It's been a while since we last found a fingerprint reader we really liked. The previous champion—the lovely Cylon-red Microsoft Fingerprint Reader—was demoted to just Windows login duty (and eventually abandoned altogether) because of its lack of Firefox support. The Eicon? It supports Firefox. That's just one of the reasons why this Upek Digital Privacy Manager USB Fingerprint Reader shines.
In addition to offering flawless Firefox and IE password handling, the reader is simple to use and solid in the way that gasses and liquids are not. Plus, it even works in Vista.When compared to the most well known fingerprint reader (as judged by Google results and our own anecdotal opinion) by Microsoft, the Upek one comes up the winner in just about every category. It offers a swiping scheme instead of a press-down/mugshot-in-a-police-station scheme. This allows you not to have to clean the sensor with warm water and towel every two weeks like you would for Microsoft's (they actually tell you this in the instructions).
Then, there's the obvious benefits of not having to use Internet Explorer. This alone is a gigantic selling point. But if you do want to use both, say if your bank only supports IE, then the Upek will maintain two sets of passwords for both browsers. Kind of inconvenient to have to enter stuff in twice when setting up the database, but that's a minor gripe.
The reader works just as well for Windows logins under XP and Vista, but there's no Mac support to be found. (Is there even a good one that exists for Macs other than the Sony Puppy?) It even works as an easy way to authenticate and accept the User Account Control notifications in Vista that Apple mocked in one of their ads.
When you finish the setup and actually get around to using it, the reader has a pretty decent recognition rate if you swipe your finger at the optimum speed (or slower). Swipe it too fast and it'll just get confused.
The software is made up of large, easy to read text and icons that you activate by swiping. It's easy to register new pages or "replay your registration," which is their phrase for logging in with your pre-set login and password. Once you get familiar with their sometimes awkward phrasing for saving and entering passwords, you're golden.
In the end we definitely recommend this reader at its dead-presidents-friendly price of $39. You may save $5 by going with Microsoft's solution, but the Firefox support alone is way more to us than $5.
Product Page [Amazon]
Product Page [UPek]