Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and FireWire 6-Port Hub for Mac mini
I love my Mac mini, except for one thing: its paucity of USB and FireWire ports. It has just one FireWire port, which means that if I want to connect more than one FireWire device, I have to daisy-chain them – assuming those devices offer multiple FireWire ports themselves. And with only two USB ports, once I've plugged in my keyboard, I'm down to one port for peripherals (and USB devices generally don't provide multiple ports for daisy-chaining).
There are dozens of decent hubs on the market, but I don't want to spoil the Mac mini's attractive design and small footprint with a less stylish accessory. So I was pleased to discover Belkin's £35 Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and FireWire 6-Port Hub for Mac mini. The Belkin hub matches the Mac mini in every way. It has the same footprint as the mini, so it fits directly underneath it without taking up additional desk space; at 2cm tall, it doesn't add a lot of bulk; and it's finished in white plastic, so it looks right at home.
The hub connects to your Mac mini's FireWire port and one of its USB ports via included cables. Belkin got the details right – the cables are 6-inches long, just long enough to connect your mini to the hub without adding to your cable clutter. The hub provides four USB 2.0 ports (a net increase of three) and two FireWire 400 ports (a net increase of one), so you end up with five available USB ports instead of two and two available FireWire ports instead of one. Even better, the hub has one of each type of port located on its front, so connecting devices such as digital cameras, DV camcorders, flash drives, iPod shuffles and portable hard drives is much more convenient.
One significant drawback to Belkin's Hub for Mac mini is that, unlike some other USB or FireWire hubs, it doesn't provide its own power – any devices plugged into the hub get their power from your Mac mini's USB and FireWire ports. In my experience, powered hubs help prevent problems with devices that draw too much power, so I generally prefer self-powered hubs to bus-powered models. That said, in a few months of using the Belkin hub, I haven't experienced a single problem.
Although the hub solves one problem – the lack of ports on the mini – it doesn't solve the problems of extra storage. Iomega offers a solution for that with its MiniMax hard drive, which incorporates additional FireWire and USB 2.0 ports. It's reviewed on page 63, and is worth thinking about if your mini is getting full of music or photos.
At £35, Belkin's Hub for Mac mini is a bit pricey compared with other USB hubs, but it gives you an extra FireWire port and a simple design that matches your mini perfectly. If you don't need an extra FireWire port, Belkin also makes a USB-only model, the £24 Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Hub for Mac mini, which plugs into one of your Mac mini's USB ports and provides four ports.