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Card Reader Reviews

reviews & comparisons

Card Reader Review

Reasons You Need a Card Reader

When you have to exchange information between a lot of devices, such as uploading images from your camera to your computer or downloading books onto an eReader, you need a tool that can seamlessly facilitate this exchange. A card reader with multiple ports could be the best solution for transferring your data. It also eliminates the need for storing a different cable for each electronic device you own.

We've gathered some of the best-selling and most comprehensive card readers in this review. You'll find reviews on 10 different products so you can compare the best memory card readers, like the Moshi Cardette Ultra, which is designed to support all existing card types; the Lexar card reader, which can read over 24 different memory cards plus has a unique pop-up design; and the Sony card reader, which stands out because it reads a variety of mini and micro cards. You'll also find articles about card reader topics here as well.

What Is a Memory Card Reader?

Quite simply, memory card readers are portable devices that connect to your computer via its USB outlet to let you use memory cards. Most memory card readers can be used with both Macs and PCs. These card readers can have as few as one single-purpose card slot, while some have multiple slots for different types of cards. When you plug a card reader into your computer and insert a smart card or memory card into its slot, the memory card reader pulls the information from the card and inputs it into your computer, just as the device's original connecting cable would.

Some of the best memory card readers are compatible with many different card formats, including PC and Apple SD card readers in one, micro SD and a secure digital high capacity card (SDHC).

Why Use an SD Card Reader?

There are different reasons to use an SD card reader, though the biggest ones are for convenience, ease of use and versatility. These simple devices make transferring your data an easy and fast process, but the reasons you use or purchase a card reader will depend on what's best for you.

Today we all have a variety of gadgets and devices that we use on a regular basis. Connecting these devices and keeping track of each individual cable and cord can be a hassle. For example, it's two days after your best friend's birthday party, and you're ready to download those 150 photos from your camera to your computer – ready for editing and emailing. You're anticipating the great captions and the opportunity to relive the festivities, but first you've got to find that pesky cord that connects your camera to the computer. Or maybe you decide you'd like to import your contacts from your phone to another device. Again, you've got to find the cord that came with your phone. Whether it's your phone, camera, eReader or other device, finding cords for each one is a waste of time. An all-in-one memory card reader saves you time.

Another key reason to use a multipurpose card reader is that it helps you transfer your data quickly. Most card readers transfer data at high speeds and make upload times fast. This quick upload cuts wait times, allowing you access all of your files without a long wait.

Some new computers have built-in memory card readers. A built-in card reader is a great feature because you know you will never misplace it. However, card readers in a computer are usually only compatible with one type of memory card and lack the ability to handle multiple cards. This is when a multi-card reader becomes especially useful. Memory card readers are versatile and can accommodate many different types of memory cards when your computer does not.

A fast SD card reader that works with both Mac and PC is a blessing if you have a multitude of electronic devices. You'll love having just one card reader that works whenever you want to access any type of memory card.

Using Your USB Card Reader

Using a USB card reader is simple and should not require you to download any software or drivers onto your computer. When you connect your card reader to your computer, you will be able to view and manage your files from your computer screen. This allows you to select which files you want to download, which you want to keep on your card and which you would like to delete. Managing your files from your computer is a good option because you can view your information on a large screen, which is much easier than viewing files on your phone.

Card Readers: What to Look for

The first and most basic deciding factor is the memory card types it can accommodate. This will mainly depend on what types of memory cards you currently possess and might purchase in the near future. Pay attention to the unique features of each model and how these fit with the gadgets you own. And finally, notice the quantity and quality of the available help and technical support. Even the best memory card readers may have technical issues or a learning curve, so help and support is an important consideration. These are the elements we've noted in our research when making USB card reader comparisons.

Memory Card Formats
All of the readers on our lineup support the most common types of memory cards. However, more obscure card types are not universally compatible.

Pay close attention to the specifications to make sure the device you choose is compatible with the memory card formats you use. Keep an eye to the future as well. Unless you plan on never changing and updating your electronic gadgets, your memory card reader needs are likely to change. Even if you don't own a CompactFlash memory card or a micro SDHC card now, it's very possible you'll appreciate that compatibility in the future.

Below is a list of the most popular memory card formats. Keep in mind that often within these main categories there are smaller, more specific versions of each format. For example, SD cards also come in SDHC and SDXC.

Some readers support every format listed below and more. See the individual reviews for specific information on each reader's compatibility.

CompactFlash (CF): This card, invented by SanDisk, is a popular flash memory card that comes in two different types.

Secure Digital (SD): Secure digital cards are used mainly in small electronics such as cameras, camcorders and cell phones. These cards have fast transfers and often have a protect switch available.

MiniSD and MicroSD: These cards are more compact versions of the SD card and are commonly used in cell phones as extra storage.

MultiMediaCard (MMC): Also introduced by SanDisk, these cards are similar in size and purpose to the SD card. MMC cards can be used in an SD slot, but not vice versa. While MMCs are good storage devices, SD cards typically have faster transfer rates and so may be better for pictures.

Memory Sticks: These memory cards, produced by Sony, work best with other Sony products, but they can be compatible with other electronics and card readers.

Extreme Digital (xD): These cards are best for pictures because of the flash memory design and small size.

Memory card readers come in different shapes, sizes and looks. A multi-card reader with 25 slots is going to be much larger than a card reader with only two or three slots. However, some differences in the look of each card reader depend on unique features and aesthetics. Some are quite small and portable – others are designed to be stationary and to look snazzy on your desktop. The warranty terms and conditions all vary. Some products include bonus software while some are just plug-and-play and others work with more unique operating systems like Linux.

Help & Support
When choosing a card reader, make sure you pay attention to the available technical support. All the bells and whistles in the world are useless if there's no one to help you if something goes wrong. Most USB card manufacturers offer basic help and support. If you encounter issues when using your memory card reader, you should be able to contact technical support via telephone or email. Some companies also offer FAQs or a knowledge center, where you can find answers to your questions on the company website. Live chat is especially useful if you have basic questions that require fast answers.

With the right card reader, you'll be able to easily and painlessly upload or transfer data from the memory card of any of your electronic devices to your computer. Rather than searching for multiple cables, you'll have all your transfer needs met with this one tool. We've researched the best memory card readers. While the card reader you pick will depend on your needs and the types of devices you have, our articles on memory card readers should serve as a good starting point and our reviews offer a wide selection that meet the needs of most computer users.