Startech 2 Port USB 3.0 54mm ExpressCard
This expansion card is designed to fit into a 54mm ExpressCard slot and will add 2 USB 3.0 ports to your existing laptop at a very reasonable price. Included in the box is the USB 3.0 ExpressCard, the driver CD, the manual and a USB power cable. The card feels solidly built and is backed by a 2 year warranty and includes lifetime technical support should anything go wrong.
The driver CD (the software needed for the laptop to recognize the card) included is one of those smaller size mini format CD’s and may not work in your CD drive ( why do manufacturers still do this!).
This isn’t a problem as you will need to download the newest driver from the Startech website anyway.
The practical flush mount USB design
Unlike some of the 34mm ExpressCards, this card is flush mounted and in most cases comes very close to sitting flush to the side of the laptop.
It does poke out slightly on some laptops but considering laptops come in all shapes and sizes, Startech have done a very good job in making the card sit as level as is possible. Once slotted in correctly you can safely carry around your laptop without worrying about the card falling out or getting caught on something.
Different laptops vary and some slots will be quite a tight fit whereas others will be just right.
You will now get USB 3.0 transfer speeds of up to 10 times faster than your existing USB 2.0 ports. This is great for doing backups on your laptop, video editing and even gaming.
Be careful when removing cables
Laptop ExpressCard slots are designed so that expansion cards click in and out of place. When inserting the card make sure to push it in fully so that it clicks into place, otherwise you may find that it slides out when unplugging devices connected to it.
The card is intended to be left in the laptop and so can be a bit fiddly to remove. On most laptops it can be removed using the push release click method of the slot.
This card does have a tendency to inadvertently slide out when taking out the USB cable(s) and is the only real negative point we found. The card is not to blame however, the problem is the spring loaded mechanism of ExpressCard slots on all laptops.
The issue can be resolved quite easily by simply using your finger to stop the card ejecting when pulling out the cable(s).
Optional power cable solves power issues
The generous spacing between the ports allows even wide USB devices to be plugged in with ease and is the kind of quality that we have come to expect from StarTech. The DC power connector In between the 2 ports is plugged into a spare USB port via the included power cable.
We found this an excellent solution should you need more power especially for bus powered USB 3.0 devices.
With the extra power cable plugged in, 2 external hard drives can be used simultaneously without any problems.
This is where this card stands apart from other cheaper cards and really justifies it’s higher price. Other cards suffer from various problems like laptops blue screening, ‘power surge on hub’ errors, hanging on restart and lower than expected transfer speeds.
These issues are mostly caused by a lack of power and the ability to add extra power when needed is what makes this card work so well. It should be noted that the majority of devices all work without the need for extra power, it’s only some power hungry bus powered devices that demand more juice.
Majority of laptops and systems supported
The card is compatible with all laptops that include an ExpressCard slot interfacing directly with the motherboard. Any laptops supporting ExpressCard 2.0, will get data transfer speeds of 5 Gbps, older slots however, will only be able to transfer half that speed of 2.5 Gbps. That’s still 5 times faster than USB 2.0 and is still invaluable in speeding up data transfers on older laptops.
The following operating systems are supported:
- Windows 7 – make sure you download and install the updated drivers from the StarTech website.
- Windows 8 – no driver install is needed.
- LInux – On most linux distros like Ubuntu and Arch, this card will run out of the box.
If you have a Windows 8 laptop, you can take advantage of the built in UASP support included with this card. UASP improves the way data is transferred by up to 70% (read speeds) and 40% (write speeds). This is achieved by special drivers bundled with Windows 8. The latest Linux kernel also supports UASP and so in theory should improve transfer speeds.
UASP hard drive enclosures can be paired with solid state drives to take advantage of UASP.
So what’s our verdict?
Well, we think this card is pretty impressive; it gives an old laptop a new lease of life at an affordable price. It’s easy to install, just pop in the card and install the drivers if required.
Through the ExpressCard expansion slot you get 2 extra USB 3.0 ports that are plugged directly into your laptop’s motherboard. The clever flush design makes the card part of your laptop and not just an ugly add-on hanging off the side.
We would definately recommend this card for those looking to add USB 3.0 functionality to their old laptop while gaining 2 extra ports.