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At a time when we rely more and more on external keyboards, mice, memory keys, and all sorts of peripherals, new business computers shortchange us on the ports needed to use them. The typical new laptop has one, maybe two USB ports and nothing else.
The answer is to get a USB hub that does modern-day magic by turning a lone port into as many as your digital work requires. A great variety of USB hubs are out there that deliver several USB ports to help you get work done. Others take this idea a step further by adding ports for video, networking, and access to SD cards. Some can even deliver enough power to charge a phone, tablet, or notebook, although you’ll need an AC adapter to provide the juice.
When shopping for a USB hub to help your small business, your biggest decision is likely whether to get a USB 3.0 or USB C hub. Both are available in a wide variety of models, but the former is for older computers. These port hubs are less expensive. The latter is for newer computers. The hubs can cost more but can perform more tasks.
Here are some of the best models on the market.
There are USB hubs with lots of ports: ones with video and networking, as well as ones that that can straddle the worlds of USB C and USB 3.0 accessories. Only Anker’s PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB C PD 10Gbps Data Hub does it all in a small and light package that will enable you to do more for your small business from one laptop. The PowerExpand 8-in-1 connects via a 7-inch USB C cable, turning the hub into connection central with two USB 3.1 and one USB C ports, and HDMI video capable of up to 4K resolution and a 60-hertz refresh rate.
In addition to Ethernet networking, the 8-in-1 hub can also accommodate an SD and micro SD card from a camera or phone. A big bonus is that the hub tops out at a claimed data flow of 10Gbps and can supply up to 85 watts for charging a phone, tablet. or laptop.
It works with everything from a six-year-old MacBook to any recent Windows 10 notebook, expanding a computer’s single USB C port into a multitude of connection choices. The 8-in-1 hub comes with an 18-month warranty and a soft cloth pouch for when it’s not being used.
The Sabrent 4-Port hub is for those who only want and need a simple USB hub that turns a single USB 3 port into four downstream outlets for anything from a mouse and keyboard to a printer or scanner to help run your small business. At less than the cost of a fast-food meal for two, this hub is far from basic, however, with LED indicators that show which ports are active and moving data back and forth. Each port can be turned on and off by pressing a square button. Able to support speeds of up to 5Gbps, the USB 3.0 hub is backward compatible to work with USB 1.1 and 2.0 systems and accessories but can’t charge or power accessories. The black plastic hub is 3.5 × 1.5 × 0.5 inches and has the flexibility needed to stash the hub under a desk or behind a desktop computer. It works with Windows (from Windows 2000 to Windows 10), Macs (Apple MacOS 9.1 or newer), and Linux (version 2.4 or higher) computers, making it one of the simplest, least expensive, yet versatile ways to add USB ports.
Not much bigger than an Altoids tin and weighing just 4 ounces, Belkin’s USB-C Multimedia Hub squeezes a lot of video power into a small package. Topping out at a maximum bandwidth of 5Gbps, the USB-C Multimedia Hub has an HDMI port that can send a 4K video stream at a 30-hertz refresh rate to a display or projector, transforming any recent laptop into a presentation powerhouse for your small business.
If that were all the Belkin hub did, then it would be a winner, but the hub also has an SD flash card slot and Ethernet port for wired networking. It doesn’t shortchange when it comes to ports, with a USB 2, a USB 3, and a USB C port. A big bonus is that the USB C connection can reportedly deliver up to 60 watts of power for powering a computing accessory or charging a phone.
It may be among the most expensive USB hubs available, but the Belkin USB-C Multimedia Hub works with recent Windows and Mac computers and can pay dividends with its two-year warranty.
If more ports are all you’re after for work, then ioGear’s USB-C Laptop Docking Station with Power Delivery 3.0 fits the bill. Better known as the GUD3C35, it’s a monster USB hub that should satisfy all connection needs. The long and narrow device can link with up to 10 devices through a single USB C cable while charging a phone or tablet with up to 85 watts of power.
In addition to three traditional USB 3 ports, the GUD3C35 has a pair of next-generation USB C ports, as well as SD and micro SD card readers and Ethernet wired networking. It does multimedia exceptionally well, with an audio jack for headphones or external speakers and the choice of connections for mini DisplayPort, HDMI and old-school VGA monitors. In fact, the USB-C Laptop Docking Station with Power Delivery 3.0 can support up to three video streams at 4K resolution.
