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A look at SD readers

Fri Jul 15, 2005 - 4:23 PM EDT - By James Hromadka

Don't press that HotSync button

I hate performing HotSync operations. Back in the day, Palm users did not have fancy NVRAM that prevented data loss when your battery died, so a daily HotSync was almost a necessity. Since a daily sync operation took less than a minute, it wasn't too bad. However, with the Treo's multimedia features, syncing can be a real pain. It can take 10-20 minutes to transfer a few sound or video files to the Treo's SD card. With 1 GB SD memory expansion cards prices are coming down, it can really take a long time to get your multimedia files over to the SD card.

The solution? Forego a standard sync operation and use a dedicated SD reader. I took seventeen MP3 files totaling 100.06 MB and copied them to a 1 GB Dane-Elec SD card. The time difference when compared to a normal sync operation was staggering. Since I use The Missing Sync, I also tested that program's USB Mount feature that lets you mount the Treo as a drive and copy files directly to the SD card.

I tested the MediaGear XtraDrive ($14.95), which takes any SD card and turns it into a USB pen drive, and the Ultra Memory Card Reader ($24.95), a 7-in-1 reader that looks like the Enterprise when in use because of bright blue lights on its sides. Normally such a feature is reason enough to own such a device, but the Ultra is also very fast. It only took a minute for the Ultra to copy 100MB of data to the SD card. The mediaGear took longer, but was still nine times faster than a normal sync.

Below a table of the full results. The Speed Rating is how much faster each method is over a normal sync operation, and I included an estimate for how long it would take to fill the SD card in one go.

Method Time*
1 GB
Ultra 0:01:04 20.4 0:10:40
mediaGear 0:02:25 9.0 0:24:10
USB mount 0:06:28 3.4 1:04:40
Normal sync 0:21:47 1.0 3:37:50
* Time to copy 17 MP3 files totalling 100.06 MB to a 1 GB Dane-Elec SD card

I recommend the mediaGear for laptop users or those that have been wanting a USB pen drive but want to be able to use their own SD cards. For pure speed, the Ultra Memory Card reader offers top speed copy operations and also can be used to copy files to/from non-SD devices. Just make sure you copy the files to the right directory. MP3s go in /Audio, while applications will go in /Palm/Launcher. Some programs will have a specific folder that they use—be sure to check the program's documentation if you are unsure as to where to copy your files.

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