Product: Belkin F5L009 Network USB HubManufacturer: BelkinMSRP: $99.99
]Lowest Historical Price: $77
When you want to share USB devices connected to a particular computer, you usually have to set up sharing on that computer and leave it powered on so that other computers on the network can access those devices. With the Belkin F5L009 Network USB Hub, that is no longer an issue. You can connect your USB peripherals to the hub and connect the hub to your existing wired or wireless network to share those devices. It all sounds good on paper, but does it really meet our expectations? Click through to find out. Specs
Connectivity: 10/100, USB
OS: XP SP2, Vista 32/64 Un-Boxing
The package comes with the USB Hub, Quick Install Guide, Power Supply, RJ45 cable and an Install CD. The install was quite simple- connect the AC Adapter to a power source, connect the ethernet cable to the router and the hub, and install the software onto the client computer(s). The hub does not work if the client software is not installed, unfortunately. Once the initial setup is completed, the USB Hub is ready to have devices plugged into it. The device itself has a fairly simple look- square, flat device with shiny black surfaces and rounded corners. If it were white (no relation to Eminem's song), it could pass for an Apple peripheral (note that it is currently not Mac compatible). Review
The software is fairly simple to use- by default it automatically detects and connects to any USB device that you have plugged into it. If someone else needs to use the same device, you can easily request to take control with a right click -> "request use" in the software.
For the most part, everything that we connected to the hub worked through the network, using both wireless and wired connections. We currently have a Canon MP780 AIO Printer and a USB drive connected to it. We also tried plugging in the K-World USB HDTV Tuner Stick, but unfortunately it did not work with the K-World software. The F5L009 did work well with several webcams, however. It is noted on their website that you may run into issues using USB TV Tuners on the hub, which is quite unfortunate. One quirk we ran into was with the Canon MP780 Printer. Occasionally (we weren't able to pinpoint when it would happen), a print job would result in a page full of nonsense characters. A simple disconnect and reconnect using the software fixed the issue.
Another quirk that I found was that the Belkin software doesn't always find the USB Hub, especially if you reboot your dynamic DHCP router. This may or may not be a result of my software firewall, but it can be easily remedied with a few firewall setting changes or by simply assigning an IP to the hub. Conclusion
Regardless of the minor quirks stated above, the Belkin F5L009 Network USB Hub is a great way to add USB devices to your existing network. It is a little pricier than buying a NAS enclosure (if you wanted to add an external USB hard drive to your network), but the benefit is that the F5L009 acts as a universal USB host hub, so that your computer thinks the hosted USB devices are actually directly connected locally. If bandwidth is a major issue for you, you may want to wait for a gigabit version (if they ever come out with one), as this device only supports 10/100 LAN connections. Image Gallery Price History