A Thunderbolt CF Card Reader … and More!
I'll admit I'm a bit off the Thunderbolt radar since I don't own a Thunderbolt-capable machine (though I do have one on loan). But last week I was working with a photographer who was looking into a new Macbook Pro and the question came up about a Thunderbolt CF card reader. A Google search returned a result for the Sonnet Echo ExpressCard Thunderbolt adapter. While not exactly a Thunderbolt CF card reader, it looks like it's capable of a lot more (I also saw this post about another Thunderbolt CF card reader, though you may not want it after reading the review).
The Echo, which Sonnet will show with other Thunderbolt-related products at IBC in September, is actually a device that lets the user plug ExpressCard/34 cards into the Echo, which is then connected via Thunderbolt. There are two different models, the regular unit and the Pro, and depending on what you're doing, you could hit a transfer bottleneck that is slower than the speeds that Thunderbolt is capable of. But you'll likely make up for any potential speed issues with versatility, since you can plug many different connection interfaces into the Echo, including eSATA, FireWire 800, SDXC, Sony SxS and CompactFlash. If you're one of the folks who have been hanging on to an old 17-inch MacBook Pro due to the built-in ExpressCard slot, then this adapter is an affordable option to keep access to your media. Here are the bullet-points from the Sonnet website:
- Expands Your Computer's Connectivity and Capabilities — Enables you to use ExpressCard/34 adapters with Thunderbolt technology-equipped computers
- Reads SxS Memory Cards — Ingests footage from SxS memory cards at up to 100 MB/s
- Fast Interface — High-performance 10 Gb/s Thunderbolt technology, 5.0 Gb/s ExpressCard 2.0 (Pro model) or 2.5 Gb/s ExpressCard interface
- Supports Common ExpressCard/34 Adapters — Supports Sonnet Pro CompactFlash and SDXC readers; FireWire, and select eSATA adapters
- Supports Qio Interface Adapters — Enables use of Qio CF4 and Qio E3 pro media readers with Thunderbolt technology-enabled computers
- Supports Specialty ExpressCard/34 Adapters — Supports ExpressCard adapters for specialty devices such as AJA io Express and Prism Sound ADA-8XR and Orpheus
I've never used one of the adapters myself and didn't know it existed until just the other day, so I thought I'd add it to the useful tools category. There are a few Sonnet Echo ExpressCard Thunderbolt Adapter reviews out there, so check out Mac Observer, fxphd and ProPhoto Coalition for some benchmarks and real-world testing.
The other thing we discovered while searching for a Thunderbolt CF card reader is that Apple is no longer the only Thunderbolt cable player in town. If you're looking for a more affordable Thunderbolt cable, however, you'll have to keep looking. Elgato is listing a 1.6-foot Thunderbolt cable on its website for $59.95. Apple will still give you more options with its 6-foot cable, if you need length. The Elgato cable, by comparison, is only 1.6-feet long. While 6 feet is often overkill for most setups, Apple's cable is only $50, a much better deal per foot. But at least now you've got a few more choices, including a few others here.