Computer cable clutter can be reduced

first_imgI connected a fast hard drive to the Belkin hub, and was able to transfer a 430 megabyte folder of music files to my dongle-equipped computer, 3 feet away, in 94 seconds. It was only a little slower at 30 feet, but at that range, the hub and dongle really needed to be in sight of each other, otherwise the connection was lost. At closer ranges, a line of sight was not necessary, and the signal was able to penetrate a desk. How does this compare to the alternatives? Using a USB cable, the same folder transferred in 23 seconds, four times faster, so UWB still can’t match a fixed connection. But it beat Wi-Fi of the latest, fastest flavor (“draft-N”), which took 160 seconds. It was also nice to be able to plug USB peripherals into the hub and have them be recognized instantly. Wi-Fi just isn’t designed for that. The real disaster of the test was the Iogear Wireless USB Hub and Adapter. After a relatively lengthy installation process, the complicated software proved unreliable. When I moved the computer out of range from the hub, I lost the connection, and wasn’t able to re-establish it at all. Iogear says it’s bringing out new drivers that should help the situation. Before the dongle dropped the signal, I found the transfer speeds to be comparable to Wi-Fi. That’s pretty galling, considering Iogear’s packaging proclaims the hub to transfer at “up to 480 Mbps,” or as fast as a USB 2.0 cable. That’s a long-term goal of the industry, and obviously not something current products are capable of.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – The back of a computer tends to be a messy, messy place, with cables snaking like an overturned bowl of spaghetti. Now, the first fruits of an industry push to cut that tangle have hit the market, and while they won’t be much of an immediate help, the underlying wireless technology does show some promise. Yes, you heard right. Another wireless technology. Apparently, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are not enough. This one is called ultra-wideband, or UWB. It’s similar to Bluetooth in that it has a short range, up to about 30 feet, but it’s potentially much faster – as fast, proponents say, as the USB cables we use to connect printers, webcams and external hard drives. You can’t, however, expect to shear away a lot of cable clutter with the first general-purpose products that use UWB. These are USB (Universal Serial Bus) hubs, each of which has four ports for regular USB cables. The only “wireless” part is the connection between the wallet-sized hub and the computer, which is equipped with a UWB dongle that sticks into a USB port. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.The intended use is something like this: You plug your peripherals, like the printer and your backup hard drive, into the USB hub in your office. When you use your laptop there, you insert the dongle, which connects you to the peripherals without being tethered by a USB cable. There are probably people who would find some use in this. I’m not one of them, or at any rate, I wouldn’t pay $200 to eliminate a single cable between the computer and the hub. Regular wired USB hubs cost less than $20. The real potential here is to have UWB chips and antennas built straight into peripherals and computers. Good bye to cables, dongles and hubs! That’s the long-term plan of the PC industry group that certifies USB products, and it’s created a Certified Wireless USB standard to help shepherd that along. It was to get a first look at the viability of that vision that I tested two wireless USB hubs from Belkin International Inc. and one from Iogear Inc. Each one costs $200 with an included dongle. The verdict: UWB has a long way to go to fulfill its promise of speeds comparable to USB cables. But the Belkin Wireless USB Hub was at least faster than Wi-Fi, provided a stable connection, and was easy to set up and use. It did require me to install some software on my PC. Sorry, it’s for Windows XP and Vista only. last_img

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