I was at our local computer store the other day looking for a USB hub for my wife's laptop and I found what I think is the perfect little laptop hub that I have ever seen. This little device could almost fit into your wallet, but yet you can still connect four USB 2.0 or USB 1.0 devices to it. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed the extra USB port to plug a USB device into your laptop? That is exactly what happened to my wife the other day and she was a bit upset that Dell only put 2 USB ports on her laptop.
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Being the good husband I am and wanting to make my darling wife happy I went in search of a USB hub for her laptop. I have bought USB hubs in the past, but those were for desktop computers and the size really didn't matter, but with a laptop, you don't want a bulky hub that will take up space in your laptop bag and those bulky AC power adapters really don't work when you are not close to an outlet.
So when I came across the Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Mini Hub, I knew I found exactly what I was looking for. I have been using Belkin products for years and I trust them explicitly. As it turns out, this was the best laptop accessory I have ever bought for my wife, even better than her cordless mouse. If you are looking for a mobile hub for your laptop, read on and I will explain why I feel this is the best available.
Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Mini Hub
When USB technology was created it made it possible to attach more than 100 devices external devices to a computer and make it easy to connect. Unfortunately, the motherboard makers and case design limitations makes it very difficult for you to add that many devices to your computer. Enter the multi-port hub, this device takes up only one USB port on your computer and gives you the ability to add the number of devices to you computer based on how many ports are on the hub.
This brings me to the hub I am writing about, the Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Mini Hub, it has 4 ports which means my wife can attach up to 4 USB devices to her laptop. Now, with that said there is however a bit of a limitation that I would like to discuss upfront and that is USB presents a power issue that must be addressed. Without going to great detail of the USB technology here, the USB port supplies a limited amount of DC power to the device that is attached and this can be used as the sole source of power for the device or the device can come with its own power supply. This mini hub uses the DC power that comes from the USB port on your computer to supply all four devices with power. Unlike most desktop multi-port hubs, this one didn't come with the AC power adapter ( the desire to save space was paramount) and therefore you can only attach devices that don't require additional power to run into this hub. Note: There is a place to plug in an optional AC power adapter, but it wasn't included in the package.
When looking for a laptop accessory I always take size into consideration and this mini hub fits the bill perfectly, it is smaller than a credit card and takes up very little room in your laptop case. There is no need for a separate USB cable to attach it to your laptop or desktop computer, this is because Belkin has built-in to this hub a very short USB cable hidden within a secret compartment and you simply plug that into an open USB port on your computer and you are in business. However, Belkin has included a 6ft. USB extension cable just in case you need the hub closer to the front of your computer. The hub is very plain, with 4 USB ports on its sides and a red LED on top and all black plastic case, it will definitely not win any style awards.
Once I got the bubble plastic case open and pulled the hub and extension cable pulled out it was easy to setup. I popped open the secret compartment and fished out the USB plug and put it in the open USB port on the back of my wife's laptop. Windows XP immediately recognized the hub and it was ready to go. According to Belkin it works with all versions of Windows and it also works with Mac OS 9.2 or higher for full speed or Mac OS X v10.2.8 or higher for Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (480Mbps).
You can use this USB hub with USB 1.0 ports on an older computer, but that will cause a slow down in the transfer rate, as the USB 2.0 has the ability to transfer data at 480Mbps and the USB 1.0 can only transfer data at about one quarter the speed.
My final thoughts
When I purchased by last USB hub from Belkin for our desktop computer I thought it was tiny, but when I saw this little gem, I found out that it wasn't the smallest one out there. In this day and age where bigger is considered better, it doesn't necessarily hold true in world of mobile computing. Most business travelers would probably agree that if it can't be put in the computer bag it is left behind. With the Belkin USB USB 2.0 4-Port Mini Hub you don't have to worry about trying to figure out where you are going to put it when you are getting ready for your next business trip. It slips conveniently into a pocket in your bag and it doesn't require a bulky AC adapter function.
With this hub my wife can attach her external USB hard drive to her laptop and still have enough ports to plug in a cordless mouse and USB webcam despite her Dell laptop only having 2 USB 2.0 ports on the back. I don't recommend you attach an external hard drive to this hub unless it has its own AC adapter to supply the power to the drive itself. As I said earlier there is a power limitation to this USB hub and it will come into play if you try to attach a USB hard drive that doesn't have its own power supply.
If you are looking for a stylish looking hub, you will need to look somewhere else, it is about as plain Jane as it gets, with only the red LED power indicator on top 4 USB ports sticking out of its sides to detract from its all black plastic case.
Despite the limitations I has wrote about I would still give this USB hub from Belkin 4.5 stars as it has done the exact job we needed it to do for my wife and I don't have any other complaints about it. Since we can purchase a AC adapter for it in the future if we need it, I consider that a minor issue and not enough to down rate the device too far.
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