If you’ve recently been looking for a new laptop, you’ve certainly noticed that more and more models are coming with fewer and fewer ports. Some of the most current MacBook models, for example, only feature two USB C connectors and no other ports.
Although Apple may be done with external devices, the rest of us aren’t. USB hubs restore the flexibility that manufacturers have taken away by allowing you to connect to everything that doesn’t have a USB C connection, including HDMI TVs and monitors, Ethernet cables, SD cards, and even a basic memory stick.
Some even allow you to charge your laptop or other gadgets while using them. We’ve compiled a list of our favourite USB and USB C hubs for a variety of uses, including travel and those on a budget, as well as the finest overall option. Before you start looking for one, make sure you know whether you’ll be using a USB-A (old-school) or USB-C (newer type) connector.
What to Consider When Choosing a USB Hub
USB hubs are inexpensive when compared to most other electronic devices. Even top-of-the-line models are under $100, while dependable budget models may be bought for less than ten dollars. To begin, look for a USB hub that matches your unique needs and has the connections you require.
If your laptop only has a USB C connector, seek for hubs that use a USB C connection to connect. If you simply need a few extra USB ports, don’t waste your money on a 12-in-1 hub with functions you’ll never use.
Powered USB Hubs and Charging Devices
Powered USB hubs connect to both an external power supply and your laptop. This is most often a wall outlet, but it can also be a portable charger. You don’t have to worry about them consuming your laptop’s battery because they have their own electricity.
Some powered USB hubs enable Power Delivery, allowing them to power both your laptop and whatever is plugged into them at the same time. If you’re going to use this method to charge your laptop, be sure the hub has enough power. While some laptops require as little as 30W to charge at maximum speed, some require as much as 85W.
Even if you have a powered hub, don’t expect to be able to charge all of your gadgets at the same time. Just because a hub contains the correct ports doesn’t guarantee they’re meant to be used for charging. Most only provide one additional charging connector, which should be labelled as a pass-through or USB C Power Delivery port in the product description.
Some manufactures skim over or simply note the difference in the fine print, but USB or USB C data connections are solely designed to connect accessories, not to charge them. Read the product specifications carefully, and presume that if charging isn’t mentioned, the product isn’t built for it.
USB Hubs vs. USB C Hubs
USB hubs link to USB A ports, while USB C hubs connect to USB C ports. For many years, the large, flat USB-A connections were the standard, and chances are you still have an old USB key with photos, documents, or movie files on it hanging around. For charging and using older accessories, outdated laptops are likely to contain a few USB-A ports.
Newer laptops may contain a mix of USB-A and USB-C connectors, while the most recent models frequently lack USB-A ports altogether. USB C is the new standard for many businesses since it is significantly more powerful and adaptable.
With a smaller design and a socket that can be inserted in either direction, it can enable higher video quality, transfer data at quicker speeds, and charge devices faster. That’s the way to go if your laptop has a USB C port. Otherwise, a standard USB hub will suffice. What’s the bottom line? Check to see if the hub can connect to your computer and if it has the type and number of ports you require.
1. Best Powered USB Hub: Atolla 5-Port USB 3.0 Hub
As more laptops and other devices migrate to USB C cords, USB hubs are becoming less frequent. Check out Atolla’s 5-Port USB 3.0 hub if you’re still looking for one that plugs into a USB-A port.
The hub comes with an extra wall adapter for when you’re utilising power-hungry devices and is compatible with most Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. On the top of the hub, there are four data-only USB 3.0 ports as well as a fast-charging port that can deliver up to 2.4 amps (12W).
Each of the top ports has its own on/off button and lights up to indicate that it is in use, which is a nice touch. This straightforward hub is great for transferring data, charging a single device, and attaching peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, or card reader.
- Fast-charging port
- USB 3.0 data ports for faster file transfer
- Individual on/off switch for each port
- Only has USB-A ports, nothing else
2. Best Powered USB C Hub: Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1
The Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB C hub offers all of the ports you’ll need, as well as Power Delivery (PD) capability for charging your laptop. When you plug it into a power outlet, you’ll get up to 85W of pass-through charging while still being able to utilise all of the ports.
A 10Gbps USB C Power Delivery port, USB C data, two USB 3.0 data ports, 4K HDMI, 1Gbps Ethernet, and SD and microSD card readers are among the features. This should easily meet most needs, and you won’t lose a USB C port in the process thanks to the pass-through charging.
The HDMI connector provides a 60Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution, which is unusual for hubs of this type. Most only go up to 30Hz, resulting in a less-than-smooth viewing experience. The main drawback is that you can’t charge from the USB 3.0 ports or the USB C data port, so this isn’t the best option for powering many devices at once.
It is, however, the way to go for practically everything else. There’s a 7-in-1 version of this hub that’s frequently roughly half the price if you don’t require the Ethernet connector, 4K/60fps HDMI, or the faster 10Gbps USB C data transfer. It’s a noticeable trade-off, but one that certain users may find worthwhile.
