Updated October 20, 2018 by Joseph Perry

The 9 Best CF Card Readers

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. With today's increasingly tiny devices cutting back on peripherals to save space and weight, you might need one of these CF card readers in order to move files, photos, videos and/or audio to your computer. They are capable of fast and reliable transfers and often have the ability to read multiple formats in addition to CompactFlash. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best cf card reader on Amazon.

9. Sabrent Premium HB-MACR

8. Anker USB 4-Slot

7. UGreen Adapter

6. Delkin Dual Slot

5. PixelFlash CBLD

4. Kingston Digital FCR-HS4

3. WeMe 9313D

2. Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot

1. Transcend RDF8K

What is a CF Card Reader Best Used For?

There are a few important considerations in the card, and luckily they are all very easy to understand.

Compact flash cards, or CF cards for short, are mainly used in modern camera systems, and provide additional memory space for photographers and filmmakers. Many photographers choose to use different cards for different projects rather than one card for everything, so the need for a quality CF card reader is very high.

The impact a CF card reader has on performance will often be affected by the quality of the CF card itself. There are a few important considerations in the card, and luckily they are all very easy to understand. The UDMA rating, size of the card, and the read and write speed all affect a card's performance. On most CF cards, the size of the card is placed in bold font on the front. Modern cards can range from between 4 gigabytes of storage to a whopping 512 gigabytes and beyond. Large CF cards have even been used as boot drives to repair computers in a pinch.

The read speed of the cards will also have an effect on how well the reader can do its job. This is the speed at which a computer or memory reader can access or take information off of the card itself. Along with the read speed is the write speed, which is the speed that information can be consistently written to the card. This number is especially important for filmmakers. It is the speed at which the camera can write to the card indefinitely, and a higher speed ensures no skipped frames.

UDMA stands for ultra direct memory access. Though they are not the fastest cards anymore, they are fast enough to handle most user's photo and video needs. The ratings on UDMA cards range from zero to seven. These numbers determine their maximum transfer rate and minimum cycle time.

It is these complex CF cards which CF card readers are designed to best handle, though this is not all they are used for. Most manufacturers understand that if a person is using one type of external memory, chances are they will need another type at some point as well. That is why many CF card readers also accept SD cards, mini SD cards, and SDXC cards, which all have their own speed class identifications that affect their performance.

Benefits Of CF Card Readers

The digital age has brought both simplicity and complexity to our daily lives all at once. This is easily apparent by looking at the most modern laptop of the day. Older laptops contained RGB ports, Ethernet jacks, memory slots, multiple USB ports and even serial ATA jacks for mass storage devices. In order to deliver a more streamlined user product, many computer manufacturers are removing most of these peripheral options and replacing them with one or two USB ports. While this does deliver a modern, streamlined laptop, it makes for a lot of aftermarket dongles and attachments for many users.

There is a higher probability that the camera will be accidentally knocked off of a table or have something spilled on it.

Photographers and filmmakers are hit by this through the loss of memory card readers. While it means that these people are required to purchase a CF card reader in order to practice their hobby, this is actually great news. The reason is that typical card readers in older computers often caused the pins in CF cards to break. If there are treasured photos or videos on these cards, this can mean disaster. Modern standalone CF card readers are often designed to avoid this damage, and will not let a card be forced into the slot.

Many people also favor CF card readers in order to protect their equipment. While most digital cameras can be connected to a computer via a USB cable, this means the camera must be attached to the computer the entire time the card is in use. There is a higher probability that the camera will be accidentally knocked off of a table or have something spilled on it.

Reading directly from a memory card is also much faster than reading from the camera itself. There is also the added convenience of having a memory card reader attached to the computer for whenever inspiration strikes. Modern memory card readers are also equipped with signal adapters which make it possible for many different types of memory cards to be used by the same adapter, without taking up additional space. Using a memory card reader also makes the computer treat it like an external hard drive rather than another device. This makes copying files and transferring files as simple as possible; often only requiring the drag and drop method.

What Is The Difference Between CF Cards and SD cards?

While there are many opinion articles swimming around the net, there are little which probe into the functional differences of CF cards and SD cards.

CF cards are physically larger than SD cards, and have pins on the side of the card rather than underneath.

SD stands for secure digital. These cards were pioneered just before the new millennium by some of the largest technological giants in the world. Their goal was to create an industry standard memory card for use in portable devices. That goal was a success, and SD cards are still in use years later in portable devices and cell phones. Some researchers even called for adding micro SD cards to dentures for identification purposes. The idea has yet to catch on, however.

The pins in an SD card are flat, and are located on the back of the card. SD cards allow for high rates of transfer, and allow users to securely info lock the cards entirely so the contents cannot be deleted. They also allow for password locks and vendor enhancements such as built in Wi-Fi.

Though SD is the industry standard for many files, CF cards still remain a card of choice for photographers and videographers. CF cards are physically larger than SD cards, and have pins on the side of the card rather than underneath. They are also compatible with older IDE/ATA interfaces. Photographers note no difference in picture quality when using either card, so long as they have similar read/write speeds and a decent sized memory bank. It all comes down to a matter of personal preference.

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Joseph Perry
Last updated on October 20, 2018 by Joseph Perry

An avid reader and outdoors enthusiast, Joe earned his doctorate in literary studies before making the lateral leap from academia to technical writing. He now lives and works in the inter-mountain West where he creates technical and marketing content, including white papers, solution briefs, and courseware for some of the world’s largest information technology companies. With more than 14 years of experience in the field, he has learned more than he ever thought he would know about such enterprise IT topics as cloud computing, storage, databases, business software, and networking. When he’s not writing about business computing, he can be found outdoors, probably hiking with his family and dog.


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