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Of peripheral interest

Belkin’s USB 2.0 Dual-Port Hi-Speed PCI Card.

New peripherals such as Epson’s Perfection 1260, 1600, and 2400 flatbed scanners offer USB 2.0 connectivity that provides FireWire-like throughput at USB prices. The IEEE 1394 brigade is so scared by this new technology that Apple Computer dropped their trademark restrictions on the word FireWire and offers it for free to companies such as Sony, which calls it iLink, and others that call it IEEE 1394.

What’s all the fuss? USB 2.0 is fast and cheap. How fast is it? Well, standard USB has a transfer rate of 12Mbps but USB 2.0 using similar-sized cables can hit speeds of 480Mbps, clearly nosing out FireWire’s now seemingly puny 400Mbps. The catch? You’re going to need a hardware upgrade but it’s a bargain.

Belkin Components offers two solutions, including the USB 2.0 Dual Port Hi-Speed PCI Card, or a five-port model that includes an internal port as part of the quintet. Prices of the two models are $29.95 and $39.95 respectively, and while the dual-port model is the subject of this test, the two are functionally identical. Belkin is scheduled to introduce a three-port model with an internal port soon.

I installed the Belkin USB 2.0 Dual Port Hi-Speed PCI Card inside an eMachines T4155 1.6MHz Pentium IV computer. The computer has three spare PCI slots, and it slid easily into the next one and was fastened down with a screw that eMachines provides. The T4155 computer runs factory-installed Windows XP Home Edition and the Belkin card includes driver software for Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me, and XP. The user’s guide is a small booklet, but no matter how smart you think you are, I recommend taking two minutes and reading it. Windows XP users should especially pay attention because when following the OS’s “new hardware detected” plug-and-play routine, you will encounter an error message that says that the software has not passed Windows Logo Testing. The manual directs you to ignore this message, so click the “Continue, anyway” button. I did, and the rest of the installation went smoothly.

While poking around inside, I slipped an extra memory module into the remaining DIMM slot, something I also recommend you do while RAM prices are so low. After software installation, the computer performed perfectly, as if it had been delivered with two USB 2.0 ports already installed. OK, so I’ve installed a few cards like this and maybe you haven’t. Don’t freak out. The card comes with free 24-hour technical support and a lifetime warranty. What more do you want for thirty bucks?

We live in a world where no matter what else happens, technology is going to continue to improve, and for just a few dollars, the Belkin USB 2.0 Dual Port Hi-Speed PCI Card lets you keep your system up to date and gives it the ability to run the latest, fastest peripherals. It’s a COMPUTERUSER best buy.

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