In addition to Windows and Mac compatibility, the USB-C Laptop Docking Station with Power Delivery 3.0 works with Chromebooks. A big bonus for laptop users is that the 14-inch-long dock can prop up a computer at a comfortable typing angle while allowing more cooling air to flow in from below.
While other USB hubs connect via a single cable, Anker’s Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Adapter has a pair of USB C ports that plug right into the side of recent MacBooks. It tops out at 40Gbps and works with MacBook Pro and Air models from 2016 through 2020 to produce the best integrated USB hub available.
The Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Adapter not only takes advantage of the MacBook’s Thunderbolt 3 abilities, but its HDMI port can also drive a 5K monitor. In addition to 100 watts of power for charging a phone, the hub has a USB C port as well as a pair of USB 3 connections for a variety of accessory connections. There are also SD and micro SD card readers for moving images and videos. Like other Anker products, it includes an 18-month warranty and a soft fabric pouch, but the Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Adapter is for Mac users who want their notebook to be as versatile as it is good looking.
The silver and black Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock may be big and heavy, but no USB hub does as much for turning a laptop into the equivalent of a desktop system ready to do serious business. By using Thunderbolt 3 technology, the Belkin Express Dock is reportedly capable of a top speed of 40Gbps and can be used to daisy-chain up to five Thunderbolt devices. It has the expected ports, including three USB C and two USB 3 connections, as well as Ethernet wired networking.
Its DisplayPort video might not be as versatile as an HDMI port, but it is incredibly capable, with the ability to drive a pair of 4K displays. The hub has the bonus of two audio-out jacks for headphones or external speakers. It is the rare USB hub that comes with a 170-watt AC adapter that powers the device and can supply up to 85 watts of phone-charging power. In other words, the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock is the best way to turn a notebook into a full desktop computer for business.
If all you need is an extra USB port, then why go through the expense, hassle, and bulk of having a hub with a slew of ports that you’ll never use? The Plugable USB 2.0 2-port Hub/Splitter is a one-trick pony that turns a single USB port into a pair of connections for anything from a memory key to a wireless keyboard and mouse set. Simple, basic, and self-powered, the Plugable USB 2.0 2-port Hub/Splitter is based on a powerful NEC USB chipset. Small and light, the black plastic Hub/Splitter is a two-for that lets you share a single USB port with two devices that can run at a claimed top speed of 480Mbps. It can’t handle the faster speeds of USB 3 or USB C but has a 16-inch USB cable for plugging the device into a port-deficient computer. On the downside, the Plugable USB 2.0 2-port Hub/Splitter can’t charge phones or power accessories. However, the hub includes a two-year warranty.
The beauty of Urbo’s Monitor Stand with Type C USB Hub is more than skin deep. Sure, the sleek and sturdy aluminum stand looks great on a desk and can securely hold up to 31 pounds to safely handle a 27-inch display, but it does USB alchemy. Urbo engineers did their homework for those who are short on USB ports, with a full hub built into the stand that can supply three USB 3 ports as well as a USB C connection for anything from a keyboard and mouse to a scanner or printer.
The hub connects with a 17-inch USB cable, and the innovative design allows the hub to be attached on either the right or left side for maximum convenience. In addition to promoting good posture when working or playing, the stand has room for stashing a keyboard underneath, as well as a place for your phone on the side. Its design works with all types of notebooks, including Windows, Macs, and Chromebooks, but the hub tops out at claimed data speeds of 400Mbps.
While other USB hubs specialize in delivering one port or another, the Aukey USB C 12-in-1 Type C Adapter does it all, making it one of the most flexible accessories to have in your digital toolbox for work. A cornucopia of connection potential, the USB C 12-in-1 hub has not only a quartet of USB 3 ports but also a pair of USB C connectors.
It can lift images or videos from SD and micro SD cards and connect with a wired LAN through its Ethernet port. Video is well represented, with a VGA port and two HDMI connectors. It works well with MacBooks and Windows 10 systems but can do video magic by driving up to three displays at once. Despite doing all this, the Aukey USB C 12-in-1 Type C Adapter keeps its cool regardless of whether you’re using its video capabilities or just reading data from a memory card.
