Sharing is good. The Belkin Network USB Hub works in conjunction with a router to give multiple PCs in a household or small office environment wireless access to printers, external hard drives, and other peripherals that don't have network capability built in. This device is an attractive and affordable alternative to wireless USB hubs that offer only a point-to-point connection with a single PC.
The all-black hub, whose minimalist elegance takes a page from Apple's design playbook, was simple to set up: We installed the bundled Control Center software on one notebook and one desktop (it automatically identified our IP address), plugged in the power adapter, and connected the included Ethernet cable to our router. The entire process took approximately five minutes and was surprisingly hassle-free.
The hub instantly recognized our flash drive and digital camera that we inserted into two of its five USB 2.0 ports, and soon we were swiftly combing through documents and photos--without a hint of lag or delay--wirelessly from our notebook. We also wirelessly printed documents from a network-connected desktop PC and didn't notice a significant delay.
When we tried to access a printer already in use by another person, a pop-up notified us that we were unable to do so, but we could send a request asking them to free it up (the person using the printer then receives an option to disconnect or continue using the printer). Also, some peripherals have firewalls that don't allow usage, but Belkin offers work-arounds online to help you troubleshoot.
The range of the Network USB Hub depends on what kind of router you have. Using an 802.11a/b/g router, we were able to move our notebook about 20 feet away from the device before losing the connection. An 802.11n router should provide more range.
Windows XP and Vista users (Mac drivers should be available in late September) who want a painless method for sharing printers and other peripherals on a network will find the Belkin Network USB Hub an invaluable tool. Its ease of installation, hiccup-free connectivity, and handy options (such as connecting with multiple Network USB Hubs) make it a fine solution.
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