Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Drive Bay Hub

Reviewed by: Howard Carson
Published by: Belkin Corporation
Requires: Windows 98 or higher, USB 2.0 on-board internal motherboard connector or USB 2.0 or 2.0 Hi-Speed PCI card with on-board expansion connector
MSRP: $44.99

In the never-ending quest for more speed, especially data transfer speed within your own computer or workstation, the technology geniuses keep coming up with faster connection standards. This is particularly true where external drives are concerned. The two principle competing standards are IEEE1394 (better known as FireWire) and Universal Serial Bus (better known as USB). FireWire seems to be favored by Apple, although all of that company's computers prominently feature USB 2.0 connections as well. Most Digital8 video cameras and all digital video cameras feature FireWire connections for fast capture. FireWire connections are scarce on PCs however, which instead favor multiple USB 2.0 connections on even the most basic motherboards.

The Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Drive Bay Hub provides four USB 2.0 ports accessible at the front of your computer. It fits into any available 3.5" drive bay. Connect it to your system via an internal cable which plugs into either an existing USB 2.0 expansion port on your motherboard or an internal USB 2.0 expansion port on a USB 2.0 PCI card. The hub lets you connect USB 1.1 and 2.0 devices - hard drives, CD-ROM drives, CD-R/RW drives, photo and video cameras, scanners and so on without having to reach behind your computer to find a free USB port. In the package, Belkin supplies the hub and small printed manual, an internal power connector and a USB “A” connector to “ B” connector device cable.

The hub supports the ultrafast speeds of the newer hi-speed USB 2.0 specification. It also offers seamless compatibility with all previous versions including USB 1.1 devices, so you can use all your existing equipment and upgrade when you're ready. There is an indicator port-status LED beside each port and the hub's electronics are protected by an over-current detection system.

We didn't have an available 3.5" drive bay so we installed the hub in a 5.25" bay with the use of an inexpensive adapter. Providing internal power to the hub was a simple matter of connecting the supplied splitter to an available DC power plug from the computer's power supply. Belkin supplies an internal USB A-B cable so that the hub can be patched into your computer's internal USB 2.0 expansion port. Under Windows XP the drive installed instantly and we immediately connected a USB 2.0 external hard drive, a USB 1.1 Intel PC Camera Pro (web cam) and an Epson Perfection 1200U (USB 1.1) flatbed scanner. Except for a slight delay as Windows XP found the devices and reinstalled the appropriate drivers, we were able to use the devices almost immediately.

The first thing an regular USB 1.1 user will notice about native USB 2.0 devices is that everything happens much faster. Very much faster actually. The Belkin hub adds little or no overhead to your computer and operating system and as a result provides full-speed accessibility to any device which is USB 2.0 compatible. Make no mistake though, this hub is not a magic act in that it can't make a USB 1.1 device operate at USB 2.0 speeds. On the other hand, the convenience of having a hub which flawlessly handles low, full and hi-speed USB devices simultaneously may have you hanging on to your older devices a bit longer. The hub is convenient and stable.

Cons: Many 3.5" drive bays are occupied by a floppy drive (visible) and an internal hard drive. For an extra $5, Belkin should consider supplying a 5.25" drive bay adapter.

Pros: Easy to install, especially in Windows 2000 or XP. At data transfer speeds of close to 480Mbps USB 2.0 is genuinely fast (basically the same as FireWire), and much better than pokey old USB 1.1. If you've ever been frustrated by relentless buffer underrun problems and stalls when using an external CD-R/RW under USB 1.1, the 10x faster USB 2.0 will be a revelation. The bay supports simultaneous USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 connections as long as your USB 2.0 PCI card or motherboard also supports them. If you need more USB 2.0 ports without the extra tangle of wires you have to deal with when using an external hub, this little baby is highly recommended.




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