Lyonsden Blog

Tag - USB

Retro 3 Port USB Cassette Hub Review

I spotted this little USB Cassette hub on social media over Christmas and thought it looked cool so had a look around to pick one up for myself. After some searching I found one on Amazon and for the price I couldn’t resist taking a punt.

 

Packaging

The Packaging

 

It arrived in a plain black box with no indication of what was inside at all. Inside the box there’s what at first glance appears to be a standard looking cassette in a transparent library case along with a micro-USB cable.

 

USB Cassette Package Contents

Package Contents

 

Opening up the case reveals a ‘C90 Cassette’ styled very much like a tape from the 1970’s or 80’s.

 

USB Cassette Hub

USB Cassette Hub in library case

 

Look a little closer though and you start to see that things are not as they first seem. For example, the centre view window where you would normally see the tape spools is merely a sticker. However the two spools are real and can actually be freely rotated. Perfect for reliving your youth by inserting a Bic pen and twirling it around like madman!

 

USB Cassette Hub

Looks can be deceiving!

 

If you flip the cassette over you also notice that both sides are labelled as ‘Side 1’. Perhaps with a little more effort that could have been remedied but that’s a minor niggle.

 

USB Cassette Hub

Side by side comparison with a regular cassette tape.

 

The shell itself is the exact same shape and size as a regular cassette with the main difference being that where the tape transport holes usually lives there are now three USB sockets. There are also no holes for the capstan spindles.

 

USB Cassette Hub

USB Cassette Hub placed on top of a real cassette tape. I thought the way the 3 ports are perfectly aligned with the tape transport holes of the original was a nice touch.

 

Along the top where you might expect to find a write-protect tab there is a micro-USB socket for connecting the hub to your computer using the supplied cable.

 

USB Cassette Hub

No plastic tabs to snap off (or tape over) here. Just a micro USB port.

 

The J card is completely blank – I think they missed a trick here and could have had a nice cover image for the hub and printed the instructions inside in the form of an album listing. That’s a little project I will probably do myself on a rainy Sunday afternoon…

 

Case

The case is just a regular old transparent library case with a blank J card.

 

Instead of a printed J-card there is a small fold-out guide that gives brief specs and some warnings.

 

USB Cassette Hub Instructions

Minimalist instructions.

 

Specifications

In terms of specs it’s positively ancient, supporting only USB 1.1. However, given it’s a retro styled hub it kind of makes sense that the hardware it houses also dates back to the late 1990’s!

 

USB Cassette Hub

Another comparison with an old tape.

 

Manufacturer specs:

  • 3 Port USB 1.1 Hub
  • Supports OHCI and UCHI
  • 1.5Mbps – 12Mbps
  • Includes mini USB cable
  • Rated 5V DC

Thankfully USB 1.1 is perfectly fine for the likes of keyboards and mice which makes it a terrific accessory to use with TheC64 Mini and Maxi machines when you need a few extra USB ports.

 

Putting it to good use

 

Cassette Hub working with TheC64 Mini, 2 joysticks and a USB drive.

 

In addition to USB keyboards and mice I found it also worked perfectly with both my TheC64 Mini and Maxi joysticks and my mini USB drive. Great news if I want to play any 2 player games that aren’t on the built in carousel.

 

Cassette Hub working with TheC64 Mini

 

I also tested it with my TheC64 Maxi and it worked just as well. However with 4 built-in USB ports on the Maxi it’s not really necessary. Still, it’s nice to know it’s an option in the future.

 

Cassette Hub working with TheC64 Maxi

 

Just for kicks I tested the hub out on my PC by transferring a few files across to a USB flash drive. It worked but was very slow – maxing out at a pretty measly 2.77MB/s. Of course this wouldn’t be much of an issue if I was just transferring a few games across to play on TheC64 Mini.

 

PC file transfer speed graph

Testing out the transfer speed on my PC.

 

Verdict

This is a super little device to use with a TheC64 Mini and gives you an extra 2 ports overall. (One of the built-in ports is taken up by the hub). It looks really cool and very nostalgic and compliments TheC64 mini perfectly. The extra ports allow you to hook up a USB keyboard and use a flash drive for extra games along with a joystick or two. This simply isn’t possible without the use of a hub. Sure you could get a modern USB 3 hub but where’s the fun in that!

I can’t recommend it for everyday PC use… it’s just far too slow as you’d expect from a USB1.1 device. But for less than a fiver I think it’s a great little device for retro gaming and sure to put a smile on your face when you use it. An added bonus is that it stores neatly away in a cassette rack when not in use!