Review: Adaptec USB2Connect 3100 PCI card
Don Bradbury shows how easy it can be to add fast connectivity.
|Product||USB2Connect 3100 PCI card|
|We like||Easy to install and set up.|
|We don't like||Non-optimised drivers|
If your PC is of any vintage, you'll be lucky to have USB ports of any flavour. If you buy one now you won't fail to secure two or more USB ports, but you'll still be very lucky to find any that meet the USB 2.0 standard, even though it's been out for several months now.
Fear not; adding USB 2.0 ports is quick and easy. PCI cards bearing three or four such ports are offered by several manufacturers, and regular readers will know that you can also buy USB 2.0 / Firewire combo cards, though at a substantially greater price.
While, as we have seen lately in PPC, the later connectivity medium will generally, for the time being, outperform the former, it's the range of hardware supporting fast USB on the PC that's the attraction. Scanners, web cameras, printers, external hard drives and so on, all are now being offered for USB 2.0 connection. Anything, in fact, that can benefit from a theoretical 40x (but more likely significantly less) speed advantage over the early 1.1 standard.
And you don't have to use the latest whizz-bang PC to benefit, either, despite what some may say about 266MHz being the minimum spec they support. I recently installed an Adaptec USB2Connect PCI card in an elderly 133MHz desktop machine for a particular application I had in mind for someone using an external USB 2.0 hard disk.
Installing such a device is a doddle on a Windows 98SE, 2000, ME, or later operating system PC. Just power it down, take off the lid, remove a PCI slot cover plate, stick the USB 2.0 card in and connect a USB 2.0 cable to it, the other end to your USB device, put the lid back, switch on, install the card and peripheral drivers, and away you go. Simple as that. Just go into Device Manager and check that the device is installed under the USB Host Controller section.
I found that, because the connectivity medium was the data throughput bottleneck, I saw just as much speed advantage to data transfer out of the old 133MHz PC as I did in my GHz PC, when high speed CPU advantages are minimal.
Because Adaptec were early to the market with their USB2Connect card, I had to download a suitable driver from the Adaptec web site for mine. No doubt what you buy in the shops now will come with a driver disk. Either way, installation is a breeze, and the benefits very substantial if the application can use the better throughput.
Don't expect to see the full theoretical 480mbps data throughput from USB 2.0 just yet; the chipsets and drivers both require optimization. That's expected to be addressed by manufacturers shortly. In the meantime, though, you'll see huge benefits where the data throughput rate has been your bottleneck to speedy operations, and provided you use USB 2.0 hardware and cable. Plugged into a USB 1.1 port, no USB 2.0 peripheral will have justice done to it; in fact you'll still be seeing USB 1.1 performance. But it might be move-up time, folks!