​Content creators in the field often have to deal with large amounts of data spread over multiple flash media. Importing them into a computer for further processing has always been a challenge. Casual users can connect the cameras directly to a PC, while some might prefer taking the card out and using a card reader for this purpose. There are a multiple options available in the card reader market. However, professionals who value cutting down the media import time need to opt for readers with a USB 3.0 and/or Thunderbolt interface. Lexar has a range of card readers and a 4-bay hub (the Lexar Professional Workflow HR2) to go with them. In this review, we take a look at the hub in action. The process also allows us to create a framework for reviewing flash-based storage media for non-PC applications.

Introduction

Lexar is a division of Micron Technology, and caters to the consumer memory market. Their product lines include memory cards, USB flash drives, card readers, and external SSDs. The main target market is content creators who work primarily in the field. As digital photography took hold, two main memory card formats gained prominence - CompactFlash and SD. However, as bandwidth requirements increased with the advent of high-resolution video, other memory card formats such as CFast and XQD are also getting a toehold in the market.

​Lexar's approach to the card reader market is very interesting. Most of their readers come in a standard size and have an appropriately located USB 3.0 Type-B female port in the rear. The hub we are reviewing today (HR2) has four slots into which these readers can be inserted. The slots have a USB 3.0 Type-B male port inside, allowing four different readers to be linked to a single backplane. The CFast 2.0 reader is a bit different, though. In addition to the USB 3.0 port that allows it to communicate through the hub, it also sports a Thunderbolt 2 port. However, the Thunderbolt port is not used when the reader is accessed via the hub.

The Lexar Professional Workflow HR2 is sold as a pure 4-bay hub and does not come with any readers (or, cards - but, that is obvious). For the purpose of our review, the following Lexar Professional components were used:

  1. Workflow HR2 4-bay Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3.0 Hub
  2. Workflow CR2 CFast 2.0 Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 Reader
  3. Workflow SR2 SDHC / SDXC UHS-II USB 3.0 Reader
  4. Workflow CFR1 CompactFlash UDMA 7.0 USB 3.0 Reader
  5. Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 Reader
  6. 3600x CFast 2.0 128GB Card
  7. 1800x microSDXC UHS-II U3 Class 10 128GB Card
  8. 1000x SDXC UHS-II U3 Class 10 128GB Card
  9. 2933x XQD 2.0 128GB Card
  10. 1066x CompactFlash UDMA 7 128GB Card

The readers and cards allowed us to put the hub to extensive use and also helped in developing a framework for performance evaluation of the cards.

The Workflow HR2 package comes with the main unit, a Thunderbolt 2 cable, a USB 3.0 Type-B male to Type-A female cable, and a 60W adapter (12V @ 5A) along with adapter plugs for various locales.

On the rear, we have a USB 3.0 Type-B female port and the power adapter inlet. There are two Thunderbolt 2 ports, allowing the hub to be part of a daisy-chain configuration. The bays are protected by faceplates that are easy to take out, as shown in the gallery below. The card readers come with the appropriate cables and also a dust cover.

The readers can be used standalone, and are bus-powered. Note that the CFast 2.0 reader's Thunderbolt interface is utilized only when it is used standalone, and not as part of the hub. The hub acts as a USB 3.0 to USB 3.0 / Thunderbolt bridge, while supporting various other Thunderbolt features. The bandwidth part, unfortunately, is restricted to what the USB 3.0 interface can support - an issue for some of the CFast 2.0 cards that claim read speeds of 540 MBps.

Evaluation Methodology
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  • petteyg359 - Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - link

    Or you could get four $10 card reader / hub combos that nut only are just as fast, but also daisy chain together in less space than this monstrosity. Reply
  • Zak - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    I wonder if the problem, this clumsy solution attempts to address, actually exists. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    Probably not for home or occasional use, but for daily use when time is money it does.

    Saving even a minute or two a day vs a cheap reader adds up fast if you've got a job where you're doing big transfers daily. A dollar a day makes a fully populated TB3 version break even within 2 years at that rate. Once you go beyond a mom and pop size business overhead means hourly rates are probably at least double salary due to overheads; at that point you're looking a breakeven period of months.
    Reply
  • evanrich - Saturday, June 24, 2017 - link

    Funny how people who have no idea what such products are for want to chime in like they have a clue. "I wonder if the problem this ....automobile.... attempts to solve, even exists" - Horse trainer in the 1900's. For people who shoot a lot of photos/video, and need to dump multiple cards in the field quickly, this works well. While I don't have the hub, I own 2 of the SD readers and I use them EVERY time I do a shoot to quickly dump cards and then start shooting again. I can't wait for some shitty usb2.0 reader to dump 256GB of images off to my PC. Reply
  • hieuhef - Monday, June 26, 2017 - link

    Problem: I have 4 memory cards from my shoot that I need to add info to and add extra metadata to as I save it to my PC. I don't want to do it one card at a time.

    Solution: This hub and 4 readers. Add info and metadata to be applied to each photo in Photomechanic, then it saves each image from each card to a HDD on my PC along while backing up to an external drive or RAID in one action. That is a lot of time saved over a course of a year.
    Reply
  • petteyg359 - Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - link

    Cheaper and smaller solution: daisy chain individual card reader / hubs, or use multiple single card readers in a single hub. There are plenty of card readers out there that are at least as fast as this monstrosity. Reply
  • RaichuPls - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    So uhm. What's with the lack of articles recently? A10 deep dive, GS8 review, U11, GTX 1050/1050Ti, hell even a 2016 Macbook Pro review? iMac Pro? OnePlus 5? Reply
  • fanofanand - Thursday, June 22, 2017 - link

    They had a decently in-depth review of the new Intel chips, but I too have noticed a lack of recent content the last couple of weeks. Reply
  • rtho782 - Friday, June 23, 2017 - link

    I'm still waiting for the GTX960 review. Any day now. Reply
  • evanrich - Saturday, June 24, 2017 - link

    Don't exactly see you contributing any articles there yourself there bro... Reply

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