Today I got a little down time to benchmark the PCD2 card reader in Panasonic’s booth, before the crowds hit tomorrow morning . The PCD2 is the simple, single card reader that Panasonic should have shipped a few years ago, especially for the Mac.
Instead, Mac laptop users had to buy a $120 (or so) Duel Adapter reader, which attached to the ExpressCard/34 interface on Macbook Pros, but couldn’t work with Macbooks or Macbook Airs, since they don’t have ExpressCard/34 slots. The Duel Adapter worked for some people, but for others, it created lots of headaches with bad drivers, system crashes, etc. Mac desktop users didn’t really even have an option for a simple card reader, which is one of the reasons I bought a PCD35.
So enter the PCD2, better late than never. It’s super light, and requires no power. It needs no drivers, and it attaches to your computer using two included USB2 cables—one cable carries power from the computer, and the other cable carries data (the device won’t work if both USB cables aren’t plugged into your computer—at least the Mac Pro I used didn’t).
I was a little disappointed to hear that the PCD2 uses a slow USB2 connection, but the goal is to create a device that everyone can use. FireWire 400? It’s not available on most new computers, including Macs. FireWire 800? It’s not available on many Windows laptops. eSATA? It’s available on ever fewer machines, and usually requires buying some kind of extra adapter. So USB2 is the common denominator. In fact, I think the only computer on the planet that can’t work with the PCD2 is my Macbook Air, since the Air only has one USB2 port!
Anyway, I used the PCD2 to copy a full 8GB R series P2 card (with about 7.2GB of data) to a Mac Pro’s internal hard drive. I used a simple Finder copy, and did it in 3 minutes and 26 seconds. That’s not too bad. It’s not quite at USB’s theoretical 400mbps data throughput (roughly 75% of maximum), but I think many people who need a single card reader will find it tolerable. That means, you can expect a 32GB card to copy in about 15 minutes, which is 5 minutes faster than Sonnet’s $1000 QIO can copy a 32GB card to an eSATA drive!
Speaking of price, Panasonic has set the PCD2’s list price at $350. That seems pretty high for a plastic card reader, but that’s how things go in the rarified air of professional video production. Still, I hope we see these things selling for well under $300 by the time street discounts apply.