Category Archives: USB

Where Are The Desktop SSD’s?



Windows logo blueI have a Compaq desktop PC that’s a few years old that is handy for tasks such as doing taxes or writing articles with. Unfortunately, it came with Windows Vista. More than a year ago I installed an inexpensive 128 gigabyte SSD in it. The SSD sped things up dramatically to the point where Vista was actually usable. To be honest, apart from being a bit of a resource hog, Vista has been quite stable on this machine.

While doing my 2016 taxes I received an on-screen Microsoft notification warning me that the Vista “End of Life” date is April 11, 2017. That presented me with a dilemma. Should I pay for the upgrade to update the Compaq to Windows 10? Or, should I just replace the machine with a newer model that came with Windows 10 preinstalled?

If I were buying a new machine, I would insist on an SSD. Unfortunately, after a bit of looking, it seems that desktop computers with factory-installed SSD’s are as rare as hens teeth and if they are offered at all they tend to be on the pricey side.

The other problem is that the old LCD monitor that’s attached to the Compaq is VGA only. I would have to also have an HDMI to VGA adapter unless I wanted to replace a perfectly functional monitor.

PC manufacturers complain that PC’s just aren’t selling very well. Have they ever thought about the fact that the models they are offering for sale tend to be mediocre? How about offering a $500 desktop tower that has a reasonable processor, a reasonable amount of RAM, and a 128 or 256 SSD?

Is that too much to ask?

In my opinion the SSD offers one of the biggest performance boosts of any upgrade ever, and yet PC manufacturers seem to be mindlessly failing to utilize it to excite consumers with. I’m afraid it doesn’t make any sense. Why should the consumer get excited about machines slowly booting from spinning hard drives that offer performance that is, from a perception standpoint, not that much different from the Windows machines on sale in the same stores a decade ago?

The only excuse for the lack of SSD-equipped desktop PC’s that seems to be offered is that customers “expect” one terabyte or larger drives on which to store massive amounts of pictures, music, etc. I don’t know if that is true or not. Personally, I stopped storing my stuff on my computer hard drives starting upwards of three years ago. I use a network-attached, Internet-savvy Western Digital MyCloud drive to store all of my digital stuff on. I also employ multiple inexpensive large spinning drives as redundant back-up drives. All of my 8,000 plus pictures are additionally stored with Google Photos for instant access to every picture I’ve ever taken right from my phone. I use my computers as creation and manipulation tools and NOT as mass storage devices.

In the end, I opted to go the cheaper route and buy a copy of Windows 10. It came on a USB thumb drive. It installed just fine on the Compaq. Everything seems to work, with the exception of an old Canon scanner that Canon offers no Windows 10 driver for. The loss of the Canon scanner is not a problem since my HP all-in-one WiFi printer can handle any flatbed scanning needs I might have. It did a large Windows update, and I installed a couple of things such as Dropbox and TurboTax 2016. The Compaq won’t win any speed competitions, but it’s poised to continue to do chores such as taxes until October 14, 2025, Windows 10’s scheduled end of life date. By then it might be time for a new computer.


Choetech 50W 6-Port Desktop USB Charger Review



Choetech LogoIt’s a real first world problem – finding enough USB charging points to keep your gadgets powered up, especially for families with multiple phones and tablets. Fortunately there’s a solution in Choetech’s 6-port USB-A desktop charger which combines two QC 3 ports and four smart ports that will deliver up to 2.4 A for charging thirsty smart phones and tablets. Let’s take a look.

Choetech 50W 6 port charger

This is the Q3-4U2Q model and the packaging follows the standard Choetech style of branded outer sleeve with plain cardboard inner box. Inside the carton, there’s the 6-port charger, desktop stand, USB-A to USB-C cable, power cable, instructions and help sheet. The instructions are largely superfluous other than to confirm the charging voltages and currents for the USB ports.

Choetech 50W 6 port chargerTo be clear, the Q3-4U2Q is only a USB charger: it’s not a USB hub and won’t connect a mouse and keyboard to a PC. There are two Quick Charge 3.0 ports for devices that support the QC standard and will deliver the higher voltages required.The other four smart ports will charge up to 2.4 A at 5 V and the charger will deliver 50 W across all six ports. The tongue inside the QC ports is helpfully coloured blue and an LED lights up to show that the charger is powered on.

Physically, the charger is about the size of a fat pack of playing cards – it’s roughly 9 cm x 7 cm x 3 cm. The charger is covered in a soft rubber coating except for the back panel and a small area at the rear. There’s a figure 8 two pin power socket on the back. The Q3-4U2Q fits snugly into the desktop stand which does make it look much neater than if it was simply lying on the desk.

