Review: Macally Link360 FireWire 400, 800, and USB 2.0 3D Adaptors
Pros: Flexible, small, and easily pocketable FireWire and USB adapters for easy iPod connection to a desktop or laptop computer. Two of three adapters include extension cables that make these at least equivalent replacements in functionality to Apple and Griffin iPod cables, albeit a little more expensive.
Cons: Build quality on all three devices is good, but not great. No Dock Connector covers for protection during travels. FireWire 800 version doesn’t include extension cable, which is more necessary given the few devices that include front- or side-mounting ports of this sort.
A new idea in cables? Yes. Macally’s three new Link360 3D Adaptors ($19.99 each, their spelling) are simple but useful new adapters that connect iPods to computers, using official Apple Dock Connector plugs and articulating joints. Two of the three adapters include cables, as well.
The first of the three is the “Link360 iPod 30 Pin to FireWire 1394A 3D Adaptor,” a two-piece set consisting of a plastic and metal iPod Dock Connector-to-FireWire 400 adapter and an interesting four-foot extension cable. What’s unique about the adapter is that the Dock Connector and FireWire plugs don’t need to be facing in opposite directions, or even close to the same orientation. They rotate independently from one another - not exactly 360 degrees, but close enough - and also tilt up to 90 degrees north or south of one another.
The female end of this cable - where the adapter plugs in - has a ratcheting joint that bends on -90, -45, 0, 45 and 90 degree angles, while the male end plugs into your computer. You can use the adapter with or without the cable, plugging it into a port on a laptop or desktop computer, and in the case of the iPod mini even support the mini standing up on its edge.
Macally’s “Link360 iPod 30 Pin to USB 3D Adaptor” is almost identical, but with a USB 2.0 connector instead of a FireWire one, and a change to the included cable. The included USB extension cable doesn’t have an articulating joint at its female end - the only way it pivots is through the two joints on the Adaptor. This turns out to be fine - a redunancy in the design of the FireWire cable more than an omission in the USB cable.
Finally, there’s the “Link 360 30 Pin to FireWire 1394B 3D Adaptor,” which is a FireWire 800 version of the adapter, without any cable in the package. This adapter is like the other two in all ways except for the material used for its FireWire 800 plug - it’s plastic instead of metal, like all of the FireWire 800 cables we’ve seen. Besides the omission of an extension cable, the only bummer about this adapter is the price - it’s just as expensive as the others, though lacking the extra part.
Are the extension cables even really necessary for the other two? The design advantages of these adapers is their travel-friendlines - they’re very small, and easy to carry - and their ability to work in situations where SendStation’s PocketDocks might be inflexible, or longer one-piece cables too long and unwieldy. But the FireWire 400 and USB versions can also be used at home on a desktop computer in place of other cables from Apple or Griffin, which the FireWire 800 version isn’t as well-suited for. Similarly, it’s a little unsettling that they don’t come with any Dock Connector protective covers (like the PocketDocks do). And they also don’t feel like they have quite the same build quality as the PocketDocks, but they’re adequate for their intended purpose.
All three of the adapters worked perfectly in our testing, as did the two extension cables. Other than the issues mentioned above, we have no reservation in recommending them to our readers, though an extension cable or lower price for the FireWire 800 version would have made it a better offering. It’s currently as expensive as Griffin’s Dock800 cable, and given the very small number of devices that have front- or side-mounted FireWire 800 ports (namely PowerBooks), we think the Dock800 is a better choice for most people at the same price. Even if Griffin’s cable is larger, it’s more useful unless you’re travelling - and arguably about the same, then - which we can’t say about the other, better-equipped and more versatile Link360 packages.