Dazzle USB 2.0 Hi-speed 8 in 1 Universal Card Reader/Writer

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, August 2004, updated Jan 2007
Manufactured by: Zio Corporation
Requires: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection (PC or Mac), backward compatible with USB 1.1, Windows 98SE through Vista; Mac OS 9.x or OS X 10.x or higher
Available at : Stylus Central
MSRP: $49.99

The Dazzle Hi-Speed Universal 8 in 1 Digital Media Reader/Writer is a removable media reader capable of reading and writing to all the popular storage cards on the market today. Because the Dazzle 8 in 1 is designed with the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface, data transfer speed to and from your storage cards is limited only by the media itself (as long as the Dazzle is plugged into a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port on your computer). If you own or need to access a number of different types of storage cards from digital cameras, video cameras and Palm or Pocket PC handhelds you need something that will read their storage cards. And although all of the aforementioned hardware is supplied with synchronization and connection cables, often all you really want to do is copy or move files on and off the cards at a faster rate than the interfaces built into your hardware can provide. Besides that, a handy 8 in 1 reader/writer is usually a lot less trouble than fiddling with the connection cable specific to a camera.

Now I'll bet you didn't think there were actually eight different types of removable media on the market right now. I mean all you ever see in stores are CompactFlash, Secure Digital and Sony Memory Stick cards right? True enough. The catch (for multimedia reader/writer users) is that all the different storage cards have variants with (unfortunately) slight differences in their connection circuitry. It's one of the reasons Kickstartnews reviewer Lianne Reitter's Sony digital camera (DSC-F505) is incompatible with Sony Memory Stick Pro cards used in the newer Sony digital devices. If she wants to view something from a friend's camera (one model newer, uses Memory Stick Pro), she's out of luck and that is another reason to have an 8 in 1 storage card reader/writer. Here's the list of storage cards the Dazzle can handle:

  1. CompactFlash (CF) Type 1
  2. CompactFlash (CF) Type 2
  3. IBM MicroDrive
  4. SmartMedia
  5. Sony Memory Stick (Standard)
  6. Sony MagicGate (Memory Stick Pro)
  7. Secure Digital (SD)
  8. MultiMediaCard (MMC)


The Dazzle is bundled with the OnDVD software, a small program which helps you make photo slideshows and burn them to DVD.

Kickstartnews reviews are supposed to be based on real-world, everyday experiences with software and hardware. But after using the Dazzle 8 in 1 for a couple of weeks, the urge to run some real timing tests became irresistible. So we chose a group of large digital photo files as the test data and proceeded to copy and move them back and forth between the Dazzle and one of our workstations, using the identical set of files to test each storage card, timing everything (accurate to +/- half a second) along the way. Here are the test results:

Test Criteria

We wrote 30 digital photo files totaling 762.8MB to the 1GB cards, 11 digital photo files totaling 106.7MB to the 128MB & 256MB cards and 6 digital photo files totaling 30.4MB to the smaller cards. We used a Tissot T-Touch digital stopwatch for all of the timing runs. Timings began exactly as the confirmation clicks were made for copying or moving data and ended as soon as the screen was cleared of the Windows progress dialog. The tests took place on a Pentium 4/2.8GHz workstation (Asus P4S8X motherboard with native USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports) with the Dazzle 8 in 1 connected directly rather than through a hi-speed hub. The temporary folder used to store data for the test runs was cleared before each test.

Write Speeds (Copy data from PC to card)

Media Time
SanDisk 128MB Standard Secure Digital .22MB/sec
Nikon 32MB CompactFlash .43MB/sec
Sony 256MB Memory Stick Pro .38MB/sec
Hitachi 1GB Microdrive 2.6MB/sec
SanDisk Ultra 256MB CompactFlash 1.26MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme 1GB CompactFlash 4.49MB/sec

Move Speeds (Move data from card to PC)

Media Time
SanDisk 128MB Standard Secure Digital 1.38MB/sec
Nikon 32MB CompactFlash 1.9MB/sec
Sony 256MB Memory Stick Pro 1.26MB/sec
Hitachi 1GB Microdrive 11MB/sec
SanDisk Ultra 256MB CompactFlash 20MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme 1GB CompactFlash 30MB/sec

A quick look at the data will tell you that the SanDisk Extreme CF cards are clearly the fastest cards available today. For digital photographers shooting 4 megapixels and up, the fast CF cards are absolutely the best choice. Sony's Memory Stick Pro cards were disappointing to say the least, especially considering the long wait that Sony users had to endure before the company released the large capacity cards in 2003 (standard Memory Sticks are limited to 128MB in size). Of course the other detail to note is that the Dazzle 8 in 1 did not hinder the tests in any way because its USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface can handle well in excess of 50MB/sec. Proof is proof however. We just love the fast new storage cards combined with our favorite digital camera and the Dazzle 8 in 1. Obviously, SD, CompactFlash and standard Memory Stick media are s-l-o-w; not the ideal formats for data backups (albeit ideal when using BackupBuddy on your PDA of course). None of these storage cards comes anywhere close to challenging the Dazzle's USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface.

Some of you may have noticed that the Dazzle web site listed above is located at Zio Corporation. It's not a typo—Pinnacle Systems spun off their card reader business to Zio in August 2003. Pinnacle still develops its Dazzle video editing software and hardware however. Zio has a full line of card reader products and provides full support for the 8 in 1 model. But wait! Zio is now also gone the way of the Dodo bird and the Dazzle brand is being made and distributed by a number of companies. So use the test criteria below to make comparisons with other card readers on the market, and if they meet or beat the Dazzle, you can make a good choice.

Cons: The separate vertical base for the card reader (the device normally sits horizontally) does not lock onto the product, and because all of these sorts of card readers are quite light, vertical mounting can be hindered by the weight/tug of the USB cable. A lot of these sorts of devices are supplied with the same type of base and we think it's kind of useless. It's a minor quibble and doesn't affect the operation of the Dazzle (or any other, similar, card reader). We did not install the bundled OnDVD photo album software supplied with the Dazzle.

Pros: Zippy — we certainly like USB 2.0 Hi-Speed — with data transfer rates limited only by the speed of the media being used. In the case of Palm OS handhelds you need special software in order to access the storage card in the handheld directly through the HotSync cable or cradle, so a media reader/writer is an absolute necessity when transferring large music and photo files (because HotSync can be really slow). Ditto for copying data via cable-connected camera—most of those camera connections move data at what can only be described as glacial speeds. The Dazzle 8 in 1 is small and fits anywhere on your desk or on top of the computer. It's a passive USB device so it requires no external power (now power block is needed or supplied) and runs completely cool. As usual with these sorts of devices, no drivers are required in Windows Me, XP, Vista or Mac OS. Highly recommended.

(Ed. Note: Zio Corporation's products have been absorbed by other companies since this review was published. As of June 2006, drivers and support are available through SmartDisk. Note also that some well spec'd card readers are now on the market for well under $20).




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