We live in a day and age when 2-in-1 laptops and ultrabooks become more and more popular, and unlike regular desktops, portable computers only have a (very) limited number of USB ports. The portable computer has won the battle for the hearts and minds (and dollars) of users, but there’s a caveat to portability; generally speaking, a laptop has anywhere between 2 (think ultrabooks) and 4 USB ports (multimedia/gaming gear), while a desktop may have 8 or more. Hence, today’s article is about how to choose the best USB hub for your machine, whether it’s a laptop or a regular desktop PC, with an emphasis on the former.
A well-informed laptop user will use a laptop cooler anyway, especially gamers and heavy users, hence one of the USB ports will always be “busy” so to speak. Moreover, if one or two flash drives come into play, not to mention a wired mouse or keyboard (yes, those things still exist and boast a solid fan-base), a printer, an optical drive, scanner or an external HDD, charging/syncing cables, pretty soon you’ll run out of USB ports. On top of that, it’s worth mentioning that larger devices, like fans or optical drives, usually require a lot of juice to be sucked out of the respective USB port.
The short story is that not all USB hubs on the market are created equal. Some are better than others. And, as usual, there’s too much information available out there, as in too many products and choices, hence one may have a hard time choosing the best USB hub. Fortunately for you, we’ve done our homework and the research into the best gear out there, so you won’t have to. Here it comes, right after the break:
How to Choose the Best USB Hub
The good news with regard to USB hubs is that unlike choosing the laptop for programming or graphics card, which are relatively complex tasks for beginners, this makes for a much simpler purchase. All you have to know about USB hubs is that they’re the equivalent of power strips for electrical devices, i.e. they split the electrical power from one USB port to give juice to many devices. Even if they come in a multitude of sizes, shapes and prices, they’re all doing basically the same thing, for better or for worse.
The general rule of thumb when you’re looking for a USB hub is to make sure there is a powered variety. The best powered USB hub will cost you a tad more, but it will get the job done with flying colors. The problem with USB ports is that they produce a relatively tiny amount of power, hence if you split it among multiple (power hungry) devices, i.e. between additional ports, there might not be enough electricity to make everything running smoothly.
Here’s why you should go for a powered USB hub, which has its own AC adapter, as in it draws its power from a regular power outlet. With a powered USB hub, you’ll not have to worry about running out of juice and you can occupy every port with power-hungry gear. To make a long story short, if you intend to use your USB hub to give juice to an external hard-disk, or something which requires a lot of constant power, always go for the powered variety.
Bus powered USB hubs draw electricity from the host computer’s mainboard, and they’re cheaper than their powered counterparts, generally speaking. However, when portability comes into play, bus-powered USB hubs are the way to go. It all depends on what you’ll be using them for actually. Price is also a factor. If you own a $10k Hi-Fi sound system, I bet you’ll not hook it to a no-name $5 power stripe from Wal-Mart. The same goes for USB hubs. If you want stability, reliability and performance on a regular basis, you should know that not all USB hubs are the same. And the difference is usually in the features vs price-tag ratio.
That translates into safety measures and internal construction, which are better in more expensive USB hubs, obviously. Also, higher-quality components are used in the latter compared to the dirt-cheap ones. To get an idea about what I am talking about, a cheap USB phone charger killed a woman in Australia due to catastrophic failure. This is an extreme case, obviously, but it addresses the issue with buying the cheapest gear available. The moral of the story is that a sub-spec USB hub may destroy your expensive gear, or worse. Now, here are out top picks (in no particular order) in regard to choosing the best usb hub available on Amazon these days:
1. CharJenPro USB C Hub
The CharJenPro is definitely running with the best in the industry, making for a relatively affordable USB C hub specially designed for Mac users. The CharJenPro comes with 7 ports, including 3 USB 3.0 (3.1 Gen 1), HDMI up to [email protected] video output, USBC Power Delivery port and SD/Micro SD card reader. In not so many words, the CharJenPro is a premium multi-port adapter, not only a USB hub, and it would make for the perfect companion if you’re a MacBook Pro/MacBook Air user, due to its slim metal body which matches Apple products in terms of design and color.
