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Friday, February 9, 2007

Belkin ExpressCard Multimedia Reader/Writer Hands On

Since I've got a portable computer its really important to me that my perifrials are equally portable. This has infulenced my decisions to buy a surge protector (Tripp-Lite Traveler 100Bt), a mouse (RadTech bt100), and now a memory card reader. I currently have have a Sony DSC-N1 Camera and also chose it for its size and image quality (for a point and shoot its pretty decent). Carrying around the cable to transfer pictures onto my computer along with many other cables just isn't cool. So in an attempt to declutter a bit I've purchased a Belkin ExpressCard reader/writer.

I can leave the ExpressCard in my MacBook Pro wherever I go. The card sits in the ExpressCard slot flush and I don't even notice its there. I was amazed that everything worked right out of the box and didn't require any drivers. As for supported formats the Belkin ExpressCard supports: Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Pro Duo (with adapter), MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, xD-Picture Card. Since my Sony DSC-N1 uses a Memory Stick Pro Duo card thats all I'll be able to test it with.

The process to move pictures off the camera and onto the computer is easy. Remove, Memory Stick Pro Duo from camera and insert it into the Memory Stick adapter. Then place the adapter in the Belkin ExpressCard. Push the card into the card till you feel a bit of resistance. If you push the Memory Card in to far, the ExpressCard will eject. This is an issue with how the MBP's ExpressCard slot is designed. It would have been nice if Apple used an eject button for cards instead of the 'push-release' method. Once the card is in all the way an icon on the desktop appears and simply drag your images onto your computer. You'll notice that the Memory Stick only goes about half way into the ExpressCard. This is a slight bummer as it could get bumped and damage something.

If I wasn't such a nerd I'd end this story here, but this is where the fun begins! I was curious how the transfer rate of the ExpressCard compares to using the DSC-N1 usb cable. I decided to run two different tests. The first test would entail transfering a 1gb file using the ExpressCard and then just the usb cable. For the second test I'll transfer 100 5mb files with the usb cable and ExpressCard.

I wrote the following ksh script to help with the experiment...


# This script creates n number of files whos sizes are in
# x megabytes

# Usage ./createfiles [filecount] [filesize in megabytes] [output file name]

if [ "$3" = "" ]


Echo "Usage: ./createfiles [filecount] [filesize in megabytes] [output file name]"

exit -1


FILECOUNT=$1; # The amount of files you want to create

FILESIZE=$2; # The file size in megabytes

FILENAME="$3"; # The name of the output files

bc |& # Use bc to convert mb to bytes
print -p "$FILESIZE * 1024"

read -p FILESIZE

FILESIZE=${FILESIZE/.*} # Remove the decimal place

# Create as many files as FILECOUNT specifies of

# the size FILESIZE

for ((i=1; i<=FILECOUNT; i+=1)) do

dd if=/dev/zero of="$FILENAME""$i" bs=1024 count="$FILESIZE";


Basically this allowed me to create the 1gb and the 5mb files needed to run the tests. Gotta love the unix aspect of OS X :) Once I had all the files created an on my Memory Stick I tested the transfers individualy using terminal and the following commands

neyoung$ time cp 5mbfile* ~/speedtest/
neyoung$ time cp 1gbfile ~/speedtest/

And here are the transfer times...

1gbx1 USB: 267.38 sec.
1gbx1 ExpressCard: 217.15 sec.

5mbx100 USB: 135.42 sec.
5mbx100 ExpressCard: 54.20 sec.

As you can see, the ExpressCard was faster in both tests. But, you'll notice a much bigger gap between the USB/ExpressCard test on the 5x100 test than the 1gb. As is the case with trying to time your computer there can always be factors that will affect the outcome. If I had more time I'd run the tests multiple times and take the average, but its getting late. I suspect that with multiple tests the USB cable times would be more in line with the ExpressCard. If anyone has the time to do this I'd be interested in the outcome :)

Anyways, overall I'm pleased with the Belkin ExpressCard Reader/Writer. It works with no hassle and the speed is impressive. Another bonus is that I don't have to carry my camera cable around with me! For $27 I couldn't be happier.

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At February 19, 2007 at 5:12 PM , Blogger Max said...

Hey, thanks for taking pictures of how it looks plugged in and working. I have searched all over the internet to see if the card would actually fit flush with my macbook pro and your site has the only pics I can find.

At February 19, 2007 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Nick Young said...

Great, I'm glad that I could help! I posted the pictures because that was something I was a bit worried about when I ordered the reader/writer. I was a little bummed that the memory stick itself wouldn't sit in the reader/writer flush. But honestly, the reader/writer is so small I don't think that it would be physically possible.


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