Like the optical drive before it, spare USB ports are becoming an increasingly rare species as the endless pursuit of smaller and slimmer laptops and ultrabooks continues to steamroll ahead. Consequently, USB hubs have undergone a sort of low-key renaissance, with an ever-growing number of shapes and form-factors emerging to fill this newly-created void. The Satechi Ultra Portable 4 Port USB Strip ($9.99 direct) is the latest entrant in the arena. While its portability and inexpensive price tag make up for its lack of USB 3.0 connectivity and lack of an AC adapter, better choices exist and are worth checking out.
Measuring 0.7 by 3.3 by 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighing a negligible 0.9 ounce, the 4 Port USB Strip is the lightest hub we’ve seen thus far, weighing less than both the Satechi Ultra Portable 4 Port USB Pocket Hub (1.4 ounces) and the Satechi 3.0 4-Port USB Hub (1.6 ounces). Whether it’s in your pocket or on your desk, the 4 Port USB Strip is barely noticeable. At the same time, however, it’s noticeably flimsier than the rest, so while you can carry it around without adding any heft, you’d have to do so with care, lest you find yourself pulling the remnants of a shattered hub out of your laptop bag.
Aesthetically, the 4 Port USB Strip shares a fair amount of design cues with the USB Pocket Hub: Both are constructed out of plastic and sport a black finish alongside glowing blue LED lights. Also, both sport a tethered cable along the lines of the Targus Ultralife USB Hub with Ethernet Port, though the latter’s three-inch cable is more ergonomically sound than the two-inch cord found on the 4 Port USB Strip. That said, the 4 Port USB Strip’s design has its share of shortcomings. Unlike the other hubs, all of which come with a matte-finished design, the 4 Port USB Strip’s glossy black finish practically begs to be smudged. More problematically, all four of its USB 2.0 ports are situated on one side, giving rise to the probability that some will be crowded out when all ports are loaded. The USB Pocket Hub, on the other hand, sidesteps this problem by divvying up its four ports between two different sides.
As is the case with most USB hubs, the 4 Port USB Strip is plug-and-play ready, so setting it up doesn’t involve much beyond plugging it in to your computer and waiting for the system to detect it. Like the Ultralife USB Hub, the Satechi 3.0, and the USB Pocket Hub, the 4 Port USB Strip is compatible with Mac (OS 9.1 or later) and Windows (98SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7/Windows 8). Moreover, transferring our 1.22GB folder showed no noticeable slowing down in data transmission rates.
Like the USB Pocket Hub, the 4 Port USB Strip’s sub-$10 price tag is tempered by the fact that it doesn’t ship with an AC adapter despite featuring an input designed to accommodate one. While external power won’t be necessary for connecting most basic peripherals (keyboards, mice, most external drives, and smartphones), users looking to simultaneously charge several devices will most likely have to spring for a compatible adapter. On a related note, the 4 Port USB Strip features bus overvoltage protection, which supposedly protects your computer in the event that one of the connected peripherals short-circuits. We weren’t able to test this claim out, so we’ll have to take Satechi at its word. Still, it’s reassuring that your system will be protected in the event that of electrical spike. If the 4 Port USB Strip does somehow wind up frying out at the same time, it’s covered by a one-year warranty.
The Satechi Ultra Portable 4 Port USB Strip is an economical solution for users looking for a quick way to expand their USB connectivity options. However, better options exist and are worth pursuing. For the budget-conscious consumer, the USB Pocket Hub features a more effective port layout while coming at the same price. Power users, on the other hand, should check out the Satechi 3.0 4 Port USB Hub, whose included AC adapter and USB 3.0 connectivity justify its higher price tag.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc