Belkin USB 2.0 Hi Speed TetraHub

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, May 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Belkin Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: Available Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port on PC or Mac; Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000 or XP; Mac OS X v10.3 or higher; Powermac running OS 10.2.7 or higher
MSRP: $49.99

In the device connection speed 'sweepstakes' Belkin competes against a variety of other heavy hitters, all of whom grasp and fight for market share. It may not be a concern to you, but it should be mainly because it's that sort of competition which forces competitors to design and redesign their products to provide continually improving quality and features. The Belkin TetraHub is an excellent example of good industrial design which not only boasts a functional esthetic, but also provides top of the line compatibility and expandability.

Belkin has given a trade name to its speed and connection management technology (which ensures that individual USB devices with different embedded standards - USB 1.1, 2.0, 2.0 hi-speed - can operate at their differing rated speeds even when concurrently connected). It's called Turbo Transaction Translator Technology or T4 for short. The point of the technology is to provide 480Mbps throughput for all connected Hi-Speed USB 2.0 devices such as Hi-Speed USB 2.0 scanners and hard drives, even when the hub is also managing older USB 1.1 devices. TetraHub T4 also provides each directly connnected USB 1.1 with its full 12 Mbps of bandwidth from any port so you can connect full-speed USB 1.1 products such as USB speakers and USB video capture devices that require full bandwidth to operate. By comparison, the best that many other traditional hubs can manage is sharing the 12Mbps bandwidth among all the ports.

We connected the TetraHub to a computer equipped with an Asus P48SX motherboard already running a pair of USB hi-speed 2.0 devices (Epson Stylus Photo R800, Canon 9900F scanner) and 6 USB 1.1 devices (HotSync cradle, ActiveSync cradle, 4-in-1 card reader, Xerox DocuPrint P8ex laser printer, etc.) connected directly and via an older Belkin model F5U021 4-port (USB 1.1) hub. The TetraHub automatically identified the speed of each device and we proved, with some simple input and output tests, that each device could operate simultaneously near its rated speed. The only speed restrictions we encountered were related to data spooling and input delays caused either by Windows or the devices themselves. Unless you have to physically access the TetraHub to connect something or have a view of its indicator lights, you'll ever know it's there.

Throughput to our older Xerox DocuPrint P8ex improved dramatically after connecting it to the TetraHub. Previously, the old hub had to share bandwidth between the printer and any other device being used simultaneously (the 4-in-1 card reader for instance). During periods of heavy USB peripheral use, printing delays often stretched into minutes. With the TetraHub, new printing starts as soon as the fuser is warm enough.

Just for fun we connected an external USB 2.0 hi-speed hard drive directly to the TetraHub in order to fool around with data throughput measurements. We found that file transfers peaked at around 550Mbps (above the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed spec, which may reveal a flaw in our measurement system!) and never dropped below 370MBps during continuous copying of large (800MB-1.4GB) video files. Copying multiple files back and forth from the drive resulted in throughput only about 10% slower, excellent results for sure.

Cons: You can never have too many USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports these days, so we can wish for these hubs to have 8 rather than 4 ports.

Pros: Any good hub should essentially be transparent to the operating system and all connected devices and the TetraHub delivers. Good looking design (non-industrial, looks nice sitting on your desk), stackable (read: practical and expandable), compact form factor (small case), indicator lights which make sense. Robust enough to supply all directly connected devices with operating power. Additional TetraHubs stack nicely. If you're still using a poopy old USB 1.1 hub connected to your newer computer's USB hi-speed 2.0 port, give yourself a shake and pick up a TetraHub. Highly recommended.

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