If you travel a lot for business, then the Novoo USB C Hub 8 in 1 USB-C Dock could be just the ticket because it is small, it has a loop handle at one end for hanging off a carabiner, and its connection cable conveniently snaps into place at the other. Able to connect with eight devices, the Novoo hub tops out by making up to 5Gbps of bandwidth available.
It has three USB 3 ports, as well as a single USB C connector and slots for reading SD and micro SD cards. An Ethernet wired LAN port is complemented by an HDMI connector that’s capable of streaming 4K video at a refresh rate of 30 hertz. For those wanting to charge an accessory, the USB C Hub 8 in 1 USB-C Dock can deliver up to 60 watts of power, plenty for even the thirstiest mobile phone. The hub covers the bases well, with compatibility for everything from a recent MacBook and Windows 10 systems to a Google Pixel Chromebook and Samsung Galaxy tablet.
In a world awash with USB hubs of all sorts, the Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB C PD 10Gbps Data Hub (view at Amazon) stands out by being small, light, and powerful enough to help you get real work done. With ports for two USB 3.1 and one USB C devices, it does the basics well but adds Ethernet networking, SD and micro SD card slots, and HDMI video that can stream 4K resolution and a 60-hertz refresh rate. In addition to being able to dole out 85 watts of power, the PowerExpand 8-in-1 works with just about any recent laptop out there, making it a jack-of-all-trades and master of compatibility.
What to Look for in a USB hub
Try and get a USB hub that has ports on all sides. This makes for a neater desktop at work, as well as the ability to keep the cables from tangling.
When shopping, look for a hub that tops out at a claimed minimum of 10Gbps. Chances are that you’ll never need this speed, but it’s good to know that it’s there as a potential option.
Based on the two USB C port design of recent Apple MacBooks, there are several hubs that plug right into the side of the notebook. This gets rid of the messy connection cable and delivers a sleeker look.
The newest USB C USB hubs can deliver lots of power to charge a phone, computer or tablet. While some can provide upward of 90 watts, half of that is more common.
Is a USB Hub Required?
No, but so many smaller business laptops only have one or two USB ports. In these cases, a hub is a big help. It not only allows connecting peripherals, like a mouse, keyboard, and memory key, but some also can send a video signal to a display or projector.
Does Using a USB Hub Slow Access to Data?
Each connected device needs to share the overall bandwidth, so yes, dividing it among connected devices can be slower than when used alone. In practical terms, you’re likely to never notice the difference.
Do I Need a Hub With Power Delivery?
It depends. Having power delivery potential is a great way to simplify a desktop by plugging a phone directly into the hub. In other cases, it can be a way to power a display or external hard drive.
What If All I Want is a Few USB Ports?
You’re in luck, because there’s a slew of basic USB hubs that only provide USB ports. There are inexpensive ones that provide two to 10 ports.
Are USB Hubs Compatible With All Types of Computers?
Generally, yes. Just about any USB hub will work with Windows and Mac computers, while some specialize in Chromebook and Linux compatibility.
Can a USB Hub Drive Several Displays?
Many have the ability to run a display array with two or three screens at 4K resolution.
Why Trust Investopedia?
With all of the devices available, getting the right USB hub for your small business is not an easy task. To put this list of top candidates together, Brian Nadel used his extensive experience in the industry along with a critical eye as to how each works and what it does.
A freelance writer and reviewer based outside of New York City, Nadel has covered all aspects of desktop mobile technology, from keyboards, mice, and other accessories to displays, external drives, and scanners. To connect all that his office has to offer, he uses no fewer than four USB hubs. They consolidate his wireless mouse, SD card reader, label printer, and other accessories.
He started by creating an overview of the industry with 10 major categories based on what the USB hub could do for the business user. These attributes included the type and number of ports, size, and whether it could deliver power to charge a phone. He followed up by ranking each USB hub based on this criteria to hone in on the 10 best devices available.
Best USB hubs and docking stations in 2021
As laptops get smaller and thinner, their port selection gets more and more paltry — this can get quite frustrating for anyone working from home and wrestling toward the best setup. Many ultraportable laptops have done away with Ethernet and HDMI ports, while others have gone even further, eschewing old-school USB ports for newer, smaller USB-C slots. So what do you do when you don't have enough connections for your old peripherals, external monitors, or SD cards? Well, you could grab a dongle for that one device — USB-C to HDMI and USB-C to USB-A adapters are a dime a dozen — or you could get one docking station to rule them all.
