The Compaq USB and Firewire Hub combines a 4-port USB hub and 3-port Firewire hub into a single, small, convenient box which just happens to be about the same size as the mini. I’ve got mine stacked on top, connected with the supplied cable. I wish, considering my desired placement, that the cables were a little shorter but I guess many will use the hub as a way of extending the reach of their USB and Firewire cables.
The hub can work purely in bus powered mode, but you have to be careful about what you attach to that. Forget connecting up a iPod Shuffle for example; there isn’t enough juice to power the hub and charge the shuffle. Similarly, if all you do is connect one Firewire port to your Mini, then you might have enough power to charge an iPod, but don’t connect a second device and expect the same.
For better power performance, use the supplied power adaptor which provides a full 500mA to each USB port and full Firewire bus power for more effective high-power device use. In fact, I’m currently powering a wireless keyboard, iPod Shuffle, iSticks and a charger for my T68i mobile off the hub with no problems.
If I had one criticism, it’s the number of Firewire ports and the slightly misleading information on how many are actually available. The 4-port USB hub is just that; a type B cable connects to the hub and then provides four onward ports. But the Firewire really is just three ports; by the time you’ve added the cable from your Mini, you’ve got just two onward ports to play with. For those of you with an external hard drive, DVD burner and iPod this might be a limiting factor.
Incidentally, Compaq aren’t the only manufacturer of these little boxes. I have another non-name model which looks suspiciously familiar, but they all seem to be about the same size and number of ports. They do, of course, work with other machines, but the Mini is just crying out for a little box like this.