Every model covered in this review, both internal and external, is connected via the USB interface, so the difference between them is in the design of the case, the connector at the end of the cord, and in the controller chip. I can tell you right away that each model comes with the same accessories that include a USB cord and a disc with drivers for old OSes (card-readers don’t require special drivers from Windows 2000).
As for the controller, you don’t even have to take the device apart to find what model it is: every controller has a specific code, two four-character strings. The Vid string denotes the manufacturing firm, and the Pid string denotes the model number. These strings can be read with special programs, but I prefer the way that doesn’t require additional tools.
Just connect the card-reader (with any card inserted in it) to a PC running Windows and open the Device Manager. Find the USB Mass Storage Device among the USB devices. If no other external storage is connected to the PC, there is only one such string in the list. Then you open the Properties window, switch to the Details tab, and select Hardware IDs in the drop-down menu.
I will describe external models first.
Apacer Mega Steno AM300
That’s a nice-looking square box with two pairs of card slots in its two sides. A third side offers a mini-USB connector. The manufacturer says the Mega Steno AM300 supports CF, SD/MMC (all versions up to MMCplus and SDHC), MS and SM (xD). This doesn’t seem much in comparison with 52-in-1 or something models, yet these four slots allow working with every existing card type.
As for the numbers in the model names of many card-readers, most of them are just a marketing trick. Manufacturers claiming that their devices support dozens of card formats just puff up the list deliberately, including cards of the same format but marketed under different brands. For example, Transcend, Kingston and SanDisk turn out Compact Flash cards under their respective brands and some card-reader maker just calls them different formats to write a bigger number in the device’s specs. So, the modesty of Apacer should be viewed as the company’s honesty with respect to the customer.
According to the Vid and Pid combination, this card-reader is based on an Alcor Micro AU6362 chip with firmware 01.29.
AUDIOLAB 35 in 1
A typical representative of its product category, this card-reader has a flat translucent plastic case you can see its internals through. One longer side offers four standard card slots. A shorter side provides a mini-USB connector. There is an Alcor Micro AU6362 chip with firmware 01.26 inside. The long list of supported formats is built up artificially in the way I’ve described above: for example, besides Secure Digital format it includes Secure Digital Kingmax (ordinary SD cards manufactured by Kingmax) and Secure Digital Extreme (ordinary SD cards manufactured by SanDisk) that don’t require any special support.
This card-reader has a black plastic case and a rather flimsy cover above its connectors. Otherwise it is alike to the previous model having four universal card slots and an Alcor Micro AU6362 controller with firmware 01.26.
Gembird All in 1
In this model the case remained transparent, has no additional cover. The only thing new is the color of the casing. As you may have already guessed, there is the familiar Alcor Micro AU6362 chip inside with 01.26 firmware.
This one looks completely different: the card slots are placed on the two longer sides of the case. One shorter side offers three output ports of the integrated USB hub (unfortunately, you cannot plug devices wider than the USB connector into the neighboring ports), and the other shorter side provides an input mini-USB port and a power adapter connector. The power adapter is not included into the box. The hub can work without it unless you attach USB devices consuming over 500mA in total to it. The card-reader is based on an Alcor Micro AU6362 controller with firmware 01.26.