Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

USB 2.0 is 40 times faster than the older version 1.1, so install this card and use its USB ports instead of the ones already in your PC. What about those existing ports? Forget em.


$89.95; Upgrade card available separately for $49.95; Hub available separately for $59.95; 6-foot cable available for $22.99

Compton, Calif.


With more USB devices appearing almost daily, a number of companies are now making upgrade cards for Hi-Speed USB 2.0. Check out ADS Technology, Adaptec, Keyspan, and Orange Micro.

Learn about USB 2.0

USB 2.0 features a data-transfer rate that is 40 times faster than USB 1.1. But that doesn’t mean your USB 2.0 devices will run 40 times faster. Visit the official USB site and learn what Hi-Speed USB is, how it works, and its advantages compared with USB 1.1.

USB Products

Most peripherals are now made with a USB interface. In fact, many printers don’t even have a parallel-cable interface anymore. Read Reference Guide’s reviews of these USB-compatible products.

Epson C80 inkjet printer

Belkin USB 2.0 upgrade kit

Corex CardScan 600c business card scanner

U.are.U fingerprint PC security device

Dymo LabelWriter 330 Turbo label printer

Logitech Freedom Cordless Keyboard & mouse

Mimio whiteboard recorder

Plextor 40/12/40 USB 2.0 CD-RW Drive

Y-E Data 6-in-1 memory card reader

Keyspan USB 1.1 mini-hub


desktop peripherals

Belkin USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit


By Joel Shore

Thank goodness for the Universal Serial Bus. When it came on the scene a few years ago, USB freed us from limiting our computers to one parallel and two serial ports. With USB, you can connect up to 127 devices, including printers, mice, keyboards, CD burners, disk drives, media readers, and lots more.

As good as USB is, it just got better, 40 times better, in fact. That’s because a new version of USB, called USB 2.0 or Hi-Speed USB, is finally here. Devices designed for USB 2.0 run a whole lot faster. You won’t notice any difference with a USB keyboard (can you type 40 times faster? Doubtful.), but you can expect a USB 2.0 CD-RW drive to burn discs about six times faster than older units.

Of course, you’ll need to upgrade your computer to USB 2.0. Alas, it’s not merely a case of installing some new software. You need to install a USB upgrade card, complete with new USB ports. And most unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the USB ports built into your PC. That’s a shame, since my desktop system has four built-in-ports, two on the back and two under a flip-up panel on the front. Several  companies are now making desktop USB upgrade kits. And if you have a notebook computer, you’re not out of luck. You can get a USB upgrade kits that slides into the PC Card slot.

Belkin is one of those companies that offers loads of useful computing gizmos. In addition to wireless networking gear, they’ve jumped into USB in a big way.

The USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit we checked out is a value combination of two products. There’s the actual upgrade card, which installs inside your PC, giving you two rear-panel USB 2.0 ports. Since two ports just aren’t enough, Belkin includes its four-port USB 2.0 hub. An included gold-tipped cable connects the hub to either port on the upgrade card.

Simple Set-Up. Installation under Windows XP could not be easier. First, open your computer. If that thought scares you, then ask your kid to do it. Once open, locate an empty expansion slot. Remove the metal plate covering the opening on the rear panel. Ease the circuit board into the slot and push it all the way in. Secure the metal bracket (some computers use a screw, others have a retaining bar of some sort). Then close up the computer and turn it on.

Windows XP does the rest. It discovers the card and load all the appropriate software to make it work—all automatically. You may see the progress messages twice; that’s because the card contains two controllers, one for each port. Software drivers must be installed for each.

You’re ready to go. Plug in your USB devices and they should work perfectly. Need more ports? Plug the Belkin USB hub into either port with the cable and you’ll have more ports. Need a whole bunch of ports? Just keep adding hubs.

What? It’s Not Faster? Here’s the kicker. If the devices you plug into you brand new Belkin USB 2.0 controller are not themselves built to the USB 2.0 standard, they won’t run any faster. They’ll still work perfectly, but only at the speed at which they were designed. If you want full-blown USB 2.0 speed, you need to get USB 2.0 devices.

The Belkin USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit is a great value that lays a foundation for the fast devices you’ll probably be buying—next week.<

Yeas & Nays


4Fast and furious; up
to 40 times faster
than USB 1.1

4Backward compatible with USB 1.1

4Kit includes Hi-Speed
4-port USB hub,
6-foot cable


4Set-up requires opening the PC, installing a card, daunting to some


The kit works with Windows 98 (Second Edition only), Windows 2000, Windows Millennium Edition, and, of course, Windows XP. It does not work with Windows 95, because that platform contained no support for USB technology.

What’s in Your PC?

Alas, computers don’t carry a label telling you whether their USB ports are version 1.1 or the new Hi-Speed version 2.0. Even checking the Device Manager the Windows won’t help.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out which you have. Any computer you bought before June 2002 has USB 1.1. And it’s a good bet that USB 2.0 computers won’t be widely available until well into 2003.

Going Backward

USB 2.0 is backward compatible with USB 1.1. That means your old devices, like printer and CD burners will work perfectly, but they won’t run any faster. To take advantage of USB 2.0’s high speed, you need to buy devices specifically labeled as USB 2.0 compatible or sporting the Certified Hi-Speed USB logo.



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