MemoryKick Si Media Centre

    leadpic_MemoryKick-Si

    Photo Review 8.5
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    MemoryKick Si Media Centre

      In summary

      A pocketable, battery-powered backup device for storing and playing image, video and music files.Manufactured in Korea by NionCom, the MemoryKick Si provides photographers with a conveniently-sized device for backing up image files and viewing stored images and video clips without requiring a computer. It also doubles as a portable music player. Small enough to slip into a handbag or pants or jacket pocket, it weighs only 280 grams and comes in capacities up to 500GB. Photo Review received the 250GB model to review. . . [more]

      Full review

      leadpic_MemoryKick-Si

      Manufactured in Korea by NionCom, the MemoryKick Si provides photographers with a conveniently-sized device for backing up image files and viewing stored images and video clips without requiring a computer. It also doubles as a portable music player. Small enough to slip into a handbag or pants or jacket pocket, it weighs only 280 grams and comes in capacities up to 500GB. Photo Review received the 250GB model to review.

      MemoryKick_Si-black_display

      The main interface and control panel on the MemoryKick Si, with a phtoograph displayed on the LCD screen. (Source: NionCom.)

      Attractively designed and mostly well constructed, the MemoryKick Si is rectangular in shape with rounded corners and a 3.5-inch LCD colour screen covering two thirds of the front panel. Screen resolution isn't particularly high (320 x 240 pixels) but it's enough for checking the focusing and colour accuracy of the images and video clips you've stored. The main control is a ‘navigation wheel', which acts like an arrow pad.

      The vertical keys on the navigation wheel are flanked by two buttons, which are flush with the surface of the device. Pressing the upper button displays the pop-up menu, while the lower one displays the main menu. (Note: this isn't explained clearly in the user manual, which uses the terms ‘Short Key' for the arrow pad equivalent buttons and ‘Long Key' for the flanking buttons.)

      Pressing the top navigation wheel key selects a function, while the bottom key takes you back to the previous setting. Pushing the centre of the wheel sets the function, while rotating the wheel navigates from one setting (or displayed image) to the next.

      Used together, the two flanking vertical buttons and the navigation wheel control most the device's settings. The only other control is a slider on the right side panel. It has two positions_ on and lock. To power-up the MemoryKick Si, you slide it down and hold it for approximately two seconds. The same action switches the power off. Sliding the key upwards lock the device, disabling all navigation buttons. You can still listen to music or watch a video as long as they're playing when you lock the device. It's unlocked by moving the button back to the middle position.

      On the left hand side of the device, under a lift-up rubber cap (which seems a bit flimsy) lie slots for CF and SD cards. The SD slot also accepts xD-Picture Cards. A dedicated slot for the Memory Stick family of cards is located just around the corner on the lower long side of the device. On the opposite long side are USB A and Mini B sockets, the former for thumb drives and the latter for the computer connection.

      MemoryKick_Si_withcards_usb

      The MemoryKick Si showing three different cards and USB thumb drive connected. (Source: NionCom.)

      Up to three cards and one USB drive can be connected to the device simultaneously, allowing files to be transferred between them and the device and, thence on to a computer. This facility allows the device to double as a memory card reader when it's computer-connected. Built-in proprietary Direct Access File Management System (DA-FMS) technology claims to support transfer speeds of up to 40MB/second or 2.22GB per minute.

      The battery and hard disk drive are built into the MemoryKick Si - and neither is removable. (Attempting to replace either voids the 12 month limited warranty (which covers manufacturing defects or parts failure not attributable directly to misuse). This means you should think carefully about how much storage capacity you need before buying a unit. You should also factor in the lifetime of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (typically 1000 to 1500 charge cycles).
      The battery must be charged in the device. When you unpack a new MemoryKick Si, the battery should be charged for eight hours. Subsequent charges from when the status indicator shows one bar (less than 20% of residual power) take approximately three hours. The battery recharges automatically each time the unit is connected to a computer via the supplied USB cable.
      Features
      For still image viewing, the MemoryKick Si supports JPEG and TIFF file formats and the built-in raw image decoder/viewer can ‘unpack' raw files from most digital cameras, probably by displaying the embedded thumbnails. Large files take longer to display than small files and a high-resolution file from a DSLR can take several seconds to display. You can also view JPEG image files with Exif metadata and zoom in on displayed shots.

      The MemoryKick Si provides three Galleries, in the form of user-created lists for Photos, Videos and Music. Each can contain playlists and favourite lists so users can organise files for quick access. These Galleries can be opened from the relevant icons in the main menu. Selecting the folder displays its contents in list form, enabling users to search for specific files.