Simply put, a USB hub, or docking station, expands the number of ports on your laptop through one adapter. So you can connect multiple USB devices, SD cards, HDMI displays, Ethernet connections or other devices to your laptop after plugging that hub into just one USB port on your laptop. Some may even allow you to charge your laptop through them, your actual laptop charger plugging into the hub itself.
Best USB hub overall: Anker
1. Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
For the laptops that just don't have enough USB ports, grab this simple 4-port USB hub from Anker. It's slim, inexpensive and supports USB 3.0 speeds to ensure your flash drives transfer data quickly. It also boasts a 4.7-star average rating from more than 50,000 reviewers on Amazon. Anker also has a more desktop-friendly model if you want something a bit easier to access at your workspace.
Best 8-in-1 USB-C hub: AUKEY
2. AUKEY USB C Hub 8-in-1 Adapter with Ethernet Port
If you've built yourself a nice little telecommuting workstation, you may need more than just extra USB ports. This 8-in-1 AUKEY hub combines extra USB ports, an Ethernet jack for faster internet, an HDMI port for your extra monitor, an SD card slot, and a USB-C port for charging into one hub. (The USB-C port does not support data transfer, just charging). And it connects to your laptop over USB-C, too, so it should work with even the latest models that have ditched old-school USB-A.
Best USB hub for MacBooks: Anker
3. Anker PowerExpand Direct 8-in-2 USB C Hub for MacBook
USB hubs are useful but can be a little clunky thanks to the extra hardware flopping around on your desk. That's why Anker built these all-in-one expansion adapters for the latest MacBooks, allowing you to plug in USB devices, SD cards, and an HDMI monitor into one slim hub that docks right to the side of your laptop. You can see compatibility on its Amazon page to ensure it'll fit properly on your machine.
Not all hubs are created equal with varying ports their only difference.
Simple USB hubs, for example, draw power from the laptop itself and may not be able to provide enough juice to power-hungry peripherals like external DVD drives. In those cases, you'd either need a USB hub that plugs into the wall — enabling it to draw more power for those devices — or you'd need the device itself to plug into the wall (like a DVD drive that comes with its own power cable).
In addition, some may allow you to plug your laptop's power adapter into the hub but it may not charge as quickly or efficiently as it would if it were plugged directly into the laptop. So your mileage may vary depending on the laptop you use.
Things get even more complicated when you add displays to the mix. Most USB hubs will connect to an external display just fine, giving you more screen to fit your work. But if you want to connect multiple displays to your laptop — especially high-resolution 4K displays — you'll need a hub capable of pushing those pixels. And not all USB hubs are.
Best USB hub and laptop riser with multiple USB ports: LENTION
4. LENTION USB C 11-in-1 Docking Station with 100W PD
This multi-port hub from LENTION is extremely versatile, with extra USB ports, an Ethernet port, SD card slots and multiple display hookups for you to connect an external monitor or two — all on a stand that holds your laptop (or phone) in place. Note that while you can hook up multiple monitors to this docking station, not all configurations will necessarily work so check its product page for more information on what kinds of setups it supports.
Best USB hub for the most Thunderbolt power: CalDigit
5. CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock
If you're a power user with lots of devices to connect, you may want to consider a Thunderbolt dock. Thunderbolt is a more powerful protocol that uses the same connector as USB-C. While they look the same and plug into the same ports, Thunderbolt allows for faster data transfer and more high-resolution displays. You'll need Thunderbolt capability on the hub and on your laptop for these features to work, so check your laptop's spec page or manual to see if its ports are Thunderbolt or just USB-C.
At the end of the day, the vast majority of users are going to be fine with a simple, affordable USB-C hub like any of the options above. If you have more specialized needs, you'll want to search through user reviews for the user cases you plan to encounter — like running dual 4K displays at 60Hz (something the CalDigit dock can do, but many other hubs can not).
But if you just need the occasional flash drive and SD card, find an affordable model that fits nicely in your bag (and on your desk) and you'll be good to go.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Whitson Gordon is a former freelance technology writer with bylines in the New York Times, Popular Science Magazine, PC Magazine and more. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek.
A USB-C hub or docking station can save you from constantly swapping dongles and relying on Bluetooth. With a single USB-C connection to your laptop or desktop and a USB-C hub, you can hook up a monitor, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet as well as read and write to memory cards or other external drives.
