Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard Review

by Reads (73,548)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Easy and affordable way to add USB 3.0 ports
    • Faster than USB 2.0
  • Cons

    • Slower than native USB 3.0 ports
    • Requires power adapter for USB 3.0 speed
    • Drivers not available on Aluratek website

Quick Take

If you own an old notebook with an ExpressCard slot and want to add two USB 3.0 ports to it then this is a good solution.


If you’re like most laptop owners, you might be interested in the latest super-fast USB 3.0 external hard drives, but don’t have USB 3.0 ports on your notebook. Aluratek comes to the rescue with an adapter that brings USB 3.0 to your old laptop. Keep reading to find out more.

For those of you who are reading this and don’t have any idea what USB 3.0 is or why it’s important, USB 3.0 is the latest USB standard (backwards compatible with all of the USB 1.1 and 2.0 accessories you already own) that offers significantly faster data transfer speeds when connected to USB 3.0 devices.

How much faster? Well the maximum theoretical transfer speed of USB 2.0 (the “old” USB ports on your current laptop) is 480Mbps (Megabits per second). In theory, installing Aluratek’s new USB 3.0 ExpressCard will allow you to increase your data transfer rates up to 5Gbps (Gigabits per second), which is roughly 10 times faster than USB 2.0.

Yes, you might be able to save that file to an external hard drive in one tenth the amount of time it takes to do it with your old USB port and old hard drive.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that you need to have both a USB 3.0 port on your computer as well as a USB 3.0 device (such as an external hard drive or USB 3.0 flash drive) to get these faster speeds. That said, getting work done in a fraction of the time it used to take is a fantastic thing.

Features and Specification of the Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard

  • Model: AUEC100F
  • Interface: ExpressCard slot
  • USB: 2 x USB 3.0
  • Data Rates: up to 5Gbps
  • Operating Systems: Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Supports Bus power (100mA max/port) or 900mA max / port with external power adapter
  • Limited 1 Year Warranty
  • MSRP: $49.99

Build and Design
There isn’t much you can say about the build and design of an ExpressCard adapter. Well, for starters, I should point out that this is an ExpressCard/34 device and not an Expresscard/54. That means it fits into any ExpressCard slot regardless of whether your laptop has a slot on the side, which is 54mm wide, or if your laptop has one of the smaller slots that is only 34mm wide. If you don’t have an ExpressCard slot on your laptop (and some don’t) you can stop reading this review now.

The Aluratek USB 3.0 Expresscard (AUEC100F) is a sturdy combination of metal and plastic that feels durable enough to survive being carried in a laptop bag along with various other accessories and should survive if someone accidentally knocks it while it’s sticking out of your notebook’s ExpressCard slot.

Like every USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter we’ve seen, the Aluratek AUEC100F doesn’t sit flush with the outside edge of the card slot. That’s because of the large “box” that contains the two USB 3.0 ports as well as the connection for the external power supply.

What was that? An external power supply? Yes. All USB 3.0 ExpressCard Adapters require an external power supply if they are going to deliver the higher speeds and higher power consumption required by the USB 3.0 ports. The ExpressCard slot in your notebook can only supply 1.5 V or 3.3 V of power while true USB 3.0 ports need to support 4.4 V to 5.25 V. This is why USB 3.0 ports are not only faster, but they can charge USB devices like iPods and smartphones faster than an older USB 2.0 port.

You don’t have to use the external power supply, but if you don’t plug it in, then the adapter only delivers USB 2.0 speeds (more on that in our next section).

The only other thing I’ll mention in this section is that you’ll need to hold onto the installation CD-ROM that comes in the package with the adapter. At the time of this writing, the software drivers for the USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter are not available on the Aluratek website and the adapter will not function properly without the drivers.


Performance and Benchmarks
At the end of the day, the single biggest reason to buy a USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter is speed. If you’re just looking for extra USB ports, then there are cheaper USB hubs and ExpressCard adapters on the market that support only the USB 2.0 standard. The reason you might spend more for the Aluratek AUEC100F is the promise of “SuperSpeed” USB.

Does this ExpressCard deliver the goods? Well, the answer is yes and no.

All ExpressCard to USB 3.0 adapters suffer from the same power and data bottleneck issues. What this means for average consumers is that these devices can indeed deliver a significant speed boost over your laptop’s existing USB 2.0 ports, but it is not as fast as a “native” USB 3.0 port which is already built into a newer laptop.  Let’s take a look at how this particular adapter performs with the CrystalDiskMark data transfer tests:


Iomega 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive via USB 2.0

Iomega External SSD Flash Drive via USB 2.0

Iomega 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive via USB 3.0

Iomega External SSD Flash Drive via USB 3.0

Iomega 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive via
Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard Adapter

Iomega External SSD Flash Drive via
Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard Adapter

In case the data shown above is confusing, our lab tests show that USB 3.0 has a bit of trouble pushing its extremely high read and write speeds over the ExpressCard interface. The Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard Adapter clearly provides a MUCH faster data transfer speed than a standard USB 2.0 port, but it also falls short of delivering the theoretical USB 3.0 “SuperSpeed” transfer rates of 5Gbps (equivalent to 640MB per second).

Conclusion
The transition from the old USB 2.0 ports to the new USB 3.0 standard looks deceptively easy, but in reality, notebook owners have to be aware of many seemingly minor technical matters. The Aluratek USB 3.0 ExpressCard (AUEC100F) indeed offers an impressive increase in speed compared to the USB 2.0 ports that are built into your old laptop. That is all that really matters for some people.

Unfortunately, like all other USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapters, the Aluratek AUEC100F doesn’t quite deliver the huge “5Gbps” burst of speed that you might expect. Our lab tests show that the ExpressCard bottleneck prevents USB 3.0 devices from transferring data as quickly as they would if they were connected to a native USB 3.0 port on a new laptop.

Bottom line, if you own an old notebook with an ExpressCard slot and want to add two USB 3.0 ports to it, then this $50 adapter is a good solution. Just don’t expect those USB 3.0 devices to run at full “SuperSpeed” if they are connected to this adapter.

Pros:

  • Easy and affordable way to add USB 3.0 ports
  • Faster than USB 2.0

Cons:

  • Slower than native USB 3.0 ports
  • Requires power adapter for USB 3.0 speed
  • Drivers not available on Aluratek website



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