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article imageReview: The Inateck HB4009 'Magic Hub' is one unique USB expansion

By James Walker     May 6, 2015 in Technology
Most USB hubs have a very simple purpose. They allow you to add more USB ports to your computer by connecting a dongle to one of the existing ports. The Inateck HB4009 has some rather different functionality though including clipboard and mouse sharing.
The HB4009 has only just launched worldwide. It is a small unit and is designed for portable use. With that said, top-mounted USB ports mean it could quite happily sit on a desk and be used to charge phones or quickly plug in a memory stick without reaching down to your computer.
It feels well-built with a durable design. The USB cable is thick and protected from any sharp objects in bags and the unit doesn't flex under pressure. I am not a big fan of the grey unit that I have got though. The design is a lot less attractive than that of other Inateck products that I have been reviewing recently. I will say that the brushed metal around the USB ports is very nice but in my personal opinion the hard, grey plastic constructing the bulk of the device is rather unsightly.
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with  Magic  port
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with "Magic" port
The hub has three USB 3.0 ports on the top that you can connect your devices to. At first glance, this may seem a little meagre - after all, some hubs have as many as 10 ports. The HB4009 isn't just designed for connecting more peripherals to a computer though as it can be used to connect two different computers together.
This is achieved by a "magic" port at the end of the hub. This unique USB 3.0 port is very different from other offerings and I have never seen anything like it before. It is worth noting that the same functionality as the "magic" port can be achieved with wireless programs though.
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with  Magic  port
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with "Magic" port
The magic port can be connected to Windows and Mac computers as well as Android phones. The second device is connected to the magic port on the hub. The hub is then connected as normal to your first computer.
Once setup - and after quite a lengthy driver installation - it allows you to transfer files between two devices which could be very useful when you have no network connection.
The interface of the included software isn't the most attractive but the functionality definitely worked. I tested it between my computer and laptop and it worked well.
In truthfulness, I was more excited about the other key feature of the magic port though. File transfer is useful but I tend to use network shares to access files on all my devices rather than digging out a wired dongle. I have no doubt that other people will enjoy this feature however.
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with  Magic  port
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with "Magic" port
I was pleased to find that the HB4009 has another trick up its hypothetical sleeve. The magic port not only facilitates easy file transfers but also the ability to share a mouse and the contents of a computer's clipboard between devices.
I know that there are great wireless alternatives to this available because I have used them extensively in the past. Synergy is free and designed to do exactly what the HB4009 does and I know it works because I used it daily for several months. Synergy has one major issue though: The mouse can sometimes lag on the second computer due to network interference or just a slow response. The way around it is to connect the computers with a wired Ethernet connection but at this point you may as well just use the HB4009. I was interested to see how this would compare, especially as the hub promises mouse sharing with Android devices - something that Synergy cannot do.
Unfortunately, I couldn't test this feature with a phone though. Being a devoted Windows user, my only Android device is an ancient (and ruined) HTC Desire S, which doesn't support USB OTG.
Still, I tried it with my laptop again. Connect the magic port to the laptop and it can receive access to the mouse on the computer. It worked well and the mouse moved smoothly across both displays. The experience was very similar to Synergy over a wired connection and I felt as though both devices were keeping in sync with each other well.
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with  Magic  port
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with "Magic" port
I can see the Inateck HB4009 being a really useful product to many people. If you want file transfer, extra USB ports and even mouse sharing while on the go, this is definitely for you. I can also see it being appreciated in an office for using two devices together or as a simple desktop phone charger.
There are only a few negatives. I don't like the design and colour choice of the unit although of course this is subjective and you may disagree. Additionally, I feel that the fixed USB cable going out from the hub to your primary computer could have been a bit longer. At its present length, the HB4009 can only be really be used with a computer's front-facing USB ports, although this does help with portability.
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with  Magic  port
The Inateck HB4009 USB hub with "Magic" port
In the UK, the hub currently costs £25.99 on Amazon, down from £49.99. It is launching today in the US for $29.99 but will cost $49.99 full price. Given the extra functionality, I think that the price is roughly reasonable if you are looking for something that allows you to share your mouse, clipboard and files between computers as well as expanding your roster of always useful USB 3.0 ports.
More about inateck, Usb, Port, hub, Expansion
 
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