Lexar UDMA Card Reader Review
Lexar has introduced a couple of flash memory card readers that are UDMA (Ultra Dynamic Memory Access) compatible. UDMA is a technology that allows very fast memory read and write, to and from devices such as digital SLRs as well as memory card readers. Lexar’s own 300x-speed UDMA Compact Flash (CF) memory cards and SanDisk’s Extreme IV memory cards are common examples of UDMA cards. However, at the present time this technology is not available on commercial Secured Digital (SD) memory cards.
Some of the UDMA-compatible card readers also use a Firewire 800 interface to further enhance the upload time, but at this point Firewire 800 is not common on a lot of computers, especially portable laptops. However, Lexar has a version that uses the standard USB 2.0 interface. This reader has dual slots for both Compact Flash and Secured Digital memory cards, but it is not compatible with Sony’s Memory Stick. Better yet, this reader only costs US$40 before a $20 rebate for a final cost of $20.
In 2011, Lexar introduced a new version that is USB 3.0 compatible. I am adding an update at the end of this article.
Card Reader Design
The Lexar UDMA dual-slot reader has a nice design in that normally the memory card slots are hidden inside to keep dust and dirt out. When you squeeze the two buttons on both ends of the reader, the slots will pop up. This is somewhat important because the CF connections inside a DSLR and inside a card reader use the old-fashioned electronic contact pins. If any dirt gets inside the little electronic contact holes on the card, and you press the card into the camera, you can potentially bend the pins and cause serious damage.
Lexar to the Test
I tested the Lexar dual-slot reader with various 4G UDMA and non-UDMA Compact Flash cards and SD cards, all filled with 377 RAW image files from a Nikon D300 DSLR. The Lexar 300x UDMA card provides the fastest upload time of around 3 minutes and 35 seconds, which is at a speed around 18M bytes per second and roughly twice as fast as an older Lexar multi-reader I have been using over the last few years. The UDMA-compatible SanDisk Extreme IV is also very fast at just over 4 minutes. The non-UDMA Extreme III is slower at almost 5 minutes. However, upload speed is considerably slower with SD cards.
With a very high upload speed, the convenience of a USB 2.0 connection, both Compact Flash and Secured Digital slots and a compact design, the Lexar UDMA dual-slot card reader is a good tool to accompany your workflow setup for fast downloads of images.
New USB 3.0 Version
In 2011, Lexar replaced the original USB 2.0 version with a USB 3.0 version. Except for the “USB 3.0” marking below the Lexar logo and the USB 3.0 style connection in the rear, the new version looks identical to the old version and works the same way. See the attached image for the differences.
Theoretically, USB 3.0 can be up to 10 times as fast as USB 2.0, but of course, the actual difference you experience highly depends on the various components involved. I have many external hard drives, and copying e.g. 1T bytes of image files can be as much as 4 times as fast using USB 3.0, cutting the total time down to about 25% as long as that using USB 2.0. So far, my experience with uploading image files from memory cards to PCs, the new USB 3.0 card reader is only slightly faster.
Where to Buy
Amazon.com offers the Lexar UDMA Card Reader, at a reasonable price with the option of overnight shipping.