Ativa 10-in-1 USB Card Reader

If you’ve ever been stuck on vacation or at work and needed to access pictures on your digital camera or simply free up room on your camera’s memory card, you know how convenient owning a USB card reader can be. Since my new camera uses Secure Digital (SD) cards and my old reader only read Smart Media Cards (SM), I recently upgraded to a new Ativa 10-in-1 card reader. How does it compare to my old card reader? Read on, reader!

The Ativa 10-In-1 reader is USB 2.0 compatible, and in Windows 2000 or higher does not require drivers. Simply plug the unit into your computer’s USB drive and the removable disks will appear — 4 of them, in fact. Despite being a 10-in-1 reader, the unit only has 4 external slots and labels for 5 different types of cards. The package comes with the CameraMate ProPix software suit (which I promptly threw away) in order to raise the price from $20 to $30. Unfortunately, this was still the cheapest unit I could find.

As dumb as this may sound, I had problems inserting my cards into the unit. The slots are not clearly marked as to whether the cards should be inserted face up or face down. The microscopic silk-screened icons on the front of the unit require both a microscope and a spotlight to read — you won’t be able to make heads or tails out of them except under ideal environments, and to make matters worse I found that SD cards can fit in a lot of different slots. I use the unit so rarely that it seems like every time I pull it out I have to figure out how the card is supposed to go again — and no matter which way I guess first, it’s wrong.

It would have been nice for the drive letters to only appear when you plug a card into them. Likewise, it would be simpler to navigate the unit if the drives were labeled, instead of simply reading “Removable Drive E:”, “Removable Drive F:”, and so on.

Once you get past the end user hurdles, the unit performs quickly and quietly. Two small green LEDs on the front of the unit announce connectivity and usage, although by moving the unit around and looking at it from different angles you can easily convince yourself that the lights are either on or off at any given moment.

Whining aside, the card reader is built quite nicely and looks like it would take a beating. The cord is thick and firmly secured to the unit. I’ve had it wrapped up in my laptop bag for a few months now and it still works like it did when I first purchased it.

Overall, the unit works as advertised. It would be nice if the unit’s slots were labeled more clearly and if the drives were labeled more clearly in Windows, but for transferring data to and from memory cards, the Ativa 10-in-1 card reader works.

Office Depot, $29.99 (April 2006)

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