How To Add Front-Mounted Ports To Your PC Case, Continued
We attended a local computer show to see what we could find. During our time at the show, we found a device from Easy-Connections , called the "Easy-Connections 4 Port USB Hub." This four-port powered USB Hub can be placed in any 5.25" or 3.25" drive bay, and will then draw its power from your internal power supply. To install the device, simply mount the Easy-Connections 4 Port USB Hub in any open drive bay, then mount the cabled bracket to the back of your computer and plug it in to any USB port on the back of your machine. Like Antec’s Easy USB device, it might be possible to connect the Easy-Connections 4 Port USB Hub directly to an open USB connector on the motherboard, but Easy-Connections offers very little pin out information in the manual, so you are on your own if you don’t want to run the cable outside the back of your computer. The construction of the Easy-Connections 4 Port USB Hub isn’t flashy, but the cost is reasonable. According to the Easy-Connections website, they offer a more advanced version of this device that supports both USB and 1394/ Firewire, and this version might be worth seeking out if you need 1394/ Firewire support.
Easy-Connections offers a powered USB hub that can fit into any 5.25" or 3.25" drive bay. If you are just looking to move your USB ports to the front of the computer, this reasonably priced solution might just fit the bill.
Some users who own Asus motherboards might be better off with the Asus iPanel Basic or iPanel Deluxe. Both of these devices require that the Asus motherboard have an iPanel connector on the motherboard, and not all Asus motherboards have this connector. (As an example, the P4TE that we were using as our test system does not offer an iPanel connector.) The iPanel isn’t as flexible as other solutions that use cables to plug into the back of the system. instead, the iPanel relies on the Asus motherboard user having a configuration that is compatible with the iPanel. Asus provides excellent documentation so that it is possible to build your own custom cables to integrate into the standard Asus configuration. However, if you own one of these motherboards without the integrated audio design, unless you build a custom cable, the audio functions of the iPanel are useless. The iPanel is one of the only devices we have seen that works with the hardware monitoring that is built into the system to provide information such as POST codes and temperature reading. This is innovative technology, but idiosyncrasies such as the absence of 1394/ Firewire support might leave some users wondering why they didn’t choose another solution if they need maximum connection flexibility.
The Asus iPanel technology offers a lot of bang for the buck, but if you don’t happen to own one of the Asus motherboards that offer iPanel support, you are out of luck. In addition, the iPanel Basic model can be difficult to mount in a 5.25" drive bay that uses rails, due to the lack of multiple screw holes. A single screw holding the iPanel Basic into the case can result in a less than sturdy mount of the iPanel basic.
In our quest to find a good answer to this problem, we wanted a dealer’s perspective, so we asked Michael Chang at Directron to offer some suggestions that might be helpful to users who want to add this type of functionality to their cases. Michael explained that at present there are few devices that ’fit the bill.’ This is partly due to the continuing trend of case manufacturers integrating this type of functionality only into their newest cases, but Directron offers several solutions that will get the job done. Michael recommended that we look at the Enermax EN-006-TM1 Multifunction Transfer Panel, which offers one of the greatest ranges of flexibility for a reasonable amount money. Michael explained that many users do not know about devices such as the EN-006-TM1 , and this could explain why they are not more popular.