USB Expansion Solution 

Recently a silver, dome shaped device has been sitting on my work space to help cut down on any cable switching.
Kensington 7 port USB hub

Count up the number of USB devices you own and then do the same for the number of USB ports on your system.  If the result of this counting activity reveals that first number is larger than the second number then there will probably be occasions when you need to switch connected devices as the situation demands.  Even if the second number is greater than the first, there is always the possibility that the situation could change as new USB devices make an appearance.  In either case you could well benefit from a hub that increases your USB connectivity options.  One such device is the Kensington Hub USB 2.0.

Like the earlier Kensington four-port version, this seven-port model is dome shaped with a weighted base that certainly helps ensure that the hub does not slide about at the slightest touch.  Another similarity is with the layout of the provided USB ports.  Positioned on top of the dome is a single port, useful for attaching bulky devices that tend to demand more room, such as a television receiver USB stick, while the remaining ports are arranged around the rear of the unit along with a socket for connecting the supplied power lead.  Running across the front of the hub are seven LEDs, arranged in a row of six with one more on top to duplicate the ports layout, that light up to indicate which ports are currently occupied.

One striking difference between the four and seven-port units is with the colour.  The four-port unit is black while the seven-port hub is a matt silver colour.  I have a slight preference for the latter colour scheme.

Attached to the back of the hub is the upstream permanently attached lead for connecting to the computer.  This upstream lead is rather short, measuring just 45cm, making positioning the hub difficulty to say the least.  Fortunately Kensington has included an extension lead which adds 195cm of extra play so increasing the positioning options.

As mentioned earlier this is a USB 2.0 hub.  It can be used with the earlier USB 1.1 standard for legacy devices but at a much reduced transfer rate speed.  For optimum performance, 480MB/sec, you should stick to kit that is USB 2.0 aware.  While it is possible to use this hub without attaching the supplied power lead, this could result in performance degradation and limit the number of usable ports.  It is for better to make use of the 180cm mains lead connect the hub to a power source and gain the full benefit of this USB 2.0 hub.

This 7-port hub should work without any problems on systems running Windows 98SE or later plus Mac OS v8.6 or later.  Although there may be cheaper hubs with 7-port access available, the Kensington device is both stylish and has a re-assuring feel of longevity to it.  The hub is priced at approximately £33 and comes with a Kensington five year warranty.

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