by Jerry Jackson
Most people working in a busy office environment use many different devices with their notebooks: an external mouse, keyboard, thumb drive, PDA, MP3 player, camera, printer, external hard drive, and so on. Of course, you still need space on your desk for paperwork, coffee, lunch and whatever else you need on your desk. So where are you going to put all those USB cords? The Belkin In-Desk USB Hubs ($44.99 USD) tries to free up desk space and provide a place for you to plug in all your gizmos. Let’s see just how awesome these average-looking accessories really are!
Belkin In-Desk USB Hub (3-inch version) (view large image)
Belkin Front-Access In-Desk USB Hub (2-inch version) (view large image)
Design & Features
What’s so interesting about the design of these USB hubs? Not much, really. Both of the Belkin In-Desk USB Hubs are simple and straightforward USB hubs with four ports each. The key advantage of both these hubs is that they fit in the standard "cord holes" drilled into most office desks. Available for both 3-inch and 2-inch round desk openings these hubs are likely to be an IT manager’s best friend when employees ask for a USB hub. Rather than take up valuable desk space these hubs will drop directly into the cord hole grommets/openings and are secured with plastic locking tabs so users won’t accidentally remove them. The DC power jack is concealed beneath the hub under the desk and likewise keeps the workspace free of clutter.
Belkin offers both size hubs in "top-access" designs that sit flush with the desk surface and "front-access" designs that make it a little easier to reach the ports if you aren’t sitting close to the hub.
Both hubs feature LED indicator lights, support Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (up to 480Mbps), and are compatible with Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, and Vista. The hubs also provide over-current detection and protection to keep your electronics safe from harm.
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To test a range of devices that most people are likely to connect to a USB hub, I hooked up a keyboard, mouse, two thumb drives, a portable light, and two different BlackBerry smartphones during my review. I tested the hubs with two different notebooks both with the notebook power cord plugged in and running off the battery. Overall, performance is good. None of the devices showed a significant slow down and data transfer rates remained consistent except when multiple thumb drives where transferring files at the same time, but this is likely due to the USB bus in the notebooks. The only unusual performance issue that I found was that neither BlackBerry would charge via the USB hub connection. While this isn’t an uncommon event for BlackBerry phones, I was surprised neither of the hubs could supply enough juice to charge these smartphones.
I would recommend the Belkin In-Desk USB Hubs to anyone needing a USB hub for their office desk … assuming they have pre-drilled cord grommets/openings. The space saving designs make them perfect for busy office use, and the DC power means the hubs won’t pull juice from the PC when using power hungry devices. The combination of features and price make the Belkin hubs a no-brainer for business. That said, you still need to keep in mind the faults of USB hubs. Splitting the bus will affect the speed of the transfers, and USB hubs may not always provide enough power for some devices. Overall, these four-port hubs are a great way to "maximize worker productivity" with USB goodies … and provide extra ports for a few toys.
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