Narrowing down your many options and finding the best USB-C hub comes down to knowing how portable you need it to be and exactly what connections you need. Here are some of our favorite USB-C docking stations that we've tested. We'll continue to update this list as we find new models to recommend. And if you're looking to charge your USB-C devices, here are the best options we've tested.
Also see:The best USB-C PD chargers of 2021
Is a USB-C port the same as a USB port?
The USB port most are familiar with is USB Type-A. Sometimes called a standard or regular USB port, it is rectangular and requires you to plug in your cable with the right side up so tabs inside the connectors are properly aligned. The newer USB-C port is a small oval that uses a reversible connector so that you don't need to flip it around to get the correct position. However, while the port might appear the same from device to device, not all USB-C ports are the same. For instance, Thunderbolt 3 or 4 devices will only be fully supported by a computer with the corresponding Thunderbolt USB-C port. Unfortunately, you can't just look at the port and know exactly what you have. Check with your computer manufacturer for what your laptop (or desktop) model supports before you buy a USB-C dock or adapter.
It's worth noting that Aukey, which makes two of our top picks, has been booted from Amazon because it was one of several vendors reported to have solicited positive user reviews for gift cards. But since our experience with the quality and value of Aukey accessories has been positive, we continue to recommend their hardware.
Aukey CB-C71 Link PD Pro 8-in-1 USB-C HubJosh Goldman/CNET
This little USB Type-C hub is perfect for a small home office setup and travel (it even comes with a storage pouch). On one side you have SD and microSD card slots and two USB 3.1 ports, all with transfer speeds up to 5Gbps. On the other side is a USB 2.0 port -- great for a wireless mouse or keyboard receiver -- and 4K HDMI port out supporting a 4K display at 30Hz refresh rate. There's also a 100-watt USB-C Power Delivery charging port letting you charge your MacBook Air or other laptops through the hub with 87-watt output. Topping things off is an extra port in the form of Gigabit Ethernet jack in the front. Its short cable means you won't be able to place this too far from your laptop and it is lightweight, so depending on how many cables you run from it (and how stiff or straight they are), you may have trouble keeping it flat on your desk. Still, it's a great option for home, office and travel and relatively inexpensive for the connection assortment and performance.
The 7 Best USB Hubs of 2021
Our best overall pick is the Anker SuperSpeed USB 3.0 10-port Hub (view at eBay) because it’s large, reasonably priced, well designed, and highly functional. It also has a built-in surge protector to keep it, and any devices connected to it, safe from electrical failures.
If you want something smaller, the uni 4-Port Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub (view at Amazon) is your best bet. It’s affordable and it has a sleek, durable aluminum chassis and a built-in braided nylon USB cable. You can just toss it in a bag and go. Apple loyalists may want to check out the HooToo 6-in-1 USB C Hub (view at Amazon) because of its USB-C plug and PD charging port.
About Our Trusted Experts
Andy Zahn lives in rural Southwest Washington and has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. He builds his own PCs and loves nothing more than geeking out over the latest gadgets.
Briley Kenney lives in the always-exciting state of Florida where he works as a freelance copywriter and technology enthusiast. He’s been around computers and electronics his entire life, which has earned him plenty of experience and knowledge in the field.
Jonno Hill has been obsessed with technology ever since he built his first computer in middle school, and began writing for Lifewire in January 2019. He specializes in computers and their peripherals, and he has reviewed several of the USB hubs on this list.
Patrick Hyde lives in Seattle where he works as a digital marketer and freelance copywriter. He has a job in Seattle's booming tech industry and is an expert in consumer electronics, including personal computers and their peripherals.
Will fast charging damage your devices?
To put it simply, fast charging will reduce your battery life slightly more quickly over a long period of time than standard charging speeds, but it's far from the most significant factor when it comes to battery longevity. Things like heat, cold, and how frequently you recharge have a much greater effect.
What's the difference between USB-A and USB-C?
The letter following USB indicates the physical design of the port. USB-A are the large, square, more familiar ports, and USB-C are the newer, smaller oval ports found on many modern Android smartphones. USB-C is an upgrade in just about every way over USB-A, but perhaps most importantly USB-C is double sided, which means less fumbling to get it oriented correctly.
What happens if you plug a USB 3.0 device into a USB 2.0 port?
