The Lexar Media USB Universal Card Reader is a flash memory card read/write drive for Windows or Macintosh PCs. It can be used with CompactFlash Type I (with supplied adapter), SmartMedia (3.3v only) or full size PC cards. Optionally it can read CompactFlash Type II and Memory Stick media when inserted into their appropriate PCMCIA adapters.
The Universal Reader requires no power supply, it gets its power directly from the USB port. It is "iMac'ish" purple in color and a quite copact with dimensions of 5(D) x 3-1/4(W) x 1(H) inches. It is supplied with a 1-meter attached USB cable and a CompactFlash to PCMCIA adapter.
For maximum flexibility the Universal Reader has two card slots, the upper slot is a full size PCMCIA slot and the lower slot is reserved for SmartMedia cards. It is shown here with a CompactFlash (CF) card in the PCMCIA adapter. Only one card slot can be occupied at a time.
The adapter or card occupying the upper slot is ejected by means of that light grey colored pushbutton on the right.
And here we see it with the SmartMedia slot occupied. Note that we have inserted the SM card upside down for illustration purposes the proper orientation is with the gold contacts facing down. SM cards are extracted by simply grasping them and pulling them out of the slot.
There are two LEDs on top of the reader, the green one indicates the unit is plugged into an active USB port and is receiving power. The red LED blinks to indicate data is going in or out of the unit.
InstallationThe Universal Reader is Plug-n-Play with Windows 98 but you install it by first running the SETUP on the supplied CD disc. When the reader is plugged in to the USB port and Windows "sees" it, the necessary drivers will already be on your hard drive. Windows loads the drivers and a minute later you will have a new "Removable Drive E" (or "F" or whatever your next available drive letter is) listed under My Computer.
You can "hot swap" memory cards without turning off the computer or rebooting, just make sure that all activity to the reader is finished (red LED off) before removing a flash card.
Camera image files can be copied from the flash card to your hard using Explorer or any other file management utility you have or images can be read into your favorite graphics viewer or editor directly from the card.
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I give Lexar's USB Universal Reader a rating of 5 (out of 5) digicams. The drivers installed flawlessly, the unit is small and requires very little desktop real estate and most importantly, it works as advertised and transfers data very quickly. Typically it moves three-megapixel (~1.5MB size) images in 1-2 seconds.
It doesn't cost a fortune (seen on the net for less than $50) and the ability to handle many different types of flash memory cards can come in very handy as you change media formats in the future.