Wesco – Doctor Who USB hub and Web-cam review

two pieces of PC hardware for Dr Who fans
Photo of Wesco – Doctor Who USB hub and Web-cam
£14.99 (Tardis USB hub), £24.99 (Dalek Web-cam)

It’s perhaps inevitable, given the programme’s current sky-high appeal, that Doctor Who would intertwine with the humble PC. Surprisingly, though, we’re not talking about a videogame yet. Instead it’s a pair of quite straightforward USB peripherals that lend themselves to the programme’s fanbase.

Peripheral one is the Tardis USB hub. This is, at heart, a simple four-port USB hub, with 2.0 support. However, it comes in the form of the iconic blue Police Box, replete with blue light on the roof when it’s connected. Perhaps the piece de resistance here, though, is that when a new USB device is plugged into the hub, the materialisation sound effect of the Tardis plays out, and at quite a meaty volume given the size of the device. Fortunately, this can be switched off should your colleagues object, although you’re stuck with the light whether you like it or not.

The device itself was a little smaller than we were expecting, and does put a fun spin on an undeniably useful, but usually staid device. It’s also got the option to be powered by the mains (via an included plug), or via a USB port. Given that its street price has dropped under a tenner in some quarters, this isn’t a bad buy at all.

The second Doctor Who-related peripheral doesn’t fare as well, however. It’s a Dalek Web-cam and microphone, and one that proved flimsy from the off. Lifting it out of the packaging snapped the Dalek eyepiece clean-off, and so it was out with the Superglue before we’d begun.

That said, the Web-cam element isn’t contained in that eyepiece anyway: instead, it’s tucked away inside the tummy of the Dalek. When you want to use the camera – which connects to your computer via a USB lead, as you’d expect – you open two flaps in the midriff of the Dalek and the camera peeks out from behind there. It looks odd, and for the true Doctor Who fan, surely the eyepiece should be the place where the camera itself is concealed?

It comes with a clip via which you can easily attach the unit to the top of a monitor, and the installation software does the job in getting the device up and running, adding a small application to your PC in the process (it’s Windows software that’s provided). The Web-cam then delivers output at up to 640 x 480 resolution and up to 30 frames per second. In use, it proved to be perfectly sound.

However, the flimsiness of its construction was nonetheless a concern, and the odd appearance of the unit when the camera is in use is also a drawback.

Company: Wesco


Verdict
Both devices offer more than just novelty value, although we'd opt for a more robust Web-cam ourselves. The Tardis hub is the best bet of the two, and remains on our desk for the forseeable future.