REVIEW- iPod Card Reader- LONG

Started Oct 19, 2003 | Discussions thread
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David Gawlowski Regular Member • Posts: 111
REVIEW- iPod Card Reader- LONG

I've been jonesin' to dump pics from my D60 onto a digital wallet for months, but kept holding out hope that someday my iPod could perform this function as well as it plays tunes. So when Apple announced the new Belkin Card Reader on Thursday, I ordered one immediately! Today it showed up so I ran some tests for the benefit of the forum members who've helped me out so much.

Test equipment

  • Apple G4 Cube 450 MHz, 1.1 GB RAM, Seagate 80 GB internal HD (did not use the external drives), OS 10.2.8

-SanDisk Firewire Card Reader
-3G iPod, 15 GB, with 4 GB free space, running version 2.1
-SanDisk cheapo 512 MB compact flash card
-Ridata 1GB 52-40x Pro compact flash card
-Canon D60

Belkin Card Reader (BCR) package was minimalistic, two page instructions that essentially say plug in the stuff. Size is bigger than iPod, but not annoyingly so. Weight with the 4 AAA batteries (included) was less, maybe 4-5 oz (iPod is 5.6). Fit and finish was nice, sliding cover was nice (tho necessary?), only annoyance was the plug when slid from its slot, needs to be rotated 180 degrees to match up with iPod.

First concern for me was exactly how does it work? After several tests, it seems to do a straight copy of everything in your card's DCIM directory, pure and simple. This means it imports RAW files with no problem, as well as their THM files. If you tell it to import 5 times, each times it makes a new copy and does not distinguish whether they are new images or not. Created a directory on the iPod called DCIM (looks like a normal folder in FW mode on your desktop), and preserves your cards folder structure with different names. In other words, if you have 160CANON, 161CANON, and 162CANON on your CF, you will have 120APPLE, 122APPLE, 124APPLE. iPod can be automated through Image Capture just like any camera, so iView, iPhoto, whatever are no problem.

Operation of the BCR is easy. Turn on iPod, plug in BCR, plug in CF, and whatever the iPod ws doing it will stop and bring up an odd "No Card Inserted" screen for about 3-5 seconds, then after it has read the card up comes the Import screen where it tells you how many pics you have and how much free space on the CF. 1) Import or 2) cancel. If import, then it will do just that, then at the end will tell you how many pics imported, and give you the option to delete the pics off the card, which if you say yes gives you one more confirmation, then wipes the card.

That's really it- pretty simple device (per normal Apple design guidelines;) that does what it says. No idea what the risk of it skipping a file is, and there's no way to view images on it, but you can confirm the number of images imported and as long as it matches what you started with, well, you're probably fine. Hopefully they'll offer a better confirmation (bitwise comparison maybe) if everyone screams loud enough.

Actually, I suspect everyone will be screaming for another reason- speed. I really don't know what is an acceptable or normal transfer rate for a DW like this, but the BCR to iPod transfer is SLOW. Here's some numbers, run 3 times and averaged:

50.4 MB of RAW files (16 counting CRW and THM, @ ~ 6MB ea CRW)
Ridata -> iPod : 2 min 35 sec (0.325 MB/sec)
SanDisk -> iPod : 2 min 43 sec (0.311 MB/sec)

51.4 MB of jpgs (21 @ 2 MB ea)
Ridata -> iPod : 2 min 51 sec (0.300 MB/sec)
SanDisk -> iPod : 2 min 58 sec (0.288 MB/sec)

Susepcting damaged cards or iPod, I decided to try FW speeds into my Cube:
SanDisk FW Card Reader, Ridata -> Cube : 4.39 MB/sec
SanDisk FW Card Reader, SanDisk -> Cube : 1.46 MB/sec
and iPod -> Cube : 10.7 MB/sec (!!!!)

So the good news is for those who don't have fast cards- the BCR doesn't seem to notice them anyway. For those of us shooting large files on large cards, be prepared to wait, and bring lots of batteries (oh, the manual also says the AAA batteries are good for a bit over 3GB of data- haven't dis/proven that yet tho). I am going to call tech support on Monday and find out what the hell is going on here- seems like they stuck a USB interface for a FW device or there is some bug in the software. Xfering 500 MB took 22 minutes, and I shudder to think the chances of getting through 1 full 1GB card without one of their batteries dying- if it weren't so slow I wouldn't sweat the batteries, but at that speed... jeesh. 300 kBps just can't be right!

I'll hold off my final judgement until I find out if the speed thing is a bug or the final answer. And I'm sure I missed a lot so reply with any other Q's and I'll answer best I can.

Good light to all,

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