product for the value space, and one for overall Editors' Choice.
In the portable flash card reader/ writer space, we recommend the PQI Travel Flash. The PQI Travel Flash offers the most compact design with the greatest number of features. We also give the Imation FlashGO! an honorable mention as still one of the leaders in this product space, but having to carry all of the compatibility sleeves that the FlashGO! requires ultimately became the deciding factor between the winner and honorable mention. Since the PQI Travel Flash USB 2.0 is not currently shipping, we elected not to award it an Editors' Choice at this time.
In the value segment, competition was tight, with several units making the grade. However, when it was all said and done, we have to recommend the SanDisk SDDR-75-07/SDDR-73-07. SanDisk's well-thought-out design and excellent user manual pushed it ahead by a nose. We also give an honorable mention to Belkin with the F5U148, which, like many Belkin products, can be found on sale at retail prices that are near the SanDisk SDDR-75-07/SDDR-73-07.
Our choice for overall Editors' Choice goes to the Atech Pro III. The internal mounted design of the Atech continues to impress us. With excellent performance and a good feature set, the Pro III seems to present a more practical approach than many of the other devices tested, because the unit doesn't move around when inserting or removing cards (and this proved to be one of the things that we didn't like about a number of the other units). Although the Atech Pro III is still on the pricey side, you might be able to find a good deal on the Atech Pro II unit (which performed as well as the Pro III, and you only have to give up the Memory Stick and FireWire port support). Overall, the Atech Pro III looks good and gets the job done with style. Still we dream of having the Pro II/Pro III design with USB 2.0 or 1394/FireWire interface, that of course would be the ultimate design in this product space.
Our first look at Multi-Format flash card readers/ writers was an education. Perhaps some of the most innovative designs are on the horizon with the introduction of new models that will take advantage of USB 2.0. While the Carry 1394 product clearly outperformed the rest of the products in our testing results, Carry's product distribution issues, as well as its high suggested retail price, are currently holding it back. It is clear that you can transfer more data more quickly if you have the right combination of products, and perhaps the next question to explore is when these new products will be available in the right combinations for purchase. If the new SanDisk ImageMate 6-In-1 USB 2.0 product is any indication, the best is yet to come in this product segment.