Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Cables Unlimited USB-1870 USB 2.0 Hub

So what's so different about USB hubs anyway? They just split a USB connection into several other USB connections, right? Well, yes and no. Unfortunately, many USB hub designs lack proper power distribution, switching between USB 1.1 and 2.0, and a few other overlooked features. I am reviewing what I consider to be a very special USB hub.

USB 1.1 or USB 2.0?
Cables Unlimited USB-1870 is a HI-SPEED USB 2.0 hub (backwards compatible with 1.1 also) with multiple transaction translators, i.e. multi-TT. The transaction translator translates data from each of the ports on the USB hub to the computer's USB port. If you are using a USB 1.1 device, then the TT will send data at speeds up to 12 Mbps from the device to the PC. If you are using a USB 2.0 device, the TT can transmit up to 480 Mbps between the device and PC.

Most USB Hubs are 1.1 and 2.0 compatible.. but not at the same time. In other words, if you have a USB 1.1 device and a USB 2.0 device connected to a single TT hub, your USB 2.0 device will only run as fast as 12 Mbps. This is something that most USB Hubs fail to mention. Instead they tell you to try not to connect USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 together. Who wants to worry about that? I certainly don't. With Cables Unlimited's multi-TT hub, each device can run at it's designated speed. There is a TT for each port, so USB 2.0 devices won't have to slow down USB 1.1 devices. Of course, if you have two very busy hard drives writing at the same time, you're going to have some slow down, since you are sharing one port on the computer. However, most other devices do not transmit that much data.

Powered Hub
It includes a power adapter that is capable of supplying power to 5-6 of the 7 ports at the same time. Most devices don't use the full power of a single port anyway, aside from hard drives and such. Most competitor ports supply half the power as this one, where only 3 of 7 ports have full power. If you require all 7 ports have power, you'll just have to find a higher current AC to DC power adapter.

Most hubs don't have power switches, and the PC's USB ports continue to supply power to USB devices even while the PC is off (since the computer's internal power supply is still on and supplying the motherboard with juice). Some hubs continue to supply power to devices once the PC is shut down also. Once you shut down the PC and unplug the included power adapter, all the attached devices turn off.

I honestly don't recall whether or not this USB hub functions as an unpowered hub or not. One of the primary motives for this hub is the power adapter. If you want convenience, you probably want an unpowered 4 port hub. If you want a hub that can provide maximum support for your devices, you want the Cables Unlimited USB-1870.

Physical Design
There are a lot of complaints on USB hubs because cords are managed poorly or the hub slides around too easily. This hub has soft footpads and just enough weight to stay in place. Of course it's not going to stay in places if you're jerking the wires around, but it won't move just because a cord is coiled up poorly. The hub is very compact, not wasting any space at all. 7 ports all come out one side, and the connections to the computer and power adapter are on the other side.

It has a red LED to show the hub has power, and the hub has a green LED for each port to show that those ports have power also.

Best of all: It's around $20 and it works!


  1. Awesome review, friend. I learned a lot about USB hubs from this article. Thanks for the post, I'll probably be getting one of these in the very near future!

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