SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 1
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg



Introduction

It's been well over a decade since the release of the PCMCIA standard which took notebook expandability to a new level. These days notebooks are getting smaller and slimmer by the day and the time has finally come to replace the bulky PCMCIA standard with something a little more modern. ExpressCard is the newest PC Card technology on the block which comes in two flavors. There's the ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard 54, but of which are smaller than the original PCMCIA Type 1 PC card. The 34mm version is the most compact and less common of the two at this point. The 54mm version has a few more cards for the standard right now including SATAII connectivity, serial port connectivity, and the likes. The card being tested today is a 34mm flash media card reader/writer made by SIIG. The card will be tested on a new MacBook Pro under Mac OS X and Windows XP Pro SP2.

Packaging

The packaging of this card is what you would expect of an item such as this. It simply comes packed up nicely in a clean custom blister pack for display on a retail rack. The front of the package is very plain with a white background, what kind of card it is, and a small compatibility emblem which only states its compatibility with Windows OS's.

Front Side Packaging

The back side of the packaging is nothing too special either. Again we have the plain white background, a small picture of the card, the system requirements, and package contents.

Back Side Packaging

All in all the packaging is very very plain and dull. I guess you can't really expect much for a piece of hardware that serves a fairly unexciting purpose. Let's have a look at the specifications next...


SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 2
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg


Specifications

There's not a whole heck of a lot when it comes to the specs for an item such as this. Here is what SIIG has listed on their homepage:

Detailed Specs
-Compatible with SD, miniSD, MMC, RS-MMC, xD Picture card and various types of Memory Stick memory cardsCompliant with USB Storage -Class specifictaions
-No driver required!
-Hot-swapping feature allows you to attach/detach without powering down your system
-RoHS compliant

System Requirements
-Notebook or desktop system with an available ExpressCard slot
-Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003

Notice it doesn't say anything about the compatibility among other OS's such as Mac OS X or Linux. I know for certain that's 100% compatible with Mac OS X and I'm fairly certain it would be the same way with a good Linux distro.

The card is compatible with the most commonly used flash memory cards/sticks. One type of memory that's missing from the stick which is rather important is CompactFlash. However I can definately see the reasoning behind why there is no support for CF with this card, it's simply to small. CF cards are simply too wide for the 34mm ExpressCard standard, I imagine that once a 54mm ExpressCard media reader hits the market it will include support for CompactFlash. This is something to keep in mind if you do a lot of professional photography as all DSLR's use CF as their primary storage media.


SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 3
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg


Appearance

The first thing that you notice when seeing this card, or any ExpressCard for the first time is it's small form factor compared to the older PCMCIA standard. The 34mm model is very narrow and a good bit shorter than PCMCIA cards.

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

As you can see the ExpressCard is quite noticably smaller than the PCMCIA WiFi card pictured next to it. Not a whole lot else to see here, let's move on to the more important aspects of the card such as how well it works!


SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 4
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg


Testing

Test Rig
17" MacBook Pro
-2.16ghz Intel Core Duo
-2GB DDR2 RAM
-1 x ExpressCard 34 Slot
-OS: Mac OS X & Windows XP SP2 via BootCamp

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

Testing was completed using a new 17" MacBook Pro equipped with an ExpressCard 34 slot, one of the only notebooks on the market to feature the slot.

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

The card slot is nicely covered by an aluminum hinged door to hide the slot while no card is inserted. Notice that the ExpressCard slots do not feature an "eject" tab like the PCMCIA cards do, very nice for conserving just that much more space.

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

ExpressCard utilizes a very intuitive retension system. It locks itself in place the same way that SecureDigital cards do as an example. You simply push the card all the way in until it locks in place, then push it in once again and the card slides right out, brilliant! Once locked in place the card sits completely flush with the edge of the notebook. No more bulky PCMCIA card hanging off the side of your sleek notebook.

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

The card used for testing the device in this review was a stock Canon 32MB SecureDigital card which came with my PowerShot S80. The SD card slid right in and locked in place just the same way as the ExpressCard did and only sticks out but just a tiny bit more than the side of the notebook. I imagine that longer flash cards such as the Sony MemorySticks may stick out a bit further than SD or xD cards.

The only thing I noticed that bothered me a bit was during removal of the SD card. It's very easy to push the whole ExpressCard in to the notebook and delock it rather than the SD card if you're not careful. That's the only qualm I have about the card thus far.


SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 5
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg


Testing Continued

The SIIG Media Reader boasts it's ability to be used without the need of any drivers. Sure enough this holds true for both Mac OS X and Windows XP Pro. Unlike some other media card readers that add multiple drives even when no card is inserted this one does not. This is a huge plus, I couldn't stand my older readers that would add an extra ~6 drives even when no card was inserted. This is true for both Windows and Mac OS X.

A few seconds after inserting a flash card in to the reader an icon appears on the desktop (in Mac OS X) linking to the files on the media card. Under Windows you get a device icon that appears in My Computer (sorry, no pictures of the card being used in a Windows environment, but it definately does work and has been tested).

SIIG ExpressCard Media Reader

Transfer speeds are fast, very fast. You can easily max the read/write speed of your flash memory card using this adapter unlike using a USB cable to attach your camera to the computer. I was able to copy, add, and delete files from the memory card instantaneously while using it in the SIIG media card reader.


SIIG ExpressCard 34 11-in-1 Media Card Reader Page: 6
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/2006
Author: Matt Krei (FragTek)
Hardware Acquired: Newegg



Conclusion

Overall this card and new technology is very impressive and gets two thumbs up. With the smaller form factor, faster bus speed, and rapidly growing support I think we definately have a winner on our hands. My biggest dissapointment is the lack of CompactFlash support but this is more due to the size restriction of the 34mm design than anything else. The driverless universal support for this ExpressCard technology is also a great benefit as i can seemly use it between both Mac OS X and Windows XP. This specific card can be purchased from Newegg for a mere $36.99 which is a phenominal price for a product based on a new technology.

Pro's
+ Inexpensive
+ Universal driverless support for multiple operating systems
+ Doesn't create multiple drive icons when no media cards are inserted
+ Fast transfer speeds
+ Small form factor

Con's
- Unlocks itself sometimes if not careful when removing SD cards
- No support for CompactFlash

Editors Choice AwardValue Award

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