- full-range compatibility with Apple devices, Samsung smartphones, Dell computers, Android, Windows etc.
- stylish and sturdy design
- decently priced
- US-based company
- hugely versatile
- excellent customer service
- lacks Lightning 2/Ethernet ports
- some users complain about excessive heating
2. Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub
This Anker product has your name on it if you’re on a tight budget and looking for a standalone USB 3.0 hub. As far as no-nonsense USB hubs go, this baby runs with the best, making for a slim, tough as nails and well-built piece of gear, designed for users on the go.
- dirt cheap
- designed for durability and heat resistance
- gets the job done
- great customer service
- none really at this price
3. HyperDrive USB C Hub
The HyperDrive USB C hub is a true monster, both in terms of specs/power and pricing. Interestingly enough, the HyperDrive makes for the most crowdfunded accessory for Macbook on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and that really says a lot. To make a long story short, the HyperDrive was designed for MacBook Pro’s USB C, making for the world’s fastest and most compact hub of its kind. If you can live with the price tag, this is the way to go.
- speeds of up to 50 Gbps
- features UHD 4K HDMI port, 40Gb/s USB-C, 5Gb/s USB-C, SD, microSD, 2 x USB 3.1
- awesome milled aluminum casing
- compact and slim
- gets hot under load
4. AUKEY Aluminum 10 Port USB Hub
This Aukey powered USB hub is also boasting a cool aluminum casing, along with 10 USB 3.0 ports, which should be enough for anyone. If you’re looking for easy expansion, this is “the droid you’re looking for”, as it allows you to connect various peripherals, like keyboards, mice, card/flash drives or external hard disk drives, while ensuring consistent data transfer speeds in a flashy form-factor. Keep in mind that this USB hub is not designed for charging your devices.
- modern and stylish design
- more than enough ports
- decent data transfer speeds
- not suited for charging due to its 5V / 900mA Max output
5. Anker 7-Port USB 3.0 Aluminum Portable Data Hub
The Anker 7 is a very fancy looking USB hub, featuring a sleek aluminum-made casing and a very nice design, along with an affordable price. The Anker ships with a 15W adapter for PC, Mac, USB flash drives and various other devices, and provides up to 5 Gbps data transfer rates.
Arguably, the coolest thing about the Anker 7 is its unibody aluminum casing, which makes it the perfect companion for your PS4, provided you’re a fashion-conscious gamer. The thing about metal casings is that they’re scratch resistant/shock resistant, and also withstand wear and tear due to repeated plugging in. Finally, this Anker USB hub supports hot swapping and features built-in surge protection, thus making it ideal for harboring your expensive gear.
- nice unibody design
- well built and affordable
- outstanding customer support from Anker
- detachable power supply
- none really at this price
6. AmazonBasics 7 Port USB 3.0 Hub
To no one’s surprise, this Amazon product is the definition of a no-nonsense powered USB hub, boasting 7 USB 3.0 ports at an affordable price. There are no fancy bells and whistles on this USB hub. Everything is straightforward and efficient: 7 USB 3.0 ports, which are backward-compatible to 2.0 or 1.1 devices. The maximum power-output per port is 900MA, while the total output stands at 36W. The AmazonBasics 7 supports low/full/high/super speeds and it’s capable of auto-switching between bus-power and self-power mode, i.e. it’s highly portable.
- lightweight and compact
- good features at a decent price tag
- good build quality, well designed
- none at this price really
7. HooToo USB C Hub
As its name suggests, the HooToo USB C Hub is a top-notch all-in-one Type-C powered USB hub, which can charge your latest-gen gear, whether we’re talking about Google Chromebook, MacBook Pro or whatever. This baby comes with 3 “banal” 3.0 USB ports, one HDMI port (!), one Type-C charging port and one Ethernet port, as in it really has it where it counts.
