Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 review

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 review

The Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 is a storage drive hub aimed at photographers, allowing you to transfer and backup your photo and video files from multiple memory cards at the same time. Removable modules are mounted in this four-bay USB 3.0 reader, to access cards such as CompactFlash, SD cards, and the hub can also accept Lexar’s own SSD modules. The readers and drives are hot-swappable and can be customised to suit your personal workflow. See all storage drive reviews.

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 review: Build and design 

When first unpacked, the Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 is simply an empty plastic rectangular black box. On the front it has four bays that take the Lexar’s unique reader modules and drives, with each connected via a USB 3.0 Type B plug and port inside. Also see: Best NAS drives 2015. 

The back of the HR1 hub has an inlet for DC power adaptor, and a single USB 3.0 connection. The card readers are bought separately and come in a variety of types for different card formats. There’s a module for regular size SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I and UHS-II) as well as smaller microSDHC/microSDXC; CompactFlash UDMA 7; Sony XQD; and CFast 2.0. These modules vary in price from £17 to £36 depending on type. 

As well as these six card readers, there’s also a choice of two flash storage options. These are available in 256 GB and a 512 GB capacities. At just £153 for the larger 512 GB SSD, these look like good value. 

Many storage peripherals take fancy designs and aluminium casings these days, especially ones designed for use with Apple products. But Lexar has taken a different approach. The HR1 Hub, the card readers, and SSD modules are all made of lightweight black plastic with rounded corners, glossy smooth on the front and textured on the sides.  

Although there is nothing wrong with the build quality, the hub and modules don’t feel especially solid, and we can’t help but think it’s just a bit cheap looking. 

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 review: Setup and user experience 

The Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 comes with a mains power plug and a USB 3.0 cable in the box. It is simple to connect to any computer with an available USB 3.0 port. The drives are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 of course, but will operate at much slower speeds. 

The reader modules easily slide into the HR1’s bays. However, because of its low weight and tall design, we needed a second hand just to keep the hub from sliding backwards whenever attaching the readers. 

We were supplied with two CompactFlash card reader modules and two SD card modules, as well as one DD512 SSD module with 512 GB capacity. But the beauty of this system is that you can purchase just what you need for your specific workflow.  

It could be that you want to fill the Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 with four CF card readers for quick video and photo transfers if your time is most important in your work. Or maybe you want to max out your storage needs using four 512 GB SSDs, for a very fast, versatile and cost effective 2 TB total capacity setup. Which could be expanded by getting even more SSD storage modules as your needs increase. 

In terms of versatility, there is more good news. The design allow each of the modules to also be used individually as a standalone device via a separate USB 3.0 connection. A USB 3.0 cable comes with every card reader module and SSD storage drive. This allows you to use the card reader or SSD drive on location, as they are light, compact and when used individually do not even require an external power source. 

The card readers have a blue LED that lights up when a card is inserted and blink while data is being transferred. The SSD drives have six LEDs. One is blue, that displays data movement. The other five are white, and give a guide to the available space on the drive, in 20 percent increments. The HR1 Hub itself also has a small blue LED which indicates when it’s switched on, although this is easily hidden after the lowest module in inserted. 

We tested the hub and modules with a combination of SanDisk and Lexar’s own Professional SD cards, with transfer speeds reaching 95 MB/s, and 160 MB/s for UDMA 7 ‘1066x’ CompactFlash cards. 

The 512 GB DD512 SSD performed quite well too. It reached speeds of 419 MB/s for reads and 232 MB/s for writes. However we encountered a serious issue with this flash drive. When using it docked in the HR1 Hub, the DD512 SSD would typically become disconnected from the Mac OS after a few minutes.  

Sometimes it re-mounted again, other times it was not available at all and had to be physically removed and re-inserted into the Hub to get it working again. This problem didn’t seem to occur when the SSD module was connected directly to a computer, which suggests a power supply issue with the HR1 Hub itself. 

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 review: Speed tests 

Every photographer, videographer and creative is probably asking the same question. Yes, it’s simple, versitle and affordable, but how fast can I transfer my footage and will it speed up my workflow? 

To answer that we used a 4.55 GB test folder with 45 video files ranging from 33 MB to 186 MB in size. This was transferred from CF and SD media cards onto the desktop of a Macbook Pro with Retina display. Its internal flash drive could operate at around 800 MB/s, so was not slowing down any transfers. 

Copying 4.55 GB from SD card to the MBP desktop took 1 min 49 sec. Copying the test folder from the MBP’s internal SD card reader to desktop was a little faster, taking 1 min 39 sec. So in our tests the internal SD card reader of the MacBook Pro had a slight advantage, but either card readers should be good enough for most users. 

Next we tested with CompactFlash cards. As no Apple Mac computers come with built-in CF readers, this is where the Lexar readers will be most useful, especially when time is money and copying large amounts of video footage from multiple CF cards is an everyday constriction. 

Copying 4.55 GB from CompactFlash card took 32 seconds. Copying the same folder from two CompactFlash cards at the same time took 45 seconds. 

Here we see that copying data from two CF cards simultaneously only slowed down the transfer speed by a few seconds. We feel that’s nothing to worry about as it still offers a considerable time saving.   

However when we tried to copy four cards simultaneously (two CF and two SD) to the MacBook Pro, the same test folders together took a total of 3 min 30 secs to copy over. That’s not such an impressive result, and trying such simultaneous transfers would not really be of such benefit to anyone looking to read multiple media cards quickly.

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1: Specs

  • Memory card reader hub
  • modules available for SD card, CompactFlash cards, Sony XQD and CFast 2.0
  • USB 3.0
  • 256 GB or 512 GB flash module
  • 20 W (5 V, 4.0 A) mains plug
  • 151 x 108 x 85 mm
  • Memory card reader hub
  • modules available for SD card, CompactFlash cards, Sony XQD and CFast 2.0
  • USB 3.0
  • 256 GB or 512 GB flash module
  • 20 W (5 V, 4.0 A) mains plug
  • 151 x 108 x 85 mm

OUR VERDICT

We are impressed with the innovative modular design from Lexar. The ability to customise the Professional Workflow HR1 hub with multiple card readers and SSD storage is very useful. And to be able to add onto the system at any time, as and when you need, is a good idea. Unfortunately there were a few issues we found in our tests, such as random SSD disconnects, that we hope can be fixed. A revised version based on an even speedier Thunderbolt 2 connection is due out soon, and we hope to see if this can help with any slowdowns found from multiple access.

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