We are in an odd time right now for USB technology. Whether we like it or not, USB 2.0 still rules the roost. Motherboard manufactures started adding USB 3.0 capability to motherboards two years ago, but even going into the two year anniversary, USB 2.0 ports still outnumber USB 3.0 ports two to one. That ratio is even larger to the USB 2.0 side in lower priced motherboards, where only a small number of 3.0 ports reside.
To increase the odds of you purchasing more USB 3.0 devices motherboard manufactures have started to include USB 3.0 headers on the boards, but are still keeping a limited number on the back of the board. Most would prefer their USB 3.0 ports on the front of their case anyhow, so this is a good thing. The eco system is hardly ever balanced though because in order to use those front USB 3.0 ports you need a new case... or do you?
NZXT, a case manufacture themselves have devised a way to increase your USB 3.0 count without the expense of purchasing a new computer case. The NZXT Aperture M uses a single USB 3.0 motherboard header to put two USB 3.0 ports right on the front of your computer. At the same time, the Aperture M also provides several flash card slots, so you can read and write to the most popular flash cards on the market today.
The NZXT Aperture M fits in a single 5.25" bay, the same used by your optical drives. It uses two motherboards headers, one USB 3.0 for the dual USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 header for the card reader.
The NZXT Aperture M has an attractive faceplate that matches several computer cases on the market today including several sold by NZXT. The perforated front panel will also allow some cool air to enter your system.
The only thing we aren't completely sold on is the USB 2.0 to card reader. For at least a year now we've had a USB 3.0 to card reader that was external and loved the extra burst of speed with our high-speed flash cards that are capable of surpassing the USB 2.0 speed limits of around 30MB/s.
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Still, the Realtek bridge inside the Aperture M does get you right up to the limits of USB 2.0, but a dual 3.0 design would of really set this product off into the stratosphere.
When it comes to the construction the NZXT Aperture M is built solid with dense plastic that helps keep the weight of your system down. The eight mounting points are all metal, four on each side just like your optical drive.
NZXT gives you a liberal amount of cable so you can mount the device at the top of your full tower case if you wanted. You get around two feet of cable total and it will also allow you to route the cable behind the motherboard, for those conscious about having a rats nets of cables in plain view.
At the time of writing the NZXT Aperture M was not list on Newegg, Tiger Direct or any other trusted site. We couldn't find a price through Google Product Search either, but they are coming.
We only hope that NZXT doesn't charge too much for the Aperture M because it's a very useful tool even if you already have USB 3.0 ports built into your case. The card reader is a very nice add-on for any computer users and especially anyone who takes digital pictures as often as I do.