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Ultra Retractable Cables Ultra Retractable Cables: Travelling around with 20 feet of cables is not a whole lot of fun. We look at a couple that retract, making life easier.
Date: December 8, 2004
Manufacturer:
Written By:

There is always one thing that people overlook in with their computer setup, cables. Where would your scanner or printer be without the USB cable. How would you get Internet without your Ethernet cable. You can never seem to get a cable the right length though. They are either way to long, or just that little bit too short. For those laptop users, toting around a whole bunch of cables can become just a mess. A more portable cable is required. Ultra have a line of products that will meet these needs. Ultra has a whole line of retractable cables. These cables expand/contract to the needs that you have. Ultra have been kind enough to send us their Retractable USB and LAN cables. So let's take a closer look.

Ultra Retractable Cables
The Ultra cables come in a clear plastic package. You can easily see the retractable cables in the package as well as a sticker for a free cable. You basically get a buy one get one kind of deal from Ultra, so value is added here. Once out of the package you can see both retractable cables. Both frames are made out of plastic and are spherical in shape. Looking from the top you can see the cable spooled up in the center.

The main feature of the cable is the retractable cable part. To extend the cable you grab both ends and pull the cable apart. The cable will then extend and then lock into place. The cable's extension mechanism is not as smooth as it could be. The cables seem to make a clicking noise as you extend them, and do not lock into place in all positions. I found my self having to pull the cables out a couple times to finally get it to lock into the proper position.

The two cables received were the USB cable and network cable. The USB cable itself is a USB 1.1 extension cable. Ultra does include a USB A-B adapter as well, so you can use the cables in both setups. This will save some space in your case, as you will only need one cable instead of two. The cable itself is fairly thin and easily bent. This can cause some problems especially with the network cable. If you have ever looked at a network cable you will notice that the wires are arranged in pairs, and are twisted together. This is for signal integrity in the cable. The problem with the Ultra cable is that the twists are gone. This would lead me to believe that the cables will be subject to interference more than a usual cable. In testing no problems were shown, but this could potentially cause problems.

Testing
Testing of the cables was performed using the following hardware:
ASUS A7N8X-Deluxe
AMD Athlon 1700+ @ 12.5 x 170
1024MB Corsair PC4000
Seagate 200GB SATA
Ultra 128MB MP3 Player

Testing of the USB cable was performed using HDTach. Tests were run on the drive connected directly to the computer and repeated with the drive connected to the cable as an extension. Results are shown below.


Ultra 128MB Flash


Ultra 128MB Flash using Ultra Expandable USB Extension

As you can see performance was the same between the two tests. Note that the USB Drive was USB 1.1 as well as the cable, so results will change if you are using a USB 2.0 device. The cable should be perfect for any USB 1.1 device.

Testing of the network cable was performed using DU Meter. An ISO file was transferred between the above computer and my second AMD 1700+ system also using the A7N8X-Deluxe motherboard. Tests were run with both computers connected to my 8 port Startech switch. Please note that the switch could possibly add some overhead to the results, but the cable received was a straight through cable so it was tested as it will be used.

Cable Speed
Cat5 Cable 7.24mB/s
Ultra Expandable Network Cable 7.24mB/s

Once again, performance between the two cables were exactly the same. Obviously the smaller cable size does not affect performance in the networking tests.

Conclusion
People in general like things to be somewhat organized. Be it your house, or the cabling on the computer, things definitely have their place. Now your computer can look awesome on the inside, but the rats nest of cables on the outside draw away the attention. Or you are someone on the go, and need to carry the least amount of stuff possible. These are the markets that the Ultra cables are aimed at. The cables will definitely fill the needs of this market. The cables are very compact when contracted, making a very portable piece. Once you need to use them you can expand them to whatever size you need. This will allow for a less cluttered desk. Performance wise the cables were also right on with their standard counterparts, so not to worry in that aspect.

The Ultra Retractable cables were not without their downfalls though. The cable extension mechanism is not very smooth, and seems a bit jerky to lock it into place. You can get it to fit the size you need, it just might take a couple tries to get it to lock in where you need it to. Also, the cabling is a bit thin for my liking. The fact that the network cable is not twisted like the specification makes me apprehensive. The twists are there to protect against interference, and without them problems with data accuracy may appear.

Pros: Expandable, compact and easily portable, good performance, free voucher

Cons: Cable lock mechanism, thin cables, USB 1.1 speed

Overall: If you are a mobile user, or need a bit less cable clutter on your desk take a look at these cables. The portability and ease of use make up for the slower USB speed and the cable lock setup.

If you have Questions or Comments on this or any other review, feel free to use our Forums.

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