Inateck USB hub and Ethernet adapter improves ultrabooks' usability [Review]

Inateck USB hub Ethernet adaptor adapter

More and more devices now either connect through, or are powered by, USB connections which means you can easily find yourself running out of ports. This is especially true of the latest slimline ultrabook type systems.

Adding a USB hub is an easy way of expanding your number of ports and these latest offerings from Inateck give you a choice of solutions as well as a handy way of accessing wired networks.

Both versions -- the HB4102 and the HB4103 -- share the same size aluminium body which gives them a smart look with a nice solid feel whilst remaining light. Both support the latest USB 3.0 standard for 5 Gbps transfers -- that’s around ten times faster than USB 2.0 for those who are interested in these things. It is of course backwards compatible with earlier kit.

The HB4102 has four USB ports, three on top and one on the end panel, and connects via a standard USB socket. The HB4103 offers three USB ports on top as before, but the end panel now carries an Ethernet connection. Both are also available in ‘C’ versions to connect via a USB Type-C port, as found on the new MacBook for example, rather than standard USB.

Inateck USB hub Ethernet adapter 2

They’re powered solely by USB so there’s no additional mains adapter required. The hardwired connection cables are quite short though -- about 30cm -- which means they’re better suited to use with laptop than desktop systems. There’s a white LED on top to indicate that the hub is active though this is a bit hard to see against the aluminium body.

The Inateck HB4102 is a nicely made USB hub, but it’s the HB4103 that’s likely to have more appeal to business users because of that Ethernet port. It’s not there to allow you to connect a NAS box or network printer, it acts as a gigabit Ethernet adaptor so you can use it to connect a PC to a router or to an office network.

Extra LEDs on this model show network activity. For devices like Chromebooks and MacBooks that don’t have a wired Ethernet port it’s a good option. The C version is compatible with Mac OS 10.6 without needing any drivers, settings can simply be handled from the Mac’s Network menu.

Combine HB4103 with a mini-USB adaptor and you can use the Ethernet port to connect to a wired network with a phone or tablet too. The advantage being that it will give you a faster connection than Wi-Fi for streaming or uploading large files, and allow you to connect if no Wi-Fi is available. It supports the 802.3az energy efficient Ethernet standard to reduce power consumption.

The HB4102 costs $11.99 on Amazon. The HB4103 costs $24.99 (or $28.99 for the HB4103C version). More information and technical specs can be found on the Inateck site.

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