A-Byte USB/FireWire Controller Review

Admin - 2007-01-28 20:10:56 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: March 4, 2007
A-Byte
GF City Computers
Price: 39.99

Introduction:



You run out of 'space' and you are left needing more - it happens all the time. This can apply to storage space, as well as plug space. In this instance, it applies to USB/Firewire. I found myself constantly unplugging things to make room, or to use other USB devices. This set me to looking for a way to expand my USB capabilities and I discovered A-Byte - a seemingly generic manufacture of interface cards. I discovered that A-Byte make a USB/Firewire card that seemed to fit the bill. GF City Computers was kind enough to provide a sample to review and when poking around on the internet I was actually unable to find a homepage, or much reference to A-Byte, so I cannot provide you with much of a background on the company. It seems as if the company is flying 'under the radar', so to speak. I just hope that this card will perform decently, as I was unable to find much reference to the company, or their history.

Closer Look:






This card comes packed in a relatively plain box, with the company name and some card specifications printed on it. Upon opening the box, there is a disk that comes with some courtesy software (Ulead Video Studio 8), as well as the card itself in an anti-static bag. Pretty simple. However, the card was not packed that securely, as it moved around a lot in the box. It would have been nice to see a piece of foam, or something to make sure it was nice and snug.




Installation:



Installing this card is as simple as it gets. Pop open your case, and insert the card into an empty PCI slot. Windows will auto detect it, so no need to install any drivers this time (older versions of Windows may require drivers from the disc). Plug your USB devices into the card and away you go.

Testing:



For testing this, I will be comparing transfer speeds on the card with the speeds of the onboard USB. I will also check to see if there is a limit of voltage that the card can supply. I will do this by running 4 high-draw USB devices plugged into the card at the same time. I do not have any Firewire devices, so I will be unable to test the Firewire aspect of this card.

Test Setup
AMD 3700+
DFI SLI-DR
2 x 1 GB Mushkin Redline
Windows XP Pro SP2

I couldn’t really find any software that would test the transfer speeds between devices and I used a Sandisk Cruzer Titanium 512Mb for initial testing. I tested the transfer rate between the two with a 250Mb file, using the built-in Windows drag and drop feature to accomplish this.



I was surprised by the closeness of the tests. I did not have a way to test the burst speeds, but I can safely assume that the burst speeds were nearly identical to the onboard speeds.

Next on the agenda was to test the unit with 4 high draw devices. For this, I chose the Logitech Orbit web camera, Razer Krait mouse, HP DeskJet 9800 Printer and a Coolit USB Beverage Chiller. I ran into no errors with any of these devices when they where all running from the same card, which was a bit of a surprise for me - I thought for sure that these devices would have caused an overload on the card.

Conclusion:



Overall, I would say that this card is a solid performer. If you happen to come across one of these cards and you are looking for some extra USB ports, then scoop one of these up (assuming the price is right). From a company that I cannot find much information about, this is defiantly a solid performing card. For additional USB/Firewire ports, you do not need a fancy card - this is just a barebones card that does what it was designed to do, with no extra goodies (apart from the software). I know now that I will be keeping my eyes peeled for other products from A-Byte.

Pros

Easy to install
Fast setup
Minimal speed loss
High current

Cons

Cheap packaging
No instructions