Belkin Media Reader

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Belkin Media Reader, as shown on the Apple Store

I ordered a Belkin Media Reader for iPod a few weeks ago on the French Apple Store. I didn't like it and returned it a few days later. I'm not going to write a full review, as I couldn't test it fully, but here are my first impressions.

Frankly, I was not sure from the start that I would keep it, so I did not unwrap the enclosed batteries to keep them in their shipping state. I gathered four AAA batteries from remote controls around. Those batteries were in good shape for the remote controls, but apparently not good enough for the BMR, which seems to require a significant amount of power to operate. The iPod kept telling me that there was no media card to read from. Since Belkin claims that this is basically a FireWire card reader, and that it plugs into the dock port of the iPod, I don't understand why it requires extra batteries, rather than use power from the iPod battery over the FW port. Other FW card readers don't need batteries.

The FW claim is written all over the box. Then again, why isn't there a FW port so I can connect this directly to the computer? I found similar FW and USB2 media card readers ranging between 20€ and 40€, much cheaper than the 100€ Belkin is asking for the BMR in Europe (120€ VAT in France, through the Apple Store). I appreciate that the BMR let me download images to the iPod, without a computer nearby, but for that price it's not good enough and the claim that it is a FW reader is false. Its FW capabilities are non existent without the iPod.

Another thing I disliked a lot is the quality of manufacture. The BMR looks cheap, way too cheap for its price tag, and ugly, way to ugly when plugged to the iPod -- the photo above goes a long way in reducing the contrast in design and quality between the BMR and the iPod. When I opened the plug part, some piece of plastic fell down and I wasn't able to find where it came from. The cards compartment is judiciously protected by a sliding door but I have serious doubt about how long this can work without breaking or blocking. Same for the cord and plug, which requires some level of manipulation (torsion, traction, compression) and cast fear of breaking things too easily. It reminded me of a lot of those electronics gadgets that one can find anywhere in the US, and thoughts of Radio Shack popped into my mind, only to remember why their stores disappeared from France a long time ago. Damn the French, those sophisticated bastards, who think that cheap plastic cannot sell with a 3 digits price tag.

And finally, once I had the thing in my hands, I wondered why the hell I had to have this big, overpriced, plastic gadget when both my camera and iPod have enough software power to talk to each other through a simple cable, like the camera does with any computer (and even some printers!). Thank you Belkin, but I'll wait for that instead of abandoning myself yet another time to the geek buying impulse.