When you run out of AC power sockets on the wall, you usually add one of those multiple AC socket adapters so you can plug in additional...

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When you run out of AC power sockets on the wall, you usually add one of those multiple AC socket adapters so you can plug in additional devices. Similarly, when you need to connect additional USB peripherals such as a printer and scanner to a computer that only has one or two USB ports, you connect a little box called a “hub” to any one of them.

Much like the multiple-socket AC plugs, a hub contains several additional USB ports into which you can attach more USB devices. Hubs are fairly commonplace since many computers still only have one or two built-in USB ports.

For some time now, the USB 1.1 standard has been upgraded to the newer, faster 2.0 protocol. The former operated at speeds of up to 12 megabits per second. USB 2.0 transfers data at up to 480 Mbps.

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If you purchased your computer within the past year, it definitely has USB 2.0 ports, which are compatible with the older USB 1.1 devices. Even Apple Computer, the company that championed the FireWire standard that competes with USB 2.0 itself now offers USB 2.0 ports on its newer computer models including the newest Mac Mini.

So chances are you’re going to eventually be needing a USB 2.0 hub. After looking around at what’s available, I found myself moving toward one made by Belkin (www.belkin.com). Known for its line of quality cables, connectors, switches and other connectivity devices, its latest USB 2.0 hub offers compatibility as well as the ability to expand.

The Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub lets you connect up to seven USB devices right out of the box. The low-profile rectangular device offers five horizontally mounted USB ports at its back edge. Two other ports sit on a raised center block directly at the hub’s top center.

These serve a dual purpose. The first lets you easily connect and remove any temporary devices, such as a thumb drive or a digital camera as the two center ports are readily accessible. The second lets you take another Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub and stack it directly over the first one. When connected to each other, they form a steplike stack rather than being directly over each other.

This arrangement makes it much easier to add and remove additional cables that plug into each hub’s rear ports. This clever step design also lets you keep the first hub’s 2 center ports even with a second hub stacked directly above it.

A provided 5-Pin Mini B USB cable connects the hub to any available USB port on your computer. The included power cable provides A/C power to the hub, relieving your computer’s power supply from the additional load that comes from connecting too many devices at the same time.

The only weakness I could find with this nifty hub is that you must connect each additional hub to its own A/C power source. When I asked why Belkin didn’t design it so that a single power cord would power all of the connected stacked hubs, the company’s product manager explained that it was a limitation of the USB design itself.

Personally, I think that some clever engineer could have come up with a way to do it. Nonetheless, the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub is a cool design and its stackable design saves precious desk space while letting you add additional ports when needed.

The Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub sells for $69.99, comes in dark gray and works on any USB 2.0 equipped PC or Macintosh.