Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Hub
At a Glance
When we reviewed Apple's own iPod shuffle accessories (http://playlistmag.com/reviews/2005/04/shuffleaddons/index.php), my colleague Christopher Breen was justifiably harsh on Apple's iPod shuffle Dock. It's an attractive accessory that makes it easy to "dock" your iPod shuffle for charging/syncing, but since it's really just a glorified USB extension cord, the $29 price tag seems quite high -- you can get a basic extension cable for a few bucks (or for free with many USB keyboards). By comparison, Belkin's $30 -- and poorly named (at least for iPod shuffle users, who might not think to check it out unless someone points them to it) -- Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Hub is a bargain.
About the size of a large Klondike bar (3.25" square x 1" high), the silver and white Hub is exactly what its name describes: a four-port, USB 2.0 hub. An included AC adapter provides power to all four ports (you can connect up to two devices without the adapter, though it won't charge a shuffle without it), and an included USB Type A-to-Type B cable connects the hub to any free USB port on your computer. But what makes the Belkin hub unique is that it's clearly designed as an iPod shuffle accessory: Although three of the USB ports are on located on the back of the hub, the fourth is positioned right smack in the center of the top, thus making it a handy "dock" for the shuffle.
The gloss white top of the Belkin Hub doesn't match the iPod shuffle perfectly, and the bottom doesn't have a non-slip base like Apple's own shuffle Dock, but for basically the same price as Apple's accessory, you get a "dock" as well as as three additional USB 2.0 ports -- and the entire package requires only a slightly larger footprint on your desk. It's an easy choice to make, in my opinion.--Dan Frakes