Spare USB ports are a precious commodity, rare enough for us to have to buy USB hubs in order to make more of them. And then we plug other USB devices into those hubs and so the chain goes on. All this USB activity draws power, confusion and a tangle of cables over your work area. Wouldn't it be better if you could combine a hub and, say, a popular USB peripheral into one?

Let us introduce to you the Belkin USB 3-port hub and media reader. It's a simple idea: you get three USB ports and a card reader that can accept 15 types of digital camera memory cards. The neat unit sits on your desk and takes up no more space than a dictaphone.

The Belkin unit attaches to a Mac via a small USB 2.0 cable. A glowing red LED signifies that a USB connection has been made with a host port. Next to the USB connector are two USB 2.0 ports that are ideal for connecting a printer or scanner. To the front of the unit are the slots for every type of memory card ever produced. Next to it is another USB 2.0 port, which is perfect for linking up a camera to your Mac or perhaps a thumb drive.

Of course, to power all these devices, it is necessary to have some sort of transformer. Belkin provides one but it is quite small and convenient. That makes a change from the hulking great power bricks that some manufacturers bundle with their mini USB hubs. It's a pity more manufacturers didn't concentrate on both reducing the size and standardising on the type of adaptors they offer. Rant over!

In terms of digital camera memory cards, this device can handle them all: SmartMedia, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, MMC and xD. All variants of these types are catered for so no worries there.

The Belkin 3-port USB hub and 15-in-1 Media Reader (what a mouthful) is a great device and kills two birds with one stone. Mark Sparrow