      You can create new folders and label them with the built-in QWERTY keyboard provided for inputting alphanumeric information. Folders can also be renamed in the same way.

      A built-in G-sensor will automatically rotate a displayed image when the device is tilted or turned so the picture is always seen right way up. You can also rotate images manually by clicking and holding either the right or left button of the navigation wheel.

      The video player supports MOV, AVI, WMV, MP4, Xvid, and Motion JPEG formats, but only up to a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. Although HD video clips can be stored in the device, they can't be played back on the screen. With videos in supported formats you can play, pause, fast forward and rewind through displayed clips, adjust the sound volume with the navigation wheel and send clips to the Video Gallery, Playlist or Favourite folder.

      The built-in music player supports playing of Non-DRM protected MP3, WMA, AAC and Audio CD audio formats. Played music files can be paused or stopped and the device supports shuffle play (random order playback). You can adjust the sound volume by rotating the navigation wheel or pre-set it to a specific level with the main menu controls and transfer files to the Music Gallery, Playlist or Favourite folder.

      The Basic Options section Preferences sub-menu contains settings for date/time, pre-set audio volume, A/V out, TV system (PAL/NTSC) and owner's name (input via the QWERTY keyboard).

      MK-Si_date-time

      Setting the date and time.

      MK-Si_QWERTY_keyboard

      The QWERTY keyboard display for changing the owner's name and labelling folders.

      In the Advanced Options section you'll find settings for caching images (for faster playback), displaying folders, using feedback sound, backup method, resetting boot image (you can boot up with one of your own pictures) and resetting the various library and gallery folders (Photo/Video/Music/Favorites).

      MK-Si_device-info

      The device information screen.

      You can also set the delay times for shutting off the display screen and shutting down the device to conserve power. The device comes with six pre-set interface languages: Korean, English (US), German, Italian, Spanish and French. It also carries information on existing capacity, HDD size and the current Software Version. Firmware updates are available from www.memorykickusa.com.

      In Use
      In use, we found the review device to be rather idiosyncratic and the supplied user manual (loaded on the device in PDF format) lacked clear explanations of some controls. A separate FAQ sheet is also loaded in the Support folder in PDF format to fill in some gaps. By swapping between these two documents, it's possible to figure out how to access most functions and understand the features provided. But we feel only confident computer users will be able to work through both documents and fully utilise the MemoryKick Si's capabilities.

      It takes approximately one minute for the device to power-up ready for use. In that time, a background screen is displayed with 36 thumbnail images. This morphs into the main menu page. Inserting a memory card into one of the slots should call up a pop-up menu with three items: Backup to HDD, Browse card and Cancel. A timeline below this menu shows the progress of any activity.

      MK-Si_backup

      The initial screen that displays when a card or USB drive is inserted in the MemoryKick Si.
      Before you can start backing-up files, you have to wait while the device ‘mounts' the card. Goodness knows what this actually means - except that all controls freeze for between a second or two and several minutes until the process is completed. The more data on the card, the longer ‘mounting' takes.

      After the memory card has been ‘mounted', pressing the centre of the navigation wheel starts the backup process. (Note: no files are deleted from memory cards or thumb drives when files are backed up to the MemoryKick Si.) The display changes to allow you to track the progress of the backup.

      MK-Si_Back-up-progress

      Backups can be tracked on the MemoryKick Si's screen.

      Although backup times in our tests didn't meet the claimed 40MB/second speed (which is dictated by the card), they were noticeably faster than we've found with other devices we've tested, as shown below:
      8GB Lexar Professional 300x speed - 1.46GB in 104.84 seconds
      8GB SanDisk SDHC card (not speed classified) - 722MB in 92.2 seconds

      By default, backups are stored initially in the Transferred Folder. From there, they can be moved to other folders, either the My Photos, or specific user-generated folders.

      MK-Si_Backup-status

      Each backup is located in its own folder in the Transferred Folder.

      MK_Si_file-transfer

      Transferring a folder containing files to the My Photos folder.

      The process is straightforward; simply select the files to transfer and select Copy; then locate the destination folder and select Paste from the dropdown menu. You can add files to an existing folder by selecting Copy to HDD Append Mode.

      MK-Si_Copy-shot

      Copying files to the HDD.

      After the backup is completed, the main menu should appear, with icons for the File Explorer, Photos, Videos, Music, Favourites and Preferences. The default setting is File Explorer but you can navigate to the other icons with the navigation wheel.

