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An increasing number of computers nowadays include a card reader as part of the package, and I think it's just about reached the point where you might be a little bit miffed if you shelled out a sizeable chunk of cash on a new machine and found that it didn't include one. However, for those of us who still use rather older PCs (or indeed Macs!) there is still often a necessity for a standalone card reader, plugging into a USB port.
Given my interest in digital cameras, I would never want to be without such a reader, and indeed I possess a small army of the things. However, the one I generally use on a day-to-day basis is this simple model from Dazzle - which is a brand of the Zio Corporation, just in case that means anything to anybody! I've used it fairly heavily for several years now, and it's still doing its job as well as it always has done. It's the one currently plugged into my main PC, and I intend to leave it there for the foreseeable future.
This is not a particularly sleek or stylish unit, being much chunkier than some of the more recent examples of the reader-builder's art. If you use the optional stand to keep it upright then it takes up even more room, and generally I don't bother and use it lying down. (The reader's lying down, that is, not me!) It doesn't seem to make the slightest difference to its effectiveness, and indeed for the sake of review I also tested it upside down. Again, no change in results.
The front of the unit bears a fairly restrained Dazzle logo and the words "Hi-Speed USB 2.0". When this was new, that wasn't something you could count on, and in fact even now you can find the older, slower USB 1.1 units tucked away in some discount shops. If you're using all but the smallest memory cards, then it really is important to use a 2.0 reader, since the gulf in speed between the two standards is enormous, and while the Dazzle isn't a speed demon it's no utter slouch either.
Talking of memory cards, this is a multi-format reader, which makes it very useful to me. It can read CompactFlash, SD, XD, Memory Stick and SmartMedia cards. I know that doesn't add up to the promised eight, but Dazzle have pulled a bit of a fast one here by counting (for example) CF Type I and Type II cards as two entirely different formats. It's worth bearing in mind that this reader does not take Micro-SD cards, which are used in a minority of digicams. The presence of SmartMedia support is very handy if you're strange like me and have really old cameras in your collection!
There's not a lot more to be said, really. You plug the lead into a USB port, insert a memory card, and the reader appears as a new removable drive. (At least in Windows and Linux; I don't have experience of it under MacOS.) From there on in, you can move files back and forth between computer and card in the same pleasingly transparent way that you can when you use a thumb drive. This is a blessed relief for those of us who know what it is like to wrestle with cameras' often startlingly poorly designed PC software.
The Dazzle won't get you on the telly, and it won't bring you romance (well, unless the object of your affections is really into plastic computer accessories) but it will make your life a lot simpler. It's worth the expense just to never again have to go through the rigmarole of direct camera-to-computer cable connection - and actually "expense" is a misleading word as this is very cheap on eBay: a fiver should do it. Despite the lack of excitement, recommended.