The introduction of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) has made it easier than ever before to connect peripheral devices to your computer. You simply plug them in and turn them on! With USB the whole process is completely automatic. You don't need to open your PC, and you don't need to worry about add-in cards, DIP switch settings or IRQs. USB is also "hot pluggable". This means you never even need to shut down and restart your PC to attach or remove a peripheral. Just plug it in and it's ready. The PC automatically detects the peripheral and configures the necessary software. With USB onboard you may connect many peripherals at one time (up to 127 devices) and the data transfer rates range from 1.5 Mbps up to 12 Mbps. With speeds up to 100x faster than standard serial ports USB provides storage devices with the ability to communicate faster, printers to print faster, and smoother video capture than ever before!

But, with all this power and flexibility what do you do if you want to use more than two USB-enabled devices at the same time? Most super7 systems only offer a pair of USB ports so while you can swap out devices, most of us would prefer to avoid the hassle. You can add a PCI card to increase the number of available ports to four - if that is you have an available slot or you can add a hub.

Belkin's ExpressBus™ USB Hub makes connecting multiple USB devices a snap! Ready to run right out of the box, the ExpressBus™ comes in two styles and lets you access up to four or seven USB devices simultaneously from your computer’s USB port. Take advantage of the latest high-speed, low-cost USB modems, keyboards, scanners, cameras, speakers, joysticks and more, all in one easy step. Optimized for Windows 98, the ExpressBus™ is plug and play compatible, which means USB devices are configured and ready for use as soon as you plug them in. Equipped with built-in data collision control the ExpressBus protects data integrity even when using multiple devices. The hub ships with a DC7.5V, 2.1A power adapter - use of which is at your option. The bus operates at 100mA per port using power directly from the computer and increases significantly to 500mA per port by employing the power supply and some devices I tried seemed to work faster with the power boost. This was especially true of my webcam. Small in stature (5.25 x 3 x 1.25in.) the 4-port hub takes up very little desk space and is a breeze to set up and configure. Just plug the hub into your computer using the supplied 6ft. cable and you're ready to go.

ExpressBus Features

  • 100% compliant to USB Specification, Revision 1.1
  • Access up to 4 or 7 USB devices simultaneously from a computer’s USB port.
  • Offers simultaneous access to all devices: print, scan, web surf, and more all at the same time
  • Daisy-chain multiple USB hubs together for easy future expansion
  • Supports both full speed (12Mbps) and low speed (1.5Mbps) data transfer modes as well as Isochronous and Asynchronous data transfers
  • Built-in data collision control
  • User friendly Plug-n-Play with hot-swapping features to attach/remove USB devices on the fly
  • Windows 98 and Windows 95 (OSR2) compatible
  • Auto select self- or bus-powered modes for maximum performance
  • Supports per-port over-current detection and protection
  • CE, FCC Class A and B approved
  • Lifetime warranty

Conclusion

The ExpressBus hub makes good sense if you intend to use more USB devices than your system can currently support. It offered seamless operation of the four devices I used concurrently (mouse, printer, webcam and modem) showing no noticeable stalls in the devices functionality even when used all at the same time.  Belkin has an excellent reputation in the networking community and the inclusion of a lifetime warranty is the icing on the cake.  Belkin's ExpressBus 4-port USB hub can be found at prices starting near $60.00 and ranging to over $100.00 so you may want to search out the best price - we paid $63.00 plus shipping. 

For more information about USB hubs and other networking and USB hardware check out the Belkin web site at http://www.belkin.com 

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