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Belkin Network USB Hub review

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Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Review Price £46.99

Belkin's sleek little Network USB Hub is rather special in that it enables you to share virtually any type of USB device over the network with multiple PCs. No more unplugging them and swapping them to another system as they can be kept in a central hub and access handed out as required. The hub adheres to Belkin's design philosophy so its polished black casing will fit in neatly with its latest wireless routers. The casing is less than 2cms thick but it's built well enough and packs in five USB 2.0 ports and a Fast Ethernet port whilst power is provided by a small external supply.

Each PC requires a Control Center utility installed, which only takes few seconds. It'll automatically add an exception to the Windows Firewall and also offers a choice of manually or automatically connecting to USB devices as they're plugged in. It runs permanently in the background and loads a quick access icon in the System Tray.

The Control Center opens with a view of all devices currently plugged in to the hub. For each one you get a device name and basic description and it'll tell you, where applicable, which system they are connected to. If you went for the manual option you just pick the device you want to access and select the Connect option from the drop-down menu. Obviously, you can't share USB devices so if one is in use you can send a request for access to the system currently using it. This action pops up a requester window on their system where they can either disconnect from it or deny access and continue using it.

The Settings menu provides plenty of user options as you can have the Control Center load when Windows starts and have the interface displayed automatically. The utility regularly polls the hub to update itself and you can set a refresh rate in seconds. It can also notify you if a connection with a device is lost and remind you that devices should not be in use when disconnected.

You can have multiple hubs placed around the network and they can all be accessed from the same Control Center. The hub runs a basic Linux kernel offering a simple password protected web interface that opens with a status display of connected devices. Network settings are accessed from here and you can go for DHCP or a fixed IP address and fiddle with the network interface settings. The properties of each USB device can be viewed and you can see which hub it's connected to plus the device's name and its rated speed. Connections can be managed individually as you can opt to automatically connect and ask the Control Center to attempt to re-establish contact if a link is lost.

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TomDonnelly

October 9, 2008, 11:20 pm

This little device works exactly as advertised. However, don't be misled by the review. This is NOT a WIRELESS Network USB Hub, it's just a Network USB Hub. To access the network from any USB device, you need to run a cable from the "Ethernet" jack in the back, to an ethernet LAN connection. Other than that, it is a very handy device.

RobertC429

October 31, 2008, 6:53 pm

I like this device. Though its functionality is basic and its performance is limited by the network configuration and devices used, it does do what is on the tin and it does save a lot of physical hassle.


There is no concurrent device sharing. It is as sophisticated as un-plugging a USB device from one PC and plugging it in another, but it is done from the comfort of your chair, electronically - so no wear and tear on the hardware, the computer equipment or yourself.


I am running a networked Windows /XP desktop and a Windows Vista laptop, with a Western Digital external hard drive, a Cannon i950 printer and a 4 Gb memory stick on the hub, so I still have a few sockets left. All have worked fine for the few months I have been using the hub.


I did have a problem with an external hard disk that took its power from the single USB connection. It worked fine, but there were problems when the other devices were connected. After some investigation, I put it down to too much power being demanded from the hub. It was not easy to resolve because it was intermittent and the device affected kept changing.


My only gripe is that "wireless" is mentioned in the advertisements but there is nothing "wireless" about this device. What can be done is that this Belkin USB Hub can be connected, by cable, to a network that can include some wirelessly connected devices. Hence, a laptop with a wireless connection to the network can use the hub.


The Belkin USB hub menu, which needs to be installed from a CD during installation, displays the devices available and is used to connect/disconnect each device. If the requested device is connected to another PC, the name of this PC is displayed and a message is also sent to them, so they might have already released the device before you make contact. Although it is quite basic, it is a quality product that performs well.

Ian McGregor

December 21, 2008, 8:35 pm

I've been using this hub for about 9 months now, it's prime use is sharing 2 printers on my home network of 4 pcs, and it works just great for that. Through speed is not really an issue though it would have been nice to use it for backup hard disks.


My one complaint is, that despite it using linux internally, Belkin have not made available a linux driver for it.

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