Most powered USB buses fry their chips when you plug in too many amp eaters.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


A cure for overworked USB: A hub with 28 ports

April 7, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Like many of you, I have too many USB devices, but I don't want to get rid of any of them.

I have too many printers, too many external hard drives, too many scanners -- as my wife says, what's wrong with me? -- and too many odds and ends: A USB radio receiver, a USB HD TV time-shifting recorder, two (count 'em!) USB audio headphone amplifiers, a USB analog-to-digital converter for making MP3s from my old cassette tapes, a USB analog-to-digital video converter for my old VHS family videos, a USB microphone and a USB keyboard light. And of course a USB mouse, a USB keyboard and an external USB DVD burner along with an external USB Blu-Ray burner.

What's a crazy person like me to do?

Obviously, all those USB thingamabobs won't plug into my laptop or my tower at the same time. Each one only takes two USB cables at a time. I once had a half-dozen powered USB buses of various vintages cobwebbed together, but all of them failed me at one time or another when the chips -- the voltage regulators inside the buses -- were down.

Powered USB buses have to provide 5 volts, and most of the good ones put out 5.2 volts just for good measure. That's good.

But, as you learn in high school, volts are just half the story. That's where the bad news comes in.

Voltage is like pressure in your garden hose. You can get a lot of pressure to reach the daffodils on the other side of the yard just by sticking your thumb over most of the end of the hose. But there is no substitute for amps -- for the flow of electrons (or water, as your hose would tell you if it could speak). And most powered USB buses fry their chips when you plug in too many amp eaters.

Like I did. I have five little external hard drives, each one the size of a wallet. They're cheap because they don't have any power supplies. They get their power from -- you guessed it -- the USB cable. Plug three or four of these into any normal powered USB bus and the bus will die -- sometimes slowly, over a few months, and sometimes in an instant. The bus just can't supply enough amps to run those drives.

So after learning the lesson taught by Andre-Marie Ampere and his principle of electrical flow, or rather after relearning it two or three times, I realized I needed a much bigger, better and more serious powered bus. I needed a monster.

My search didn't take long. I found the Manhattan MondoHub, with 28 powered USB ports. You didn't read that wrong. The hub has 28 USB ports, each one fully powered and numbered. They're all lit by a blue glow in each connector, too.

I bought the Manhattan MondoHub from Amazon for less than $60. All the ports are compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0, and four of them also work with USB 3. All you do is plug the power supply into a wall jack and connect your USB cables to the MondoHub. (Buy an extra printer-style USB cable if you don't have one handy; the Mondo doesn't come with one. You'll need it to plug your computer into the bus.)

I don't have everything possible plugged into the Mondo yet -- a guy can only do so much before he runs out of excuses to avoid doing the dishes -- and I still have a few ports left. I saw a cute USB speaker at Walmart the other day. Time to go shopping.