Hector Caceres | Sep 19, 2013

 UPDATE Dec 2016 : Check out the new version of the U-Link: it has increased distance, and more features.Click here to learn more!

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Extend USB


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Networks

We tested several USB 2.0 over Cat5/6 extenders to see which is fastest

While there are other options for extending USB 2.0, such as active extension cables, extending over long distances with cat5/6 adapters is more economical and convenient. That’s because cat5/6 cable is less expensive and can be easily run and terminated to a custom length. And most houses and buildings already come with cat5/6 cable installed.

These extenders are ideal for USB cameras, printers, scanners, external hard drives, and any other device that you need to extend over long distances.

However, we have seen many different comments out there about some of these not delivering what they promise, so we decided to test them to help you decide which one will work better for you.


Watch the Video


USB 2.0 Extenders Tested:

  • Sewell U-Link
  • TrippLite
  • MilesTek
  • Sabrent
  • Gefen

What we used:

  • 200ft long Cat6 Cable
  • 100ft long Cat5 Cable
  • USB 2.0 1 TB Hard Drive
  • PassMark USB 2.0 Tester with USB2Test v1.1
  • CrystalDisk Mark 3.0.2 x64
  • Sewell 720p HD Webcam

Laptop Specs:

  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with
    Service Pack 1
  • Intel Core i5 CPU @ 2.50 GHz
  • 5400 RPM 1 TB External hard drive
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000

Before listing the test results, we need to point out that although the advertised speed for USB 2.0 is 480 mbps, the actual data throughput, or the speed you actually get, is usually about 360 mbps or 35-40MB/s. This is due to many different variables in your setup such as overhead, processor speed, the speed of the hard drive used for testing, the length of the USB cables, etc. Because of this, test results may vary in different setups.

Also, note the difference between megabits per second (mbps) and megabytes per second (MB/s). These are two separate ways to measure data transfer. One Megabyte is equal to 8 megabits. We will be using both terms in these tests.

ULink Infographic

U-link by Sewell

ULink

Since the U-link is plug-and-play, the computer automatically intsalled the device and it was ready to use without the need to install any drivers on PC or MAC. To test the transfer speed to the hard drive we used the benchmarking software called CrystalDiskMark. We ran a 5-pass 50 MB sequential test and we got 26.63 MB/s read and 38.41 Write.

Then we did a benchmark test with the Passmark USB 2.0 Tester and its software, which tests the transmission speed of USB ports and cables. We got a Max speed of 360 mbps read and 360 mbps write with an average data rate of 358 mbps. Meaning that most of the time it was running at 358 mbps. And we also got a Minimum Data Rate of 328 mbps. Meaning the U-link's transfer speeds never went below 328 mbps.

When we plugged in the Sewell HD webcam, and tested with Skype, we did not manage to get video over 200ft, but we got beautiful video over 100ft with no noticeable lag.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the U-Link or other adapters will not work at all with any webcam over 200 ft. Other webcams and other video conferencing services may work better in different situations. That's why we recommend testing the setup before running a cable through a wall and installing everything only to find out it will not work.

Tripp Lite USB 2.0 extender

Tripp Lite

When we tested the Tripp Lite USB 2.0 extender we noticed that drivers have to be installed before it will work. Plugging in the adapter before the drivers are installed causes Windows to automatically install the wrong drivers for it. Uninstalling and getting the right drivers installed can be a mess. Having to deal with drivers can be particularly annoying if you will be using it in a setup where different laptops will be sharing the device, or if you will be switching computers to it frequently like in a conference room.

Once you install the drivers, you have to make sure that the USB extender application is running in order for it to recognize your devices. This adds another step to getting your devices to work, and can be problematic if you need the USB devices to be recognized at boot up, such as using it with a mouse and keyboard to enter BIOS.

Once we finally got the right drivers installed, and after rebooting a couple times, we ran CrystalDiskMark, and again did a 5-pass, 50 MB sequential test. We got an average read speed of 21.53 MB/s and 22.38 MB/s write.

With the USB 2.0 Tester from PassMark, we got a Max read rate of 360 mbps read and 360 mbps write, with an average data rate of 283 mbps, and while we got an average data rate of 283 mbps it did sometimes run as low as 33 mbps.

When we plugged in our Sewell HD webcam, it did work over 200 ft. but it was pretty laggy.

Milestek USB 2.0 extender

MilesTek

The Milestek appears to be exactly the same as the Tripplite, but with different stickers. This one also needs drivers and software in order for it to work. Not surprisingly, when we ran our tests we got very similar results as the Tripplite. CrystalDiskMark showed speeds of 21.43 MB/s Read and 23.69 MB/s Write. Then, with the PassMark test, we got a Max rate of 360 mbps read and 360 mbps write, with an average data rate of 281 mbps and a minimum data rate of 33 mbps.

Using it with the webcam and Skype, did work over 200 ft but it was also laggy.

Sabrent USB 2.0 extender

Sabrent

The Sabrent also requires drivers, which only work in Windows. After installing the drivers, we plugged in our hard drive and tested it with CrystalDiskMark. On the 5-pass 50 MB sequential test, we got 7.126 MB/s Read and 6.212 MB/s Write.

After seeing those super slow speeds we switched to the PassMark tester. On the PassMark Benchmark test, we got a max Read rate of 360 mbps, with 131 mbps write speed, and an Average data rate of 174 mbps with a minimum data rate of 33 mbps.

When we plugged in our webcam, we saw that it does get recognized by the computer, but sadly it did not transmit the video on the 200 ft. Cat6 cable, or on the 100 ft. Cat5e cable.

Gefen USB 2.0 Extender

Gefen

The Gefen extender does not need any additional drivers to work, and it is compatible with PC and MAC. With CrystalDiskMark we got 13.32 MB/s Read, and 39.37 MB/s Write speed. And with the PassMark Tester, we got a Max of 131 mbps Read, and 98 mbps write with an average data rate of 94 mbps, and a minimum Data Rate of 66 mbps.

Even though this adapter tested low in transfer speeds, when we tested it with the webcam we did get video and audio with no noticeable lag at distances of 200 ft.


Conclusion

After putting all our test results side by side, we concluded that even though each adapter has its own strengths, the U-Link by Sewell would give you the most advantages for the price. Benefits include having two USB ports, it works on PC and MAC, and allows for the highest transfer speeds (except for the write speed which came in second place only by about one MB/s to the more expensive Gefen unit).