DCRP Review: VST Tri-Media Reader
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally Posted: Monday, July 3, 2000

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 5, 2000

I've got a problem: I'm a floppy-less Mac user who reviews lots of cameras. When I recently reviewed a Sony Mavica camera, I had to use my PC's floppy drive, then move the files over to my Mac. I'll have a SmartMedia-based camera one day, and a CompactFlash-based one another day. Instead of using USB cables and installing a myriad of drivers, I wanted something that could read everything.

I was flipping through a catalog and I discovered that someone had answered my prayers -- VST Technologies, best known to Mac users as a manufacturer of Powerbook peripherals. VST has created what I believe is the first Tri-Media Reader, which supports floppies, SmartMedia, and CompactFlash (Type I and II). So, I went to their site and ordered it for $159.

And now that it's here, I'm very happy with it -- there's not a lot of detail to go into, but here's the basics:

Computers Supported: The Tri-Media Reader (TMR) supports any USB-equipped Mac or PC (running Windows 98).

Connecting the drive: There's only one plug on the back, for the included USB cable. Yep, no power plug to worry about -- it gets power straight off the USB bus. The drive is small and light, and you can hot-swap it (thank you, USB) at will.

Floppy: The top level of the reader is a standard issue floppy drive. I haven't had a floppy drive on my Mac in so long, I forgot how slow they were! The floppy on the Tri-Media Reader doesn't eject automatically -- once you unmount the drive from your desktop, you just push the button and out comes the disc. There is an access light to show when the disc is being used.

SmartMedia: On the lower left side is the SmartMedia slot. The TMR supports 3.3V (only!) SmartMedia cards, up to 128Mb. This is one of those spring-loaded slots, like on most cameras. There is an access light for this as well.

CompactFlash Type II: On the lower right is the CompactFlash Type II slot. It'll read whatever you stick into it! There's an access light, and an eject button for these too.

Note about Microdrive support: VST includes a note saying that they do not "recommend or support" putting an IBM Microdrive in this slot. I asked VST about this, and they said that it will work, but you cannot have any other media in the drive at the time. The Microdrive takes a lot of power, and since the TMR is using the USB bus for power, if you have a floppy in there too, there might not be enough power for the Microdrive, and it could be damaged.

Using the various types of media is just as you'd expect-- they all mount like discs on the Mac desktop. You need to be sure to unmount them before you eject them, or else they could be damaged, or your computer could crash.

For Mac users, the VST Tri-Media Reader is a great investment. A floppy drive alone costs around $100, and for only $60 more, you get two types of flash memory readers! I definitely recommend it!


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