Recently Sitecom sent over their XC-045 USB 2.0 Express Card for me to have a gander at and test with the MacBook Pro.
The good news is that it works, is compact, and seems to flawlessly support plug and play even with a host of USB devices connected.
The better news is that, as it offers 4 USB ports and doesn’t require an independent power supply it makes a really clean and simple pseudo laptop dock for the MacBook Pro and, indeed, other laptops.
The only downside is that it doesn’t do DVI, but hooking up just the Power, ExpressCard and a DVI cable to get your laptop up and running on a TV is an approximation of simple.
Obviously if you want to keep a set of speakers on your desk and don’t want to have to mess about plugging in the 3.5mm jack plugs you can also pick up a USB audio adaptor. This, combined with a USB desktop mouse and keyboard, and perhaps an external USB hard drive for good measure gives you control, storage and sound through one ExpressCard… and you’ve still got the two USB ports free (if you’re on a MacBook Pro, at least) to connect USB storage, cameras, iPods, iPhones and all manner of other devices.
Okay, so it’s not the perfect dock for the MacBook Pro, but it combines all your USB devices into one tidy ExpressCard connector and keeps them handy on your desk should you need to unplug anything.
Use as a dock aside, the ExpressCard is the best option for adding more USB ports to your laptop when on the go. If you, for some reason, need to connect more than 2 USB devices without a readily available source of mains power then a USB hub, that’ll likely need a separate power supply, isn’t exactly the best choice. Finally, with an ExpressCard there’s no USB->USB or USB->Mini USB cable to lose or forget.
The downside to the XC-045 USB 2.0 Express Card is that it protrudes a fair way from the side of any laptop and thus means you will almost certainly have to remove it to use a fitted protective case. The same applies to a USB hub, however, so it would be unfair to count this against the XC-045 because USB ports are just too big to fit seamlessly inside an ExpressCard slot.
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