On micro SD card readers

jke-micro-sd card readers

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Back when I was still on Nokia and later on Android phones, a microSD card reader on my keychain was key :-) to what I call data freedom. I also believe that micro SD cards are the best invention after sliced bread and that they should be on all phones and should contain all user data (so that your data is secured in case of a water damage). The lack of microSD card compatibility on my iPhone and iPad is that one thing I dislike about these Apple gadgets.

The readers for these microSD cards are cheap – most of them purchased via eBay in China, about 1-3 EUR each. I’ve meanwhile tested a lot and the ones I’ve kept are shown above. Most readers have a similar PCB layout inside and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all from the same manufacturer.

Here’s my preliminary rating on these types:

1. conventional USB card reader that also accepts SDHC format. Great, lightweight. I have one in my bag with cables and chargers. ==> A

2. The plastic version: one of the first readers and because of its shape nice for the pocket, but only those from SanDisk rock, the rest (like this one) are cheap Chinese copies that may fail. Also card is unprotected, may come out accidentally. ==> A

3. Small, very small, but the microSD card isn’t secured and mine has a problem as it pushes the PCB further down when the card is inserted which means it won’t fit in the USB port. Also no secured cap which may get lost. ==> B-

4. Flat reader, would be nice if only… the “ear” that holds the cord had less sharp edges. Too fragile for the pocket. ==> B

5. One strange reader, inside like no. 6. The plastic bomber. May break any time and is for the occasional user only who doesn’t mind when other USB ports are getting blocked. ==> C-

6. Not the smallest reader, but one where the SD card is secured by another cover. I’ve been using this one for the past few month. ==> A+

7. My latest purchase – the ear for the cord is inside the frame, rounded edges, still as slim as possible. Not the cheapest (4.5 EUR), but well made and from my favourite company Kingston. The recent purchase of a Kingston microSD card actually made me buy this reader no. 7. because the cards and the reader ARE superior  – at least to the nameless fake quality I usually go for. ==> A+

What kind of USB key do you use? Also one of these microSD cards on a reader? Or the conventional type? Or non at all?

I know it’s strange to write about these 1-3 EUR gadgets because we just get new ones when the old ones stop working, but it’s the details in life that matter and I wouldn’t want to use one of these USB keys that imo aren’t that well designed (they should be much slimmer). Especially if you can have the full USB pleasure with a card and reader that are as big as your thumb – but much slimmer.

6 comments » Write a comment

  1. wasup.i came across ur blog as i was searching for the best place to buy a mem card for my nokia x2-01 in Nairobi.i’ve only had this phone for 3wks.i have purchased 3 mem cards all which have failed me.at first i thought it was the bloody phone,but after testing the cards on other phone,i thought otherwise.can u gimme a few tips on wea i can get quality cards and wich type is best.i have bought kingston and sandisk and both have let me down.thenx in advance

  2. J, I don’t know where in Nbo u bought your cards. But in any case, it may be best to verify data integrity on all sticks using the following tool for Windows which is available in both English and German: http://www.heise.de/download/h2testw.html . This tool will write to the memory card and then also read from it. Once there is a problem, it will report the error.

    Formatting problems: only use the phone’s formatting.

    From my experience, the problem with memory cards is that some vendors in China fake them – low quality cards or with less space available – and they do so my altering the controller chip inside the memory card or sometimes some cards are just faulty and still sold because the margin / profit is already very low.

    But be rest assured – the other I had to throw away a nice 16GB microSD card just because it had developed issues. And it was an original card, been working in my phone for a few month. I am sure the best microSD cards are still those with 2GB only – I never had any issues with them, only with 4GB, 8GB and 16GB cards.

    I am sure that a lot of dealers in Nairobi only sell fake cards, also because it’s very hard to spot the difference between fake and original ones. Andrew Huang once published a very nice and detailed blog post on it: http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=918

    Another issue could be the controller chip inside which sometimes also has “issues”. If you’re testing the microSD with a computer, make sure to use an alternative microSD card reader.

  3. Dave – I started a new job in a new place, hence the silence. But there’s still a burning desire for a rant…

  4. Finally, somewhere I can comment!

    Concerning Formatting… {From my experience using SDs in PDAs smartphones} If for some reason the card cannot be read in your phone, or can’t be formatted within the phone or your computer, or in the rare mysteriously cases where it loses its data contents…format it in a digital camera.

    I’m no gadget-geek {I’ll leave that to K1 :o) } but I imagine that the hardware in a camera does a lower level format than does a card reader in either a computer or a standalone.

    And if after using the camera, the integrity of the formatting still doesn’t stick in the card, then junk it. The SD, not the camera. :o)

  5. Low-level formatting – could be a reason. I also believe it’s related to the controller chip inside the card which seems to be better in cameras / devices and stronger than the one on the card itself. I recently had to dispose of a few microSD cards which just never worked as reliable and I have meanwhile also returned to a normal USB stick.