Orange Micro – OrangeLink+ FireWire and USB 2 combo card review

add FireWire and USB 2 to your PC
Photo of Orange Micro – OrangeLink+ FireWire and USB 2 combo card
£93 + VAT

There are two fast connections you can make from your PC to the outside world; FireWire, standardised as IEEE1394, and USB 2. Both are fast enough to connect mass storage devices like DVD and hard drives and both are uncommon on any but the latest PCs. Not to worry, though, you can now add both types of connection to your machine by slotting a simple half-length expansion card into a PCI slot.

The OrangeLink+ card provides three USB ports and two IEEE1394 ones on its single backplate. There’s another socket of each type inside, to connect internal devices such as front-panel sockets or disk drives. The USB sockets are of the faster USB 2 type, which supports data transfer rates of up to 480Mbps, though they’re compatible with USB 1.1 peripherals, too.

IEEE1394 is the data transfer standard of choice for digital video connections. Sony uses the same basic standard, but calls it i-Link, while Apple calls it FireWire. Most DV cameras have a suitable socket for connecting a cable. Cables for both IEEE1394 and USB 2 are provided in the box with the OrangeLink+ card.

Installation is straightforward; simply slot the card into any available PCI slot and install the drivers. Orange Micro provides its own drivers for USB 2, which is just as well as Microsoft has been a bit tardy at getting support out. The drivers weren’t supplied in the box with the OrangeLink+ kit, but are available on the OrangeMicro site (hint – it’s said the drivers work with other USB 2 implementations, too). They support Windows 98/Me/2000 and XP, but not Windows 95 or NT.

Once installed, you can hot-plug to any of the ports and Windows detects the new equipment directly. As if to suggest what you might use the OrangeLink+ card for, it comes with a copy of Ulead’s VideoStudio 5, a home DV editing application. While this isn’t as all-embracing as Adobe Premiere, it’s a lot easier to learn and can produce worthwhile results without days of effort.

Other devices either available or likely to soon be available for IEEE1394 or USB 2 include CD-RWs, DVDs, hard drives, scanners, in fact virtually anything where you want to move large amounts of data quickly. It’s going to become a lot easier to add these devices externally, thanks to this card.

Company: Orange Micro

Contact: 0870 607 0540

For any PC without the latest serial ports, this card is very good value. At one stroke, you can add support for IEEE1394 and USB 2, both externally and internally. The software drivers work well and the extra software supplied is useful for anybody tinkering with digital video.