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Speed reading with Kingston’s USB 3.0

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Kingston’s new USB 3.0 memory card reader should be a dazzling improvement over the previous version, the MobileLite G2. SEAN BACHER is not impressed with his speed tests, but loved the device’s ability to read almost any memory card.

Sitting on my desk next to my computer is a USB memory card reader. It is quite a cumbersome device, taking up about as much space as a CD jewel case. That’s not much, but a lot of space considering it is a device that performs a fairly simple task ‚ allowing me to transfer files to and from various types of memory cards.

Furthermore, because it is rather clunky, it adds quite a bit of bulk to a laptop bag, which you would like to keep as small and as light as possible when travelling.

However, the memory card reader I am talking about is a few years old, and since then there have been some major developments in this area. Memory card readers have got smaller and technology advances like USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 have meant that these devices are able to transfer files a lot faster.

Enter Kingston’s USB 3.0 Flash Media reader. The device is smaller than your average cellphone and flat enough to slip almost unnoticed into your laptop bag. The device supports all major memory cards used by cameras, MP3 players and cellphones and connects to the computer via USB 3.0.

We put it through the Gadget Five Question User Test to see how well it performs compared to Kingston’s older USB 2.0 memory card reader, the MobileLite G2 USB card reader.

1. Is it ready to use?

There is no software included in the package. The reader truly is a plug-and-play device. Simply find an available USB port and you are ready to go. It doesn’t even have to be a USB 3.0 port, as this card reader is backward compatible with both USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 ‚ but obviously transferring files at much slower speeds.

The only other thing to be included with the reader is a USB 3.0 cable.

Kingston’s MobileLite G2 card reader performs much the same task. It connects directly to a free USB port, with the main difference being that it doesn’t support USB 3.0.

2. Is it easy to use?

The card slots are clearly labelled, so you have no problem finding the slot you need. However, the smaller microSD cards are quite a pain to get in and out of the reader ‚ mainly because of their miniature size, making it difficult to get a firm grip on the card to pull it out.

When it came to the MobileLite G2 reader, things are a little more tricky. The device is a lot smaller than the USB 3.0 Flash Reader. But, because it is so small ‚ the size of your average USB flash drive ‚ the type of cards it supports are limited. For example, there is no Compact Flash card slot. And, when it is connected to your computer, some cards go in the right way up, while some cards need to be inserted upside down. Rather confusing.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

The more appropriate question here would be: ‚What kind of speeds can I expect to get out of the USB 3.0 version compared to the smaller, USB 2.0 device?’

According to Wikipedia, USB 3.0 sports a transmission speed of up to 5Gbit/s, which is 10 times faster than USB2.0, transferring at 480Mbit/s. But what does this mean in real life? To show the difference in speeds, I devised two of my own real-life tests. I created one 1GB TIFF and ten 100MB TIFF files.

I then transferred these files to a standard Secure Digital (SD) card, timed the transfer times from the card reader to my computer and then from my computer back up to the card reader.

These were the results:

The 1GB file took 55.38 seconds to transfer from the card reader to the computer using a standard USB 2.0 port and using the Kingston MobileLiteG2 card reader. The same file took 45 seconds when I transferred it from the USB 3.0 reader connected to a USB 3.0 port.

When I transferred the ten 100MB files from the card, the MobileLite G2 was able to complete the transfer in a time of 44.55 seconds while the USB 3.0 reader completed the same process in 31 seconds.

When I reversed the process, that is, copied the 1GB file from the PC to the memory card, the MobileLite G2 card reader was able to get the file over in one minute and seven seconds, versus the USB 3.0 reader getting the same file transferred in 58 seconds.

The ten 100MB files were transferred from the PC to the MobileLite G2 card in one minute and 16 seconds while the USB 3.0 reader completed the same process in one minute and three seconds.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with the results, but it was the card that was limiting the speeds. Devices like external hard drives that are able to keep up with the speed of USB 3.0 will prove to be more effective and you will most certainly see more of a difference there.

4. Is it innovative?

USB card readers have been around since the dawn of the digital camera, so there is not much new there. Many other manufacturers, such as SanDisk, already have USB 3.0 card readers on the market, so there is nothing new there either.

5. Is it value for money?

The USB 3.0 card reader retails for R222, compared to the MobileLite G2’s R60. However, it makes sense to go the USB 3.0 route. The price is negligible compared to that of a laptop, and your next computer is almost guaranteed to sport USB 3.0. Its ability to handle just about any memory card on the market is certainly a plus.

In conclusion

People often ask me to copy images from their cellphones to my computer for later use or to e-mail to friends, only to realise that the memory card reader I have does not support their card. Kingston’s USB 3.0 Memory Card reader is definitely something I will be carrying around with me.

* Follow Sean Bacher on Twitter on @seanbacher

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