Review: CableJive duaLink Sync Splitter Cable for iPod + iPhone
Very rarely do we have the time or desire to review plain iPod and iPhone cables -- almost always commodity-class parts that are tossed into accessory packages with a minimum of thought by major manufacturers. But CableJive has appeared with a variety of different Dock Connector cable offerings, most of only modest interest -- the tiny, cheap iStubz, and the thick, expensive DuraSync, plus this: duaLink ($26).
Unlike the other cables, which have been done before, duaLink offers something new—it combines a miniature two-port USB hub with twin Dock Connector cables, enabling a single USB port to provide power and synchronization capabilities to two iPods or iPhones at the same time. From metal end to metal ends, the cable is only one foot long, or roughly 1/3 the length of a standard Apple Dock Connector to USB cable, and the individual cables are roughly the same diameter as Apple’s, with similarly stubby, small Dock Connector plugs, only CableJive’s version is rendered in black plastic rather than white and gray. A moving cable manager connects the two cables, enabling you to keep them close together or spread apart at any point before they touch the single USB plug at the bottom.
Some good and bad news on the USB plug. First, the bad: it gets a little hot when it’s in use, because CableJive has squeezed that two-port USB hub in there. Moreover, the hub isn’t 100% perfect at its designated task—more on that in a moment. But the good news is its size: it’s actually thin enough that you can place it in the very narrow USB port opening of a MacBook Pro and still connect another USB cable directly alongside it—assuming that the second USB cable is, say, Apple-thick. We’re actually pretty impressed by this; duaLink is almost a no-compromises connector for twin iPods or iPhones.
The “almost” is the sort of thing that some users won’t care a whit about, and others may mind a little. Normal synchronization tests with two connected iPods or iPhones went fine. A stressful test—actually upgrading the system software of an iPod touch to a new version—went fine when the cable was directly plugged into the computer. But an even more stressful test, trying to upgrade the system software of an iPod touch when the duaLink was connected to a short, high-quality USB port extender to lengthen it just a little from the back of a new 27” iMac, failed multiple times. Normal synchronization under the same connection conditions went fine. Our conclusion is that duaLink performs as it’s supposed to when it’s directly plugged into a computer with a properly powered USB 2.0 port, but shouldn’t be extended if you want to guarantee full syncing fidelity. It goes without saying that two devices sharing a single USB port shouldn’t be expected to individually recharge at the same peak speed as a single connected device, as well.
There’s little doubt in our minds that duaLink is a somewhat niche product—the $26 asking price is a little too high, and enough to buy a multi-port USB hub for use with your existing cables—but to the extent that you need to have two Apple pocket devices share the same USB port, and want that functionality in a highly portable package, dualLink delivers with only modest caveats. It’s the smallest such integration of hub and cabling that we’ve yet seen, works for charging and synchronization, and looks pretty good, besides. dualLink is worthy of our general recommendation.