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This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge - can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

For the last of my current batch of 1 Pound Challenge products 1 I have the Livewire USB Hub (with 4 ports). Costing £1 from PoundWorld, this is a blue, translucent plastic hub which has a male USB connector on on end and then bulges out to house 4 females connections. Plug this into the side of a laptop or into a PC and it will convert a single port into 4.

As well as the hub itself you also get a 40cm USB extension cable, in case you cannot plug the hub directly into a port (surrounding connectors, for example, may not allow it).

The hub has 5 green LEDs in it – one for each of the USB connectors (i.e. 1 for the male socket and the remaining 4 for the female connectors at the other end).

So far, so good. Unfortunately, in use there are 4 big problem areas.

1. Build Quality

The plastic case around the male port has come unglued and doesn’t hold together well. As a result the whole circuit board, and the attached USB ports move around inside the case when in use. I’d have put this down as a one-off duff broken one if I hadn’t read reviews elsewhere of people having similar case issues.

Additionally, the USB extension cable has a rubber surround on each of the ends. This appears to be some poor quality rubber which already feels as if its degrading – it doesn’t bode well for any longer term usage.

2. It’s USB 1

Yes, that’s right, with USB 3 on the market and pretty much nothing these days is USB 1, they’ve somehow managed to sneak a USB 1 product out. That means anything connected to it will be slooowwww.

I don’t know if it’s only the device and not the cables that can be USB 1 or 2, but certainly using the cable I had no issues connecting up USB 2 devices.

3. Those LEDs!

The thing about USB hubs is that, unless they have their own power supply 2 you’re dividing up an already meagre power source – USB devices often struggle when plugging into hubs. That 5v supply is now down to, potentially, 1.25v per socket. However, with 4 LEDs lit that’s even less. The thing is, those LEDs are completely useless. All 5 come on when you plug it in and they don’t appear to do anything other than look pretty, yet, zapping what little power you did have.

4. Poor hardware support

I tried a couple of USB keys and really struggled to get any of them to be recognised – again reading other online reviews of this product backs this up as many other people have found them to be a hit-and-miss affair.

So all-in-all a pretty poor effort and a shame – for anyone wishing to enhance the number of USB connections they had this would have been ideal but all of those downsides above really mean that I can recommend this product.

The packaging shows the product is from ITP Imports, which shares an address with PoundWorld. ITP Imports have been in the news in the past for some suspect pregnancy testing kits and have to withdrawn dangerous items from sale (their “Deadly Dinosaurs” range turning out to be just that).

[review]USB 1, seems to be dodgy at recognising hardware, poor build quality and zaps whatever power you may have wanted for your device on lighting unnecessary LEDs. Best left on the shelf.[/review]
  1. Yes, I need to find the time to head off to a major city and mooch around the pound shops for more products![]
  2. which is what I choose for all my own hubs[]