One of the main selling points Microsoft touted for the Xbox 360 was how multi-faceted it would be, having the capabilities to not only be a next-gen gaming console, but an entertainment hub for Video, Audio and Photos as well. While the inner workings of the console achieved these promises, the external hookups did not. They were sufficient to handle the modest user, but severely limited those owners that want to hook up multiple USB and memory devices with only three USB connections and no direct memory card support. With gamers needing many of the connections for peripherals such as network adapters, wired controllers and keyboards, the USB slots can become full quickly.
In response to this dilemma, Nyko introduced the Multi-Reader 360, which is a USB based device that doubles as a three-port USB hub and Media card reader. Sporting the traditional green and yellow color scheme found on most Nyko Xbox 360 products, the Multi-Reader is not only compact and lightweight (about the size of a man's wallet), it provides an affordable way to make virtually any connection to your Xbox 360 that is needed.
The four memory card types the Multi-Reader supports are Smart Media, Compact Flash, Memory Stick and Secure Digital with the slots found on the side of the unit. Unfortunately, there is no xD slot, and due to a limitation with the Xbox 360, only one Memory Card can be accessed at a time.
The three USB ports are on one end and the USB interface port is on the opposite end. A set of three amber colored lights (recessed in the chassis near the USB ports) give a visual indicator when a corresponding USB device is connected. The other end has a larger amber light to indicate power, which seemed to generate quite a bit of heat and make a one-inch area of the Multi-Reader chassis around the light very warm to the touch. The connecting cable (to the Xbox 360) is plenty long (approximately 2 feet), and the case was extremely solid despite being lightweight.
The instructions are pretty basic, consisting of Features, Setup and Notes. The Setup section has two diagrams showing connections for USB and Memory card products while the Notes section offers some key advice for usage of the various products being connected through the Multi-Reader. One thing conspicuous by its absence was a listing of supported formats. This may be due to the Multi-Reader being a pass-through device and the Xbox 360 ultimately responsibly for format support, but would have been a nice touch.
For testing purposes, here are the Items I had connected to the Multi-Reader 360 at any given time:
-Microsoft Xbox 360 Wired Controller (USB)
-Seagate 160 GB portable Hard drive (USB)
-SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2 Gig (USB)
-Generic 512 MB jump drive
-Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo
-SanDisk Compact Flash
-Third-party wired controller (w/fans) for PC (USB)
I pre-loaded several MP3s, the 'Mad World' Gears of War trailer and a handful of JPEG photos onto each of the various memory units. Navigating through the Xbox 360 dashboard with my wired Xbox 360 controller (also plugged into the Multi-Reader 360), each device (USB or Memory Card) connected to the Multi-Reader was available and played back the video and audio files without any issues.
However, one disappointment came when attempting to view photos, as the Xbox 360 and Multi-Reader 360 did not cooperate to identify JPEG images directly from the Memory Stick and Compact Flash cards. When I switched to the various USB devices, the JPEG images were identified and displayed without a problem (I did a follow up test while using the MultiReader 360 as a USB/Memory Card hub on my XP machine, and the JPEG files appeared without a problem). While I'm not sure where the issue lies when connected to the 360, but something isn't "clicking" in that scenario and I would guess the Xbox 360 is the root cause of the limitation based on my further tests on the PC (more on this).
For a company like Nyko that routinely thinks outside-the-box when creating new products, the strength of the Multi-Reader 360 may indeed be its secret identity as a Windows PC USB hub. With a $19.99 price tag and the capability to support four memory card types as well as being a three-port USB hub, there is nothing quite like it available in the PC peripheral market, let alone at that price point.
Once again, I repeated my audio, video and photo tests, and this time the Multi-Reader had the JPEG support in addition to performing the others as expected. One new wrinkle was hooking up the Xbox 360 controller in addition to a third-party controller that has an internal fan system. Both controllers were “seen” by the PC and I was able to calibrate them through the XP control panel.
Overall, the Nyko Multi-Reader 360 provides a simple solution and great value for those that get into a USB port pinch. While most people may not have the need for the flexibility the Multi-Reader 360 provides, the important part is that it will be there WHEN you need it, whether it is on your Xbox 360 or your Windows based PC. The negatives I found (lack of direct JPEG support from the memory cards and no xD slot) were far outpaced by the value and flexibility of the unit.