Dec 21 2009 - Laptops have a limited amount of space for peripheral ports because of their small size. This often means they may not have enough or any of a particular type of port needed for your peripheral. If you are lucky enough to have a laptop with either a PCMCIA/CardBus or ExpressCard slot, you can add these ports to your PC with the right expansion card. Below are some of the best cards for adding the various ports to a laptop PC.
ByteCC has a good balance between the price and features for this combo I/O ExpressCard. The BT-ECU2FW comes equipped with two 6-pin FireWire ports and a single USB 2.0 port on a small ExpressCard/34 stick that will work in either size ExpressCard slot. The FireWire ports are compatible with the original and updated FireWire 400 specifications but do not support the new FireWire 800. One nice addition to this competitively priced expansion card is the inclusion of the Ulead VideoStudio 9 SE video editing software to be used with digital video importation from a camcorder. Priced around $40.
USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed is the new revision of the USB specifications. If you need to add USB ports to a laptop computer, why not add support for the latest version with up to 10x the speed with compatible SuperSpeed devices compared to the previous USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is completely backwards compatible with the prevision USB devices so it can work with all existing devices. The card has two USB 3.0 ports on the card and has a power adapter for use with devices that require additional power. Priced around $50.
FireWire is a port that is starting to loose favor with many manufacturers. It is a very specialized interface that is typically used for DV based camcorders. Even Apple, the primary backer of the interface, has dropped it from some of their systems. If you happen to need a port, then the Rosewill TI 2 port 1394a card is a very affordable option for adding them. It provides two 6-pin FireWire 400 ports. Priced around $20 to $30.
External SATA devices provide some outstanding capacity and speed for storage. They make excellent backup devices when you aren't taking your laptop with you. Most laptops do not feature this type of connector port though. If you are interested in using these high speed storage devices, the StarTech 2 port eSATA controller is an excellent option. It provides two ports compatible with the SATA 2.0 or 3Gbps specifications. Priced around $45.
Those looking for an extremely low cost solution for adding USB or FireWire ports to a laptop with an older Type II PCMCIA slot will be well served by the Rosewill RC-603 USB/FireWire combo. It features the very standard two USB 2.0 and two FireWire (one 6-pin and one 4-pin) ports found on most combo I/O cards. Rosewill even includes a Ulead VideoStudio software with this extremely affordable card. Prices are around $20.
Serial ATA is the most popular interface for computer hard drives. Those looking for extremely fast external storage can use the eSATA drives that run almost as fast as standard internal drives. This makes for excellent external storage solutions for laptops with their limited storage space. The older PCMCIA interface does limit the card to only SATA 1.0 or 1.5Gbps speeds but this is still much higher than USB 2.0 speeds. The card features two eSATA ports. Priced around $25.