A chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so the proverb goes. We could modify that for photography and say that our processing is no faster than the slowest component. It's not necessarily about having the latest great-and-good, but rather about having matched components. And there's no better place to start than when offloading your photos from the camera.
An extreme example of this is the Sony a7R III which is a resolution vampire; it just sucks every last bit of detail from a scene that's possible. Headshot? You're not just pixel peeping, you're not only looking into their soul, you're virtually dissecting their eyes. Of course, all good things have a compromise and for the a7R III it's those gigantic raw files that you need to pull off the camera — and we're not talking a few extra megabytes. Those full 42.4-megapixel resolution, 14-bit, uncompressed raw files weigh in at a hefty 80 MB each. If you come away from a wedding shoot with 2,000 images, that totals a sweat inducing ~150 GB of data which you've got to backup, process, export, deliver, and archive. From one (insert your own expletive) job.
So, the first step is using that new Dell XPS15 laptop to get the images off the camera. Then take the SD card out of the a7R III, plug it in to your card reader, and… 1 hour 15 minutes later it finally transfers those 2,000 images. That's not a go-to-the-kitchen-for-a-cup-of-coffee moment, but rather a go-and-have-lunch-and-an-afternoon-nap moment.
Where on earth did the matched components mantra go wrong? It's got a Samsung PM961 SSD drive (peak write speeds at 1,600 MB/s) and a USB 3.0 port (400 MB/s). There's a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-II card which runs at up to 300 MB/s. Where's the problem? Theoretically that should be able to go at 300 MB/s and so take around nine minutes. In fact, if you'd plugged the a7R III straight into the Dell it would have raced along at those speeds (the Sony actually has a USB 3.1 port built into it). The culprit was the USB 2.0 SD card reader plugged into the laptop.
USB 3.1 transfers at ~800 MB/s, significantly faster than USB 3.0 (400 MB/s), USB 2.0 (35 MB/s), and the original humble USB 1.1 (1 MB/s). So in addition to the main PC drive and port, and the SD card itself, there needs to be a fast connection to the PC. Plugging the camera directly into the PC is one solution, but my preference has always been to use the humble card reader. It works with any camera, I can easily tuck it away in the camera bag, and I can match it to the speed of my system should I upgrade in the future.
And the cost? Well this is where big brands don't pay. I have a slightly older version of this KiWiBiRD SD card reader, while this Anker SD/micro-SD card reader costs the princely sum of $9.99. Both will blast along at full USB 3.0 speeds. It doesn't get much simpler than plug and play, it's bus powered, and, well, just works. Gear reviews don't come much shorter, but it is a salutary reminder that you need to match camera to card to socket to SSD. You do that, and you hit the matched components sweet spot and only consume one cup of coffee while you're waiting for those images to transfer.