If your laptop is like mine and pre-dates USB 3 but you want to use USB 3 devices at their full speed, then you might be interested in the Buffalo USB 3.0 Interface ExpressCard (IFC-EC2U3/UC). It’s an ExpressCard/34 size device, with two USB 3.0 ports on the side. The card will also plug into in ExpressCard/54 slot. If needed for bus-powered devices, there’s a auxiliary power lead to provide extra power to the card which connects from a standard USB port to a DC in socket on the side of the card.
Installation was simple – run the install CD, follow the prompts, insert card, job done.
The socket housing sticks out from the socket a couple of centimetres which is a bit inconvenient if you move your laptop around but that’s the price of two USB 3 sockets in the ExpressCard/34 size. If you need an adaptor that fits entirely into the socket, you’ll need to have an ExpressCard/54 size adaptor or go with only one USB 3 socket.
For USB 3, I had a Buffalo MiniStation on test – more on this in a later review. With the MiniStation I was able to get write speeds of about 285 Mb/s and 430 Mb/s on read. This was using Totusoft’s LAN Speed Test v2. I was a little disappointed with these speeds initially, but I then ran the Speed Test on another 2.5″ external HDD I had lying around and it struggled to make 100 Mb/s. So not so bad after all and, of course, your mileage may vary according to your particular configuration.
I did have one minor problem and this is more to do with the design of the ExpressCard slot in my laptop rather than this particular device. It was all too easy to pull out the card from the slot when trying to unplug a USB device – you have to hold onto the card with one hand and unplug the USB cable with the other.
Backwards compatibility with USB 2 was fine. I tried a wireless mouse, a memory stick and an external hard disk drive. All worked fine, albeit at USB 2 speeds. Slightly interestingly, the USB 2 external hard drive had exactly the same performance whether it was connected into the laptops USB 2 ports or the ExpressCard.
Overall, if you need to add USB 3 to your laptop the Buffalo USB 3.0 Interface ExpressCard appears to be solid contender.
RRP is £39.99 but may be available cheaper. Photos below.