Sharing USB Devices
Numerous products, whether software or hardware orientated, arrive on my workspace in a steady stream for testing as part of the review process. Often, once the review has been completed, these products get packed away and are stored in case they are needed for a second look or comparing with similar subsequent releases from various companies. However, from time to time, occasions arise when the product proves so useful and indispensable that it quickly becomes part of my normal working environment. One such product was a USB 2.0 Auto Switch from Lindy. This product allowed you to connect and share a single USB device between two computers.
Now Lindy has developed a USB 2.0 4-Port Sharing Hub. As with the earlier product, you can use this piece of kit to connect to two computers. However, rather than a single item, you can now attach up to four different USB 2.0 devices. With this arrangement the attached USB devices can be made accessible to either computer as long as the appropriate drivers are available to both systems.
This kit consists of the 4-Port hub; a power lead with 3-pin plug; and 1.7 metres USB lead plus a folded sheet of basic instructions. The matt silver coloured 4-Port hub, measuring 10 x 5 x 2cm, has four downstream ports laid out horizontally along the front of the unit so that you can attach various USB 2.0 devices. At the rear are the two upstream ports for connecting to the two computers.
As standard, the hub is able to provide 5V DC, 500 mA power which is then shared across all the downstream ports. A power socket and lead are provided in case any of your attached devices require more than the shared quota. With the power cable attached each of the downstream ports will have access to 5V DC, 500 mA power if necessary.
Also located on the rear of the device is a toggle switch. This enables you to switch control between the two attached computers. This is a major change from the Lindy device reviewed earlier. With that device you had an easily accessible button on top of the unit or the use of a computer hot key control for switching the focus of the hub. I found the previous arrangement to be far more convenient especially as the logical positioning of this 4-port hub is to have the downstream ports facing the user so that the switch is then hidden from sight. LEDs running across the top of the 4-Port hub indicate when power is being received and which of the four ports has a live USB device connected.
Setting up this device is just a matter of making the necessary connections with regards to downstream and upstream ports. You will, as mentioned earlier, need to make sure that each USB device connected has the appropriate drivers and software available on both systems. Generally the switch over is almost instantaneous but some devices, such as my broadband modem, does require a few seconds to initialise before it is ready for use.
I feel that Lindy has missed a trick with the positioning of the toggle switch. The top of the device would have been far more convenient. Other than this, the Lindy 4-Port Sharing Hub is well worth considering. It is compatible with all versions of Windows from Me onwards and Mac OS 8.6 and later. The product has a two year warranty and has been priced at £34.99.
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