      All options for displaying stored images and videos and playing stored music require the user to transfer the selected files to a specific folder. For example, no transfers or backups can be found in the Photo Icon on the main menu unless the "Go Show My Folders" is selected in the Preferences sub-menu.

      Selecting a file name and pressing the centre of the navigation wheel displays the image. Pressing the button a second time displays the thumbnail index of all shots and users can choose from four options: 4 x 4 images (the default), 3 x 3 images, 5 x 5 images and 6 x 6 images. Pressing F1 Long (the upper flanking button) and selecting Slide Show displays a slideshow of selected images - or all images in the folder.

      MK-Si_Image-preview

      Previewing a selected image. The image re-orientates once the file is 'read'.

      MK-Si_thumbnails

      The default thumbnail display.

      None of the menu controls would work on the review device when it was connected to a computer via a USB cable. (The device also becomes quite warm while the battery is charging via this method.) In fact, the only result of pressing any button in this mode was to turn the LCD monitor on, revealing the status display shown below.

      MK-Si_Connected-to-PC

      Connected to a PC.
      Transferring files from the MemoryKick Si to the computer took less time than uploading files from a memory card to the device - although it failed to reach the claimed 40MB/second transfer speed. The 722MB folder of images took 20.6 seconds to transfer, while the 1.46GB folder took 42.3 seconds. This equates to approximately 35MB/second, which is pretty fast.

      Although we had no problems transferring files to the device and none when moving files from the MemoryKick Si to our PC, we managed to ‘lose' the first batch of files we tried to copy to another folder in the device. We're not sure how this happened and no troubleshooting instructions are provided for tracking files in the device. Connecting the device to a computer didn't reveal where the missing set of images went - although you can view folders in the MemoryKick Si in the same was as any connected external hard disk drive.
      Unlike some competing devices, you can't edit files on the device, and there are no instructions for connecting it to a printer for direct printing. However, because the device acts like an external hard disk drive, you can print image files directly when it's connected to a computer.

      Connecting the device to the internet is also only possible via a computer and you'll have to resize images on your PC before you can share them in emails or on social websites as no resizing facilities are included on the MemoryKick Si. These omissions could make it less useful for travelling photographers who like to ‘blog' en route.
      On the plus side, however, the MemoryKick Si provides the fastest data transfer times of all the portable image storage devices we've reviewed. It's also one of the most versatile we've seen - and among the most affordable. Battery life appeared to be lower than claimed as we had to recharge the review unit three times in the course of our tests, rather than just once, as we had anticipated. Careful monitoring of power consumption will be necessary for photographers who purchase this device - at least in the early days of ownership.
      Buy this device if:
      - You require an affordable, portable, storage device for image, video and music files while travelling.
      - You'd like fast backup times for high-capacity media.
      - You want to be able to review images and video clips and listen to music while travelling.
      Don't buy this device if:
      - You're not prepared to figure out the rather complex controls the device provides.
      - You require direct printing support and/or Internet functionality.
      - You require high battery capacity to for backups on trips when mains power isn't available.

       

      Specifications

      leadpic_MemoryKick-Si

      Hard Disk Drive: Built-in Samsung Mobile SATA M7 series Spinpoint HDD
      Memory capacity: 250GB (also available in 120, 160, 320 and 500GB capacities)
      Supported memory cards: CF Type I/II/III/IV, (UDMA Cards Supported), SD, SDHC, MMC, MMC Plus, MS, MS MagicGate, MS Select, MS Pro, MS Pro MagicGate, MS Pro-HG, MD, xD, xD Type M/H; tested up to 64GB capacity
      File transfer speed: Up to 40MB/second
      Supported files: Most image, video and music files; includes raw file decoder/viewer
      Features: Photo Backup/Viewer/Player, Zoom In/Out, EXIF Information + Histogram, G-Sensor Auto Orientation, Copy, Paste, & Create Folders, Rename Files & Folders w/QWERTY Keyboard
      LCD screen: 3.5-inch QVGA LCD colour screen
      Battery: Internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Max. 250GB of continuous file transfer or 5 hours of normal use)
      Operating system support: Windows 98 SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9.2, 10.1.5, 10.2 or later, Linux.
      Interfaces: Built-in USB OTG (USB Host) A socket; USB Mini B, AV Out/headphone, AC-in
      Dimensions: 125 x 75 x 24mm
      Weight: 280 grams (including hard drive and battery)

       

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      Rating

       

      PR-EdChoice-web-100

      RRP: $499

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build and styling: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.0
      • Features: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 8.5

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