Choetech 50W 6 port chargerIn use, the Choetech charger performed as expected – devices seemed to charge at their maximum rate, whether that was 1 A, 2 A or QC, and was able to provide power to all the connected tablets and smartphones regardless. For transparency, I wasn’t able to test this with a QC 3 device but it worked fine with a Galaxy S6 (QC 2). At one point I had a OnePlus 2, two Nexus 9s, a Motorola Xoom 2, a Chromecast and a USB battery pack all running off the charger. It got a little warm at full pelt, but certainly wouldn’t describe it as hot.

Overall, the Choetech Q3-4U2Q is a competent six port charger with QC 3 support. While I liked design and feel of the charger, there’s no single feature to mark it out from the many competitors. QuickCharge support is good for the latest phones, the stand is handy for a desktop charger and it seemed well enough made, so it’s definitely worth considering. If interested, the Choetech Q3-4U2Q is currently for sale on Amazon for GB£20.99.

Thanks to Choetech for supplying the Q3-4U2Q for review.

 


Topop USB C to 3x USB A and LAN Adapter Review



The physical USB type A interface connector seems to have been around forever and to be fair, it’s had an impressive lifespan starting with USB 1.0 back in 1996. Since then, the communication standard has been updated several times and the connector is still very relevant with USB 3.1 which now sports transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

USB type C is the latest connector design providing high speed data comms in a neat reversible design. So neat that a couple of manufacturers have ultraportables with a single USB C port. No USB A, no ethernet, no video. Looks great but a pain in the port if there’s a pile of cables to plug in. Accessory makers have stepped in to address the problem and here we have the Topop USB C to three USB A 3.1 ports and RJ45 Gigabit LAN adapter.

As the unboxing video shows, the adapter arrives in plain packaging and it’s a fairly functional device: this isn’t brushed metal milled from a single block of aluminium to complement the MacBook. It’s a sturdy matte black plastic . In terms of ports, there are three USB 3.1 type A ports on the top and a Gigabit network port on the far end. A short cable terminates in a USB C plug.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Having three USB A ports and a network port is very useful on these minimalist devices. Who has a USB C memory stick? And there are always wireless dead-spots. The Topop adapter gets out of these predicaments.

However, I discovered quite quickly that the presence of a USB C socket on a device does not guarantee functionality, so check compatibility on the website and assume that the adapter only works with phones, tablets and laptops mentioned. Believe me, it doesn’t work with the OnePlus 2, 3 or Google Pixel C, but find a device that is compatible (Apple Macbook, Google Pixel Chromebook) and the adapter will work fine.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Priced just under GB£20, the adapter’s in the right price bracket for the features that it offers. There’s no doubt that the Topop is a handy gadget to throw in a bag for occasional use, though if I was looking for a dock-lite on my desk, I think I would pay more for a better match to my laptop. Of course, your aesthetic requirements may differ.

Thanks to GoldenSwing for providing the Topop USB C to USB A 3.1 and Gigabit LAN adapter.


Choetech 33W USB-C Car Charger Review



Choetech LogoGenerally USB car chargers fall into the dull but essential class of gadgets and with today’s power-hungry smartphones, they’re more essential than ever.  The market’s in a state of transition too, with new USB-C and various fast charging technologies vying for supremacy. On review here is Choetech’s 33W USB-C Car Charger (TC0002), which is a little misleading as the charger not only has USB-C, there’s a USB-A port too which supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. Let’s take a look.

Choetech Car Charger Box

The packaging is minimal with the TC0002 held in a plain cardboard box with the branding on a card slip cover. Inside the box there are only three things; the charger, some instructions and a help sheet. The charger is much as you’d expect with a short barrel for the 12V power socket which them morphs gently into a slightly rectangular face with the two USB ports. The design is pleasing and there’s a small blue LED located between the ports which lights up to show that there’s power. When inserted into the power socket, the charger protrudes by about two  centimetre, perhaps a little less – see the picture below of the charger installed in my car (yes, my car’s a little dusty).

Choetech Car Charger Install

The USB-C socket will supply 5V at 3A, and the USB-A sockets supports the Quick Charge voltages of 5V, 9V and 12V with output currents of (up to) 2.4A, 2.0A and 1.5A respectively. Obviously you need a QC supporting smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the higher charging rates and everything else will use their standard 5V rating.

Choetech Car Charger

I plugged in a range of different devices from a OnePlus 2 to Samsung S6 (which is only QC2) and Nexus tablets. All charged at what I would characterise as their fastest rate and it didn’t seem to matter to the charging whether there was one device or two plugged in.

In summary, the Choetech 33W car charger is the ideal car charger for those who need both USB-A and USB-C charging. The neat and unobtrusive design will fit neatly in most cars, I imagine, and the blue light is handy for locating the sockets in the dark. Currently on Amazon.co.uk for GB£10.99, it’s competitively priced too.

There’s an unboxing video below, but annoyingly there’s a pulsing background noise. Sorry.

