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Before I bought my Macbook in 2007, my whole life and most of my product reviews rested on the large memory capacity of my trusty Toshiba Tecra PC laptop. When I look at it now however, compared to many other more modern laptops on the market, I don’t regard it as being old fashioned, but rather timeless and still quite capable of giving me top word processing performance as well as general duties. Compared to the ultra-thin gap quality and design of my Macbook, the Toshiba still sports three 2.0 USB points than the Apple’s closely located 2 USB ports and the Toshiba’s location of them on either side of the laptop meant I could easily design additional peripheral accessories around the Toshiba, unlike the Apple. But, my experience of the Belkin 4 port 2.0 USB hub goes further back than that! It was purchased far earlier in 2003 to assist me for better versatile use with my elderly Evesham desk top computer and likewise tower that had low speed 1.0 USB ports and two 1.1 USB ports – fairly old by today’s standards! The beauty of the Belkin then was that the product could be used on 1.1 USB ports and upwards – and suddenly I got more out of my Evesham when at a period of time, peripherals like USB mice and likewise devices began to filter the market pushing the lead towards high speed 2.0 capability and pushing desktop owners like me to either upgrade their whole computer or fit higher ports on computers with 2.0 upgrade facility cards or be rescued by the time saving appeal of the Belkin!
The Price, The Product & The Promise
Back in 2003 when I purchased the Belkin 4 port, it cost me £35 from Maplin stores, not knowing then that companies like Maplin applied some surcharge to the price and at the time the Belkin 4 port had arrived on Amazon.co.uk with similar prices, if not slightly cheaper. Back then as I recall, there were only a handful of suppliers on the high street able to stock this kind of product, with the only cheaper alternative being a mock USB bank of 4 ports available from private dealers, now funnily enough appearing in Pound Land, almost 10 years later. The difference with those kind of banks (I bought one, it was next to useless) is that although the cheaper 4 port banks with
Can be stacked with another and locked in so that you have 4 ports on one side and 4 ports on the other.
a single USB cord permanently attached is supposed to give you USB accessibility, they don’t often work with high powered equipment. If you are the kind of computer owner who requires a lot of USB dependent devices and extra USB slots, the Belkin 4 port hub is a worthy companion and by today’s cost (2012) prices are dirt cheap ranging from £7 to £12 online.
Design & Quality
My Belkin 4 port hub looks like a little black oval purse. It has 4 USB single ports on one side and to the right hand side, a single connector Jack for the mains cord adaptor that you get. Now, if like me you have friends who are PC geeks, over time if the adaptor gets lost, you can buy use any adaptor with this Belkin 4 port USB hub, but make sure that it rates at 5Volts/2.6 Amps that the cord needs to have - Belkin have already gone to the trouble of helpfully writing this on right next to the jack on the main body of the hub. The cord however is not your usual standard USB hub to computer lead either, but rather a small 2” micro plug similar to a compact camera that connects the cord from the hub to a standard USB slot plug for any computer with a universal USB slot. The mains power adaptor similarly uses a micro single jack as opposed to the bigger single jacks that most adapters come with.
Where the design is concerned, the Belkin 4 port hub looks quite basic, but not old fashioned, rather timeless but good to hold and very easy to slide into your pocket or laptop bag. It is actually well made with its double rubber perimeter bumper that protects the main thick plastic body and a smaller circular bumper underneath that actually allows another hub to stack and lock on top. It also looks like it is black in colour here on Ciao and online. However, in use it actually has a dark frosted blue panel in which the internals can just be seen through the plastic and when activated/plugged into the computer, a red LED is shown on the main panel. Thereafter when you choose the device you want to add to your computer, the Belkin has an instant plug-and-play feature built in that won’t necessarily pop up on your computer, but whatever device you plug in to use on your computer through the Belkin port will appear! You will also get a corresponding green LED that comes through the main panel on the hub that confirms the device has been plugged in!
In use, I have taken my Belkin USB 4 port hub with me to work. I find it invaluable for the use with Apple computers; especially the iMac type computers where there aren’t that many USB ports that can support 2.0 peripherals and though there are slots on the keyboards, they are not 2.0 and memory sticks cannot be plugged in hoping to be opened up through. From memory sticks to USB mice, USB modem sticks and USB touch pads, the Belkin 4 port USB hub is an excellent and additional back up device if your iMac only supports 1.0 or 1.1 ports and some of these computers do have them, especially in schools where upgrades aren’t always available, to meet 2.0 demand and future peripheral use.
The beauty of having the Belkin by your side, especially if you are a Macbook owner however is that it does give you the extra versatility of 4 extra ports automatically than putting up with the 2 on board. I’ve since gone from wireless replaceable battery-heavy mice back to corded mice because of the constant reliability I need and stop worrying about whether signals are being sent to my computer or not. So that’s one port already used on the Macbook. The other port changes from time to time being used with either a larger memory block or a memory stick, and I’ve often had the earlier vision that sooner or later the USB ports on the computer will weaken over time because of the constant changeover from one peripheral to another. One other port on the Belkin that is permanently plugged in is my all in one printer and scanner, whilst another USB port slot that is taken up is with my cordless phone for use with both landline and internet calls. The Belkin can take the strain of peripherals being changed all the time, not just helped by the thick perimeter rubber that surrounds it but as the owner of a Mac, the rules are still applied whereupon adding any mobile device by USB regardless of whether you use the Belkin or not has to be manually ejected to avoid problems upon release. In all the years that I’ve owned and used the Belkin, it makes no noise either when it is in use, it can be used without the mains plug for 2.0 or heavier high-speed devices and is therefore compatible between Mac and PC – largely.
A final bonus being the cord from the adaptor is a long one metre and the cable length from the hub to a computer also measures a metre - hardly short, then.
There are a couple of downsides to the Belkin 4 port USB bank. For starters it comes with that mains adaptor block and plug but unless you use this port all the time for the same peripherals, dependent on the low speed or high speed of those selected devices, you may need to turn the power on the mains cord to get ALL the slots on the bank working properly. I’d have liked to have had more of an indication than LED lights when this occurs even if there is a difference of green and red upon plugging in and then the devices you need.
Secondly (and I have tried!) I find the Belkin 4 port hub can only power up 2 high speed USB devices at the same time if used without the mains cord, thus why you get one at the time of purchase! This isn’t a product that can be self powered all of the time UNLESS the devices you plug in are low energy/low speed.
Thirdly, for Mac users not all systems will work with the Belkin 4 port hub when you reboot and expect the hub to automatically register upon switching/powering your Mac back on. This only occurs on the G4 Mac and Mac desktops that have operating system 10.3 or below. 10.4 and upwards will have no problem though and seems to be a minor issue. For PC computers, the Belkin’s minimum requirement is Windows 98 and upwards - and my Evesham had Windows ME installed - which worked perfectly whenever the Belkin was used.