The latest-gen Type-C USB port allows you to charge whatever device at up to 100W, while the HDMI port can extend/mirror your device’s display to enjoy 4K/Full HD videos on an external display/TV set. The best thing about USB Type-C technology is that it allows you to multi-task, i.e. video, power and data can pass through a single port/adapter, at least on the latest MacBook Pro models.
- 3 USB 3.0 ports
- HDMI with UDH 4K support
- pass through power charging
- good transfer speeds
- hefty price tag
8. TP-Link UH720
TP-Link is a very well known brand, and besides networking equipment, they also manufacture pretty good USB hubs, as it’s the case with the UH-720. This 2nd gen powered USB hub comes with 7 USB 3.0 ports and 2 charging ports, which can charge 2 devices simultaneously at up to 5V/2.4A.
The power brick is large, and delivers 40W of power, while the ports are well-spaced, which is great news for power-users, i.e. you can plug-in “fat” devices without having to worry about eating space from other ports. Another cool feature is that you can use this TP-Link USB hub as a stand-alone unit, i.e. sans the AC adapter, while on the go. Even so, you can use a thumb drive, an USB 3.0 HDD and a USB mouse, due to its efficient USB 3.0 controller, which uses under 0.5W while under load.
- well priced
- minimalist design
- plenty of ports, plenty of juice
- comes with status LEDs
- well spaced ports
- comes with power-button
- huge power-brick
9. Sabrent HB-B7C3
The Sabrent HB-B7C3 USB hub is another interesting option for power users, being pretty similar to the Anker 10, yet a little bit cheaper. This powered USB hub offers 7 USB 3.0 ports plus 3 smart charging ports, featuring individual power switches (as cool as it gets) and LEDs. The USB 3.0 technology allows for fast data transfer speeds, up to 5 Gbps, while the smart charging ports deliver up to 2.4 amps per port. There’s also a blue LED for each port, which indicates power status.
The best thing about the Sabrent HB-B7C3 is that its external 60W 12V/5A power adapter included in the retail package is optional (as in this USB hub also works stand-alone) and if plugged-in, it delivers enough juice (as in power output) to allow you simultaneously charge all your gadgets in the same time, whether we’re talking about your smartphone, tablet or whatever. Built quality is top notch, and the workmanship is impeccable.
- the power-brick is optional, making this USB hub hugely versatile, as in portable while on the go
- 7 USB 3.0 ports and 3 dedicated charging ports are more than enough even for power-users
- minimalist design
- comes with individual power-switches
- easy to use, plug and play
- smart charge technology
- there were some complaints form users with regard to long-term reliability
10. Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub
The Anker 10 is a monster and the best USB 3.0 hub out there, offering 10 USB ports, among which 7 deliver high-speed data transfer of up to 5Gbps, and the remaining 3 are PowerIQ charging ports for Macbook, iMac, XPS, Galaxy Series, Microsoft Surface Pro, iPhone 7 and so on and so forth. The 3 dedicated and proprietary PowerIQ ports deliver 2.1 amps per port via the company’s advanced charging technology. All this power comes in a compact design for workspace conservation, i.e. the Anker 10 is relatively small, having the size of a pen-case.
Obviously, this is a powered USB hub, and it comes with a 12V / 5A AC power adapter and a 2.6ft. USB 3.0 cable in its retail package. If price is not an issue, the Anker 10 is the way to go if you’re into “the best gear money can buy”, which translates into high-speed data transfer rates, safety first and PowerIQ technology to keep all your gadgets charged and ready to go.
- 10 ports offering charging speed of 5V/2.4A
- premium quality
- reliable and well designed
- features surge protection, temperature-control
- very high max-output
- solidly built
- quality comes at a price
- relatively heavy
- no USB C charging ports
- no quick charge ports