Review: AcomData MultiMediaViewer

I mentioned this device in passing a little while ago, now here is the full review. Kate and I lent our digital camera out after we went to Troy and Tanya's wedding. We kept the full compact flash card, and then decided to get a card reader so we wouldn't have to wait until we got the camera back to see the pictures.

The choice was between a basic Compact Flash card reader and the AcomData MultiMediaViewer (or MMV for short). Read on for the whole story.

$30 will buy you a basic card reader -- a slot for the memory card and a USB cable to plug into your computer. $50 - $60 will buy you a 6-in-1 reader, and perhaps USB 2.0. Or, for about $95, you can get the AcomData MMV.

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At it's most basic, it's a card reader that supports reading and writing Compact Flash and Smart Media cards using a USB cable. Most newer operating systems will mount such a card directly on your desktop and treat it like a removable hard drive, without having to install any drivers. This makes it useful for transferring any sort of data, and Compact Flash cards are large enough/cheap enough that you could keep quite a few odds and ends of documents on there.

When we plugged it in to my iMac (it does have a DC power adapter included, but it will draw its power from USB when it's plugged into a computer), the card mounted...and iPhoto recognized it. It never ceases to amaze me what sort of stuff "just works".

Well, it did do some funny stuff when I "ejected" it from the desktop -- the lights (there is a green and red LED on the front) flashed, and then the green went steady and it mounted on the desktop again. This is I expect because it has a mechanical eject button. I guess Mac OS X actually expects stuff to get ejected. I know that when I tried it on Windows XP, you have to do the "stop device" button, and the OS will ignore it until you eject and re-insert the memory card. My "solution" is to hit the manual eject button as soon as the memory card disappears from the desktop.

But what else does it do? Well, thanks to the afore-mentioned DC power adapter (it can also run on four AA batteries) you can listen to MP3s from it. The MMV has an audio-out port that will accept a headphone jack, plus it comes with a cable that splits out into regular RCA jacks for connecting it to your stereo. Evan's consensus was that the sound was a little bass-y, but that may also have been my JVC "Super Bass" headphones.

MP3 playing does have it's drawbacks. When we connected it to Jessie's stereo, it seemed like we had to manually press "next" to listen to the next song -- it wouldn't play them all. I saw some references to playlists being supported, which might fix this, but I haven't tested this yet. Which comes to another downside. The files are played/organized alphabetically by their filename and, since there is no screen or other feedback, your only controls are next, previous, and play/pause/stop.

To get the songs onto the MMV, I copied them over manually from iTunes. I didn't know where to put them, so I just created a folder called "MP3" and dragged them in there. Whatever the "proper" method is, it appears that the MMV scans folders to find MP3 files -- everything just worked.

The second function puts the multi in the MMV's media. It has a video-out port and comes with a standard RCA-style video connector (you know, the yellow kind) so you can plug it into your TV. Yes, you could plug the audio into the TV at the same time.

Using a TV interface (and the included slim IR remote) you can browse through the files on the card. Folders with images can be viewed on screen, where you can press next/previous, or press play to enable a slideshow. Larger images (in this case, the full 1.4MB pictures from our camera at "fine" JPEG quality) took some time to display, first showing a pixelated view, then clearing to show the final images. Also, if images were not oriented correctly, they couldn't be rotated.

Many digital cameras actually have this functionality built-in -- a video out port so that you can do slide shows on a TV. Ours doesn't, so that makes the device even more useful for us: we could take it plus a selection of pictures and show them to people. Kind of the digital equivalent of bringing a photo album over...

Music could also be played using this interface by selecting MP3 files. I didn't have any to test, but movies are also supported, although currently only AVIs using a Motion-JPEG codec. I haven't really looked to see whether there is an easy way for me to create this type of file/codec on my Mac. The box prominently featured notices that downloadable firmware would be made available that enabled MP4 video support. Cool! Nothing on the website yet...

All in all, I would recommend this device. It comes with an amazing amount of accessories and abilities, and seems sturdy enough (or rather, it's a plastic shell and a circuit board, and the shell doesn't seem flimsy). If you don't need anything more than a card reader, then this is overkill, but we have nothing other than the computer that will display digital pictures and play MP3s. I'll post in comments here when/if firmware gets updated and any other discoveries I make.

Contents

  • AcomData MMV unit
  • USB cable
  • audio-out to RCA audio
  • video-out to standard video (you know, the yellow kind)
  • DC adapter (not a brick -- cable plus a thin "wall wart"
  • carrying case (with belt loop, clear front)
  • credit-card sized IR remote
  • Short manual plus CD with drivers (for Windows 2000 and 98)