Dockcase Smart Hub. See Why It’s Changing the Game for Photographers

Dockcase Smart Hub. See Why It’s Changing the Game for Photographers
Yet another card reader to review this week, with promises that this delivers faster-than-ever transfer speeds. Today I'm testing the Dockcase DPR81F smart hub and card reader, and get this, it's got a screen attached.

History

Dockcase has a previous history of producing great value products at reasonable prices, so I was keen to test the newest iteration of a card reader and dock all-in-one that's made in a handy carry-everywhere size.

The Product and Build Quality

Sent in a relatively plain design but Apple-style premium packaging, it comes only with a 40 Gbps/100 W patch USB-C cable in black. I would have liked to have seen a quick start guide included or maybe a QR code where I could be directed to one online, but nothing was included. This feels like a premium product partly due to the weight and the metal build quality rather than cheap plastic, but I would have liked to have seen a quick start guide with it included or maybe a link to other products they do, and they have missed a trick not including one here. With a shiny touchscreen, you don't want it getting scratched in a bag, so this would be a must for inclusion with the finalized product. In black, this looks sleek.

This has an 8-in-one slot operation with a touchscreen information/swipe replacement for a standard analog key, which is responsive and works well.

The slots included are as follows

  • HDMI (4K 120Hz Display)
  • UHS-II
  • CFexpress Type A
  • CFexpress Type B
  • USB-A
  • USB-C 
  • USB-C (100 W Power)
  • MicroSD Transflash (TF)

This is impressive simply because I can carry around one small dock rather than two or three separate card readers (normally I'll have an HDMI to USB-C connector plus CFexpress and a standard card reader in my bag).

Features

The beauty of this device is that it has all of these ports in one unit. I love that idea and will certainly be using this out in the field more. The one thing I did notice when connecting the USB-C charger and HDMI was that it got hot. Not massively, but about 45-50 degrees, which I'm informed is within standard operating tolerances. The underside has a ridged aluminum surface which helps disperse the heat, but it's just my personal opinion here and caused no real issues. The transfer speeds were fast but not as fast as some of the other standalone card readers I have, the tests of which are all to follow.

All tests were conducted using Lexar memory cards, specifically a Lexar 128 GB Professional CFexpress Type B Card GOLD Series, a Lexar 128 GB Professional 2000x UHS-II SDXC Memory Card and a 3.6 GHz 8-core Intel i9 iMac 2019 with 64 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD on OS Sonoma 14.5. I used the Blackmagic Design Speed Test App, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Blackmagic's website. I also used the same (included) cable in all the tests to minimize cable faults or differing speeds due to different cable lengths, speeds, or quality.

The first speed test was done using the Lexar 128GB Professional CFexpress Type B Card GOLD Series card since this is the one I use and keep in my Canon R5. I was keen to see how the dock compares to my regular SanDisk card reader (a SanDisk Extreme Pro), which only reads CFexpress Type B and has no other ports on it.

The Dockcase unit was first tested. See results below.

The speeds that the Dockcase produced were slightly (but not significantly) lower but not enough for me to consider leaving it at home.

Below are the test results for the SanDisk Extreme Pro card reader.

As you can see, it is not significantly different, but enough that if you were buying this for transfer speeds alone you might consider a single faster standalone unit. The same was not the truth when testing with the Lexar 128GB Professional 2000x UHS-II SDXC Memory Card against the Lexar LRW500U Card Reader, which produced speeds slightly faster.

The above was the Dockcase; below are the real-time results from the Lexar LRW500U Card Reader.

The Lexar card reader was slightly slower on average, and given the circumstances, I realize that a product is more than just read-write speeds. It's good to look at all these factors when making an informed choice and buying a new product.

Summary

What I Liked 

Would I buy one of these? Yes, I would, and I'm recommending it because it's a single-designed sleek unit with all the card ports and connectors you're going to need for the foreseeable future, so I don't find myself having to carry lots of dongles and additional card readers around. It's got a great look, and it's authentically heavy enough to feel like a quality build too.

What Could Be Improved

Well, it's one of the fastest card readers out there on the market, and I'd like to see a carry case or a bag included with it to stop the screen from being scratched in a laptop bag or even it scratching other devices. I wouldn't even have minded if it was available as a separate purchase. The ability to change color themes on the device (maybe a matrix-style green or mono theme or a blue, green, or orange theme) might be nice but not essential to the workings of it. They need a quick start guide or a link to one in the case or even a QR code on the inside of the box. It feels incomplete without one.

You can find Dockcase and all the information about it and other products here. When their crowdfunding campain ends, you'll be able to find it along with other products on Amazon here.

Peter Morgan's picture

Peter Morgan is a professional photographer, drone pilot, writer and tech enthusiast. He has worked in the tech sector since the age of 16 and has over 30 years experience of working with technology. He also runs his own photographic company and shoots weddings, headshots and commercial projects.

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8 Comments

Not sure these have any place anymore in the market, they will never match the speed of a USB 4 reader, and some of us made a lucky escape from GNARBOX before it walked off into the sunset. The idea is great, but in an age where you can get 1TB of storage on a phone or a tablet am not sure these devices have much future.

Weird comment! its a card reader... and whether your phone has 1TB or not you still need to load the images onto the phone if you are using it as a temporary storage device. The product looks interesting.

Sorry I complete misread the article

UHS-II? That's not a form factor, it's a data transfer standard. Both SD and micro-SD/TF cards can be UHS-II.

I assume you mean SD card form factor? Do older UHS-I or even slower SD cards work in the same slot?

Thats what I meant sorry Michael. Never write articles at 2 in the morning after coming in from shooting a wedding. UHS 1 and 2 cards work in the same slot.

I would like to see having the capability for an internal M.2 SSD.

They're wasting that display. A built-in UI could allow transfer from one card to another, or to an external drive plugged in, without the need for a computer at all. I didn't see that functionality described for this device.

I'd rather see a USB-C 4K port rather than HDMI to run an external monitor.

I wonder, for many of those pricier card readers, would it be possible to test a few different brands of UHS I SD cards, to see how many non-standard transfer methods they support? For example, there are many different ones that will support 150-200MB/s speeds, by utilizing non-standard transfer methods.
The issue is in those cases, often you would need to use a card reader made by the company that made the card, e.g., using the Sandisk card reader to get the 200MB/s on their UHS-I Sandisk Extreme Pro cards.
The thing is these companies do not make it a closely guarded secret how they are getting the higher speeds. With that in mind, it would be good to know if anyone made a card reader that will utilize a range of those alternate methods without the need of the special card readers.