Thanks to Choetech for supplying the charger for review.


Choetech USB-C Power Adaptors



Choetech LogoChoetech USB C chargersAs USB-C becomes more prevalent, it’s unsurprising to see non-OEM vendors start to produce power adaptors for this new standard. On review here are two Choetech USB-C power adaptors designed for the UK power sockets. No, I don’t know how to pronounce Choetech and their marketing rep was non-committal too, so I will leave that as a linguistic exercise for the reader.

First up the Choetech 3A Rapid Wall Charger that has a single USB-C port. Available in black, the TC0001 provides 3A at 5V from a reasonably compact unit though it protrudes around 4.8 cm from the socket. In use, the adaptor appeared to recharge my phone at the expected rate. Here’s an unboxing video for the charger and a USB-C cable.

Next is the Choetech 39W USB-C Power Adaptor. Again designed for UK sockets, this has two USB-A sockets top and bottom, and a USB-C port in the middle. There’s a small blue LED at the very top too. The TC0013 is bigger than the TC0001, extending about 5.4 cm from the socket which is unsurprising given the larger power output. The USB-C will provide 3A and the two USB-C powers will charge at 2.4A each. At full pelt, the charger did get warm but not so hot as to cause concern. Both the TC0001 and the TC0013 are CE marked which gives some level of safety reassurance.

The Choetech USB-C Fast Charger is available from Amazon for £13.99 and the 3 port Power Adaptor is £15.99. Both are worth considering if you are looking for a USB-C charger but I think I would go for the 3 port charger for that extra flexibility.

Thanks to Choetech for the supply of the review units.


ChargeHub at 2016 CES



chargehub-round-red-1Scott Ertz interviews Rock Smeja, vice president of operations for ChargeHub. They discuss the ChargeHub, which is a round 7 port USB charging hub. You can charge up to 7 USB devices simultaneously while being connected to one power source, either AC house current or and included automotive 12-volt adapter.

The ChargeHub is priced at $59.99 and is available at many different retailers such as Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, etc. The ChargeHub value pack, which includes USB cables and the 12-volt car adapter is priced at $89.99.

The ChargeHub is designed to communicate with many different types of devices and has high enough wattage that it can adapt to charging as fast as any particular device can accept a charge.

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Griffin BreakSafe Magnetic USB C Power Cable



Griffin LogoMagnetic power couplings are a godsend for the clumsy and accident prone, snapping away under stress and preventing physical damage to cables, connector and laptops. Owners of new USB C devices, such as the latest Apple MacBrook or Google Pixel, have had limited choice up to now but at CES, accessories outfit Griffin announced a new BreakSafe magnetic USB C power cable. Available from April for US$39.99, it’s pricey compared with a standard USB C cable, but think of the magnetic coupling as an investment in protection for your expensive laptop.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Griffin iMic for USB C



Griffin LogoGriffin’s iMic has been a long term favourite with those who need 3.5 mm audio jacks on USB-only PCs and laptops. With a USB A plug on one end, and two audio sockets on the other, it does the job of converting audio brilliantly.

But with new MacBooks now only sporting USB C sockets, it was inevitable that Griffin would bring out a new version of the iMic with a USB C connector and here it is. Available in Q2 2016 for US$44.99, Daniel chats with Jackie from Griffin to find out more about the latest iteration of this great gadget.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Tegstove Camping Stove Cooks and Powers



British Inventors ProjectThe Tegstove is a portable gas stove that cooks food, powers gadgets and recharges its battery. Displayed at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Tegstove uses thermoelectric generator technology to generate energy from widely available clean burning butane gas.

The Tegstove is the perfect solution for campers and hikers who are well off the beaten track and want to keep their GPS charged or power LED lights at night. As its primary function the Tegstove burns butane gas to cook food or heat water. As a secondary function, electrical energy is generated from the difference in temperature between the hot of the burner and the cold of the gas cylinder. The electricity can be used either to power a device plugged into the USB port or to charge the Tegstove’s internal battery.

Up close this is a beautifully designed product with great attention detail which I sincerely hope will carry through into the retail product.

Tegstove

The Tegstove is on pre-order at CrowdShed for £69 if you get in quick, which I think is a bargain. I don’t even camp and I want one!


Popcord Keyring Charging Cable



British Inventors ProjectOne of the few “tech” products at the British Inventors Project, the Popcord is a short USB charging cable which loops back on itself to hang on a keyring. As it’s on your keyring, you never leave it behind so any time your phone needs a charge, the Popcord is on hand.

Elegantly made from metal to complement the latest mobile devices, it’s available in six colours and two variants, one USB to micro-USB and the other USB to Lightning for Apple owners.

Popcord

It’s on pre-order at GB£29 or a little under US$42.50 and is expected to ship shortly.