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Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port HubPowered USB 2.0 hub
Recommendation: 5 out of 5
Users: Anyone who uses USB or USB 2.0 devices
Platform: Platform-independent, targeted toward Mac users
Price: $69.99 list, $28 to $50 retail
More information: http://www.belkin.com
I've used dozens of USB hubs from a variety of manufacturers, and, in every single case, I've been sorely disappointed. How these things manage to pass certification, let alone quality control, has always been beyond me. And where do the designers of these things come from? Some planet where gravity doesn't tip things over, evidently. But now I've found one that's so good that it compelled me to write an ode about it--okay, not an ode, just a product review, but close enough. It's the Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub.
Now, in order to explain why I'm writing a thousand-word review of something as mundane as a USB hub, I have to tell you what things I've hated about every single other hub I've ever used. There are three things, and generally at least two apply to any given hub.
First, there's the problem of design. USB hubs entered the market at a time when industrial designers were feeling rather flashy about themselves and decided to go nuts with creativity at the expense of practicality. And that trend continues today. Hence we wind up with the tower-style hubs that tip over from the weight of attached cables, as well as the hubs with lower centers of gravity that nevertheless manage to tip back under the weight of cables and often simply get pulled back off the desk. At best, they simply won't stay where you put them.
Second, there's the problem of flakiness. The ports will just stop working or stop sending power to your devices that require USB power, and, hence, you have to shut down your computer in order to get them working again. And, mind you, this doesn't just apply to power-hungry devices. I've also had hubs fail on me with nothing more connected to them than dongles. Come on.
And, third, there's the problem of interference. These devices are either highly susceptible to interference from other electronic devices, or they cause their own interference. And I'm not talking about the quality of the USB cables; I mean the hubs themselves. The results are problems with data-intensive tasks like printing at high resolutions or downloading high-resolution images from digital cameras.
All of this, I suppose, wouldn't bother me so much if powered USB hubs weren't so blastedly expensive, particularly given that the cost of materials (and level of technology) is about equivalent to that of a six-pack of Old Milwaukee.
So, given my disposition toward USB hubs in general, you can imagine that if I'm giving a glowing review (5 out of 5 stars) to one, it doesn't suffer from any of these problems. Well, the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub is expensive, at $69.99 list (found for $27 at Microcenter), but at least when you shell out that much cash, you know you're getting something that isn't going to fail you.
Quality: 5 out of 5
So the first perfect score is for quality, and that pertains to both design and manufacture. In terms of manufacture, this hub does not feel or look cheap in any way, though it is a light unit. And it's the best engineered hub I've used to date. (See below under "Performance/reliability" for more on this.)
And for design, five stars as well. This hub is shaped like a perfect skipping stone, flat and wide and slightly rounded. It doesn't move or tip, even when completely loaded with stretched-out cables. (That's a little odd too, since it doesn't weigh any more than other hubs I use. Guess it's just the flatness of the thing.) And for appearance, it's also much nicer than other hubs I've had, coming in a silverish color to match a G5 or a flat black with silverish trim.
Features: 5 out of 5
For features, I don't ask much from my hubs. Put all the ports on one side and the blinking lights on the other, and I'm happy. In the case of the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub, the power connector, the hub-to-computer connector and five of the standard USB 2.0 ports are located on the back of the unit. Then there are the remaining two ports, which are conveniently located right on the top of the hub, perfect for the kind of dongle-switching that's often required of creative professionals. (It's also convenient if you nedd to switch out cables often, such as a camera's USB cable that you might not want to keep connected constantly.)
And, of course, all of the little blinky lights are on the front of the unit to show you when the hub is receiving power and which ports are currently connected to devices.
Performance/reliability: 5 out of 5
And as for performance and reliability, this hub is great. It's not flaky; its ports do not fail or blink out occasionally, and I have massively power-hungry devices attached to it, including, but not limited to, an 88-key pro MIDI keyboard, a disc carousel and a pressure-sensitive tablet--all through the same hub that's also powering my less power-intensive hardware. It also does not suffer from interference. In fact, this is the first hub through which I've been able to print high-resolution graphics on my inkjet printers without any difficulties. (At all other times, my printers have had to be connected directly to the computer, or the print job would fail.) And I don't get any errors downloading images from my digital camera, where, with my previous hubs, that sort of thing was touch and go.
Overall: 5 out of 5
What what more is there to say? I finally have a hub that I can work with confidently, not worrying about interference from neighboring electronics, not worrying about port failure and not worrying about the thing tipping over or falling off the back of my workstation. I'm happy. As for the price, yes, it's a bit expensive at list, but these units are available for far less than $69.99. If you can find one for around $30, buy two. I did.
The Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub is available now for $69.99 list, seen at retail for as low as $27. For more information, visit http://www.belkin.com.
Related Keywords:usb 2.0 hub, belkin, 7-port hub
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