- 85W PD pass-through charging
- 10Gbps USB C data transfer
- 1Gbps Ethernet
- 4K HDMI port (60Hz)
- 18-month warranty
- Larger design than some other hubs
- Only one charging port
- Higher price
3. Best USB C Hub For Travel: Anker 5-in-1 USB C Hub
You’ll love Anker’s slimline 5-in-1 USB C hub if you like to travel light. It has three USB 3.0 data ports, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port despite weighing less than two ounces. It also comes with a handy pouch to keep your hub safe while you’re on the go.
All of the USB 3.0 ports are data-only and aren’t designed to be used for charging. They’re designed to connect external devices like a hard drive, mouse, or keyboard to your laptop and transmit content quickly.
However, if your laptop supports USB C Power Delivery and you know you’ll need the extra USB C ports or card readers, the Anker 7-in-1 USB C Hub is a good option. It’s a little bulkier and heavier, but for many travellers, the extra ports and pass-through charging will make up for it.
- Slim, lightweight design
- USB 3.0 ports for quick file transfer
- 4K HDMI port (30Hz)
- Ethernet port for old-school hotels
- 18-month warranty
- USB-A (3.0) ports do not support charging
- No USB C ports
4. Best USB Hub On A Budget: Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
The Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 hub is a low-cost USB hub that allows you to convert one USB port into four. All ports enable transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, but you won’t be able to charge your devices using them because they aren’t powered.
The hub is lightweight and contains independent on/off switches for each USB port. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. It also includes a two-foot cable, which may be beneficial or detrimental depending on your needs.
That cable will bring you closer to other devices, such as an external monitor or television screen, but it will obstruct your view if you do not require the extra length. This hub doesn’t bring any additional power or capability, but it is a cheap and simple method to add a bunch of USB ports to your laptop or desktop computer.
- Low price
- Compact design
- USB 3.0 ports for faster file transfer
- Only has USB-A ports
- Not designed for charging devices
5. Best USB C Hub On A Budget: QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C Hub
The QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C hub is a simple and inexpensive solution to expand the functionality of your laptop’s USB C ports. A USB C PD connector, an HDMI port, and two USB-A sockets are included in the hub, making it suitable for connecting an external mouse or keyboard, connecting to a display, or transferring files from a memory stick or portable drive.
It’s a handy small tool that does the job for the price and meets the demands of many laptop users. You may use the USB C port to charge your devices or to power your laptop with anything up to a 100W charger. This will also supply additional power to the USB-A ports, which can come in useful if you have hard drives or other high-draw devices connected in.
The HDMI connector supports [email protected] or [email protected], as is typical with budget hubs. It’s worth noting that the USB C PD connector is solely for charging and not for data transfer. You won’t be able to connect a hard drive or power a monitor from it.
Although the manufacturer recommends against charging through the USB-A ports, they can output up to 1.5 amps (7.5 watts), so you might be able to gently charge your phone or other small USB device. This is a simple, inexpensive solution to add a few extra ports to your laptop that is lightweight, tiny enough to fit in your pocket, and comes with an 18-month warranty.
- Low price
- Compact design
- USB C PD passthrough charging
- 18-month replacement warranty
- Not intended for charging devices
- USB C socket is only for charging, not data transfer
6. Best USB Hub For MacBooks: Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2
Apple has been brutal in its removal of ports from its laptops, requiring customers to rely on extension hubs to restore connectivity. Although USB C ports are the way of the future, chances are you’re still carrying around old technology, and if you’re not, people around you are. You’ll need to know how to attach a USB key if you’re given one to grab a file.
A Thunderbolt 3 USB C port with 100W PD charging, a USB C data transfer port, two USB 3.0 ports, SD and microSD card readers, and an HDMI port are all included in the Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Hub for MacBook. The compact device mimics the design of Apple laptops and plugs into both USB C ports on the laptop’s side.
This means you won’t have any loose cords dangling off your computer, but you won’t be able to get any closer to other devices if you’re sharing ports with friends or attempting to reach a wall-mounted TV. The disadvantage of this device is that it requires two Thunderbolt ports but only receives one in return. If you have a MacBook with four USB C ports, this is excellent, but if you just have two, the bigger 7-in-1 version of the hub may be preferable.
- 100W Power Delivery
- USB 3.0 ports for faster file transfer
- Matches the aesthetic of Apple laptops
- 18-month warranty
- Reduces two Thunderbolt 3 ports to one
- Not meant for charging multiple devices at once
Nobody wants to be lugging along more digital gadgets they won’t utilise. Consider which ports you’ll need and how often you’ll use them when deciding which USB hub is ideal for you.
If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles, go for the smaller, simpler ones to save money and space. On the other hand, if you think you’ll utilise extras like card readers and HDMI ports, or if you want to charge your laptop and other devices from your hub, it’s worth the extra size and money to choose a model with those functions.