Data Centers

Good thing in a small package: The Keyspan USB 4-Port Mini Hub

Your mobile users can rid themselves of one piece of equipment that traditionally takes up a lot of room, the bulky USB hub. James McPherson reviews a mini hub from Keyspan that packs a lot of punch into a tiny package.

The introduction of the USB port was widely appreciated by desktop users, but it was the mobile users that heralded it as a godsend. A lack of ports plagued the mobile user for years as a variety of proprietary interfaces, bulky add-on port replicators, and docking stations failed to make the grade. Mobile users needed either devices with extra ports or a USB hub. But the so-called compact USB hubs were as large as some peripherals and took up even more space in an already bulging travel bag. However, one device has brought unfettered joy to the mobile community due to its tiny footprint—the Keyspan USB 4-Port Mini Hub. With this hub, your users can daisy chain dozens of peripherals without the extra bulk.

Slim design
This four-port hub is about the size of a credit card and is only one centimeter thick (see Figure A), excluding the external power supply.

Figure A
This hub is tiny enough to fit into any mobile user's travel bag.

These dimensions include the USB dongle that folds away into the hub, so there’s no extra wires to lose. Desktop users might pass on the mini hub because the dongle is quite short, only 5 cm long. However, the dongle length should be suitable for any laptop user.

The power supply is relatively compact—4.5 cm wide, 5 cm long, and 2.5 cm thick—and quite optional. Keyspan boasts that their hub consumes only 5 percent of the power that other hubs would require. This sounded like a challenge, so I put it to the test. I’ve had problems using my optical mouse, PDA cradle, scanner, and bus-powered video camera on other inexpensive hubs, even when using a power supply. However, after loading all these devices on to the Keyspan Mini Hub, I was able to get those devices to work fine without resorting to the power supply.

Despite my results from testing the hubs power efficiency, this may not be what your users experience, as not all laptops will be able to handle that kind of power load, especially when using battery power. It would be wise to test your users' suite of bus-powered peripherals before having them leave the power supplies at home, particularly if they use power-hungry video cameras or scanners.

The Mini Hub packs quite a punch for such a small product. Given the limited room available for the business traveler, the Keyspan USB 4-Port Mini Hub will be well received by those needing the extra space. The hub retails for $49.00, which is a little expensive when you consider other hubs can be found for $10. However, for the road warrior, it may be well worth the price to lose the extra weight and hassle of keeping up with the extra cables.

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