Review: Quirky Space Bar USB hub

Aluminum hub with four USB 2.0, two power ports doubles as monitor stand (June 8th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Quirky

Price: $100

The Good

  • Dual function
    - High amp charging ports
    - Powered

The Bad

  • Fit and finish
    - Only four data ports
    - Recessed USB ports

When computers don't come with enough USB ports to handle the growing number users require, consumers are left to find a way to accommodate their needs. Either users can swap out plugs as needed, or they can look into another solution, like a USB hub. These USB hubs come in a number of configurations, often presenting a number of ports or a device that can travel. But what about a USB hub that is a more permanent solution for desktops? The Quirky Space Bar is one such hub, giving consumers a desktop solution that doubles as a monitor riser. Would it be something to entrust your devices and monitor to, or is the Quirky Space Bar trying to do one too many things?

The Quirky Space Bar is a powered USB 2.0 hub that looks different than many others on the market. Instead of being a small, portable device with four to 10 ports, the Space Bar takes up a large footprint with only six ports. With dimensions of 21.88 x 6.63 x 1.88 inches, small workspaces may not be well-suited for the device. But by going a little vertical, not all of the space it takes up is lost. Users can tuck away a standard keyboard or a number of objects under the 1.5 inches of space underneath it. Quirky says the Space Bar can support a 27-inch iMac at 30.5 pounds on its top. A 12-pound monitor, a Playstation Vita, headphones and several other small items totaling around 25 pounds were placed on top of the device without issue.

The aluminum exterior of the Space Bar offers a compatible match to the look of many Macs currently on the market. While it lacks the exact finish of an iMac or MacBook Pro, it does offer something more than just a plastic hub. Now in its third iteration, the design of the Space Bar has changed, moving the screws that used hold it together on the top, to the underside. The ends of the tube sides holding the USB plugs are also white, with LEDs behind the plastic to add some illumination.

Even though the aluminum looks good, there are several problems with the Space Bar's fit and finish. The first is in how the unit is put together. It is made up of four main pieces, including two tubes that are used to elevate the unit, a long platform that connects the two, and a white plastic piece that covers the underside. When looking at the white under-piece, there are significant gaps between the plastic and the metal where the unit sits on a desk. This will be covered when the unit is in use, but for a finished piece this should have been picked up on. Further issues with the plastic were found as there were some rough edges in the cuts, like it had been over cut and gone back over. One side appeared more bent than the other as well.

Additionally, with the way the aluminum is joined together, the seams aren't flush. The edges of the platform piece stick out at different lengths on each of the sides. While the amount is 0.02 and 0.03 inches at the greatest points, it is something that can be felt when a hand is run over it. Taking the hex screws out of the bottom to try realigning how everything is connected doesn't remedy the issue.

A problem that can be solved though is the liberal use of glue seen on the white end caps. In several places along the edges and in some spots on the face of the caps, the yellow glue that was used to hold the caps in place is visible. The glue has been pushed out of the creases where it was applied too thickly in some places, or a stray streak was left on the face. Even though this should have been caught before the unit was shipped, some rubbing alcohol removes it.

There are some other design elements that may not sit well with a consumer, depending on how important they can be. The Space Bar picks up a lot of fingerprints and grease from fingers. It wipes off, but simply pressing fingertips on the unit will leave evidence they were there.

The testing unit also had some small blemishes in it, mostly limited to small scratches. Aluminum is easy to scratch if hit with the right metal, so this isn't a surprise. The texture of the unit is rough enough to be noticed as well. The LED lights that the Space Bar uses behind the front plates can also be quite bright in the dark.

As was previously mentioned, the Quirky Space Bar is listed as a six-port hub. However, to say that it is a true six-port USB hub is a little bit misleading. At the basic level there are six ports for USB -- but only four of them are capable of transmitting data. The two ports on the back left of the device are only for charging. However, they do offer a larger amperage than standard. Quirky doesn't list how much it is, but it is at least 2.1 amps, as it will allow charging of an iPad. The front four ports will not, meaning they most likely cap out at 1 amp. The Space Bar does require power to function, which plugs into the back right cap of the unit, next to the mini USB input for a system connection.

All four of the transfer-capable ports worked when the Space Bar was plugged in, leaving no dead ports to be found. A Windows machine recognized it as a Via USB 2 hub, and installed the proper items on its own. To test the transfer speed and functionality of the ports, a 385MB video file was transferred from a Kingston Datatraveler SE9 to an SSD through each capable port. Times ranged from 20.39 to 21.34 seconds, based on stopwatch count of the transfer. For comparison, the same transfer was executed from a front-port USB. Time to completion was 21.35 seconds.

Fit for USB cables didn't appear to be an issue, but there were a few close calls with memory sticks. The Datatraveler SE9 offered quite a snug fit, but this has been observed in several different instances in other USB ports. More concerning were some USB drives like the SanDisk Cruzer or the Kingston Datatraveler HyperX 3.0. Both of these were very snug against the plate. The HyperX drive measured 0.48 inches exposed, but still worked. If either exposed any less of the plug, they might not get a complete connection. This is because the USB plugs are recessed inside of the unit about half an inch, as measured on the exposed pieces of the SE9.

The Quirky Space Bar offers users USB expansion with some dual functionality. Users will get a vertical monitor boost of around 1.75 inches, with the addition of six USB ports in an appealing package. While it would have been nice to see all six ports being capable of data transfers, the positioning of the two on the back side means leaving a cable in becomes the standard. The biggest thing working against the Space Bar is the lack of quality control before being shipped out. At $100, making sure the device fit together right and didn't have glue left on it seems like a simple thing to fix. If looks and needing a monitor stand are important for a hub, then the Space Bar should hit the mark. However, if functionality is the only concern, a USB hub with more ports can be picked up for less.

by Jordan Anderson


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