The USB standard is backward compatible, so USB 3.0 will work fine with USB 2.0 or even USB 1.1. The older USB standards are limited by data transfer rates, so as you go backward you’ll see data transfers taking longer. For instance, when plugging a USB 3.0-ready hard drive into a USB 2.0 port, and initiating a data transfer, you will see only USB 2.0 transfer speeds—up to 480Mbps as opposed to 5Gbps. They work fine, but USB 2.0 and below are slower.
What to Look For in a USB Hub
Number of Ports
There is no ideal number - it just depends on what you’re looking for. If you want something lightweight and portable then you’ll want to choose something with fewer ports, sacrificing quantity. If you want something with a lot of ports, you’ll be choosing a much larger hub, sacrificing portability. Typically, the smaller hubs have about three or four ports, while the larger ones can have as many as 16 or more.
Some USB ports offer additional functionality such as fast charging, extra ports, and sometimes extra hardware like an SD card reader. If you need only the standard USB ports, then it doesn’t matter what else the hub offers. If you want something with a little more versatility, however, consider some of those extra features.
Almost all hubs are plug-and-play and hot-swappable. The former means they can plug into most computers and you don’t need to install drivers or third-party software. The latter means you can plug in, unplug, and remove USB devices all while the hub is plugged into a computer, and without turning off the system or rebooting. For added compatibility, it depends on what ports and functions are available. A USB-C port, for example, ensures compatibility with Apple devices and other USB-C systems like some Chromebooks.
Surge protection, overcharge protection, and overvoltage protection are all important especially when you have several devices simultaneously plugged into a hub. They’re also important when you’re transferring data, especially if you have a hard drive or flash drive plugged in. An energy surge can corrupt the data and ruin those drives.
Amazon usb multiport
If you’ve been in the market for a new laptop lately, you’ve probably noticed that more and more models are being designed with fewer and fewer ports. Some of the most recent MacBook models, for instance, have just a pair of USB C ports and nothing else.
Apple may be done with external devices, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are. USB hubs give back the flexibility that manufacturers have taken away, letting you connect to all of those things that don’t have USB C ports: HDMI TVs and monitors, Ethernet cables, SD cards, or just a simple memory stick. Some even let you charge your laptop or other devices from them as well.
We’ve pulled together our favorite USB and USB C hubs for various needs including travel and those on a budget, plus the best choices overall. Be sure to determine whether you’ll be plugging yours into a USB-A (old-school) or USB C (the newer type) port before you start shopping around.
- Connection Type: USB C
- Size: 4.8 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches (121 x 55 x 15 mm)
- Weight: 4.5oz (128g)
- Ports: 1 x USB C PD, 1 x USB C data, 2 x USB-A data, 1 x 4K HDMI, 1x Ethernet, 1 x SD, 1 x microSD
Compared to most tech gadgets, USB hubs don’t cost much. Even top of the line versions cost under $100, and reliable budget models can be found for under ten bucks.
First and foremost, shop for a USB hub that meets your specific requirements and includes the ports you need. If your laptop only has a USB C port, make sure to only look for hubs that connect via a USB C cable. If you only need a few extra USB sockets, don’t go wild with a 12-in-1 hub that has a bunch of features you’ll never use.
Powered USB Hubs and Charging Devices
Powered USB hubs plug into an external electrical source as well as your laptop. This is usually a wall socket, but can sometimes also be a portable charger. Since they have their own power, you don’t have to worry about draining your laptop’s battery while using them.
Some powered USB hubs support Power Delivery, which lets them provide power to your laptop as well as whatever’s plugged into them. If you’re planning to charge your laptop like this, make sure the hub has enough power to do it. While some laptops need as little as 30W, others need as much as 85W to charge at full speed.
Even with a powered hub, don’t expect to charge all of your devices at once. Just because the hub has the right ports, it doesn’t mean they are designed for charging. Most give one additional port for charging at most, which should be indicated in the product description as a pass-through or USB C Power Delivery port.
USB or USB C data ports are only designed to connect accessories, not charge them, but some brands gloss over the difference or only mention it in the fine print. Read the product specifications carefully, and assume if it doesn’t mention charging, it’s not designed for it.
USB Hubs vs. USB C Hubs
Simply put, USB hubs connect to USB-A ports and USB C hubs connect to USB C ports. Those big, flat USB-A ports were the standard for many years, and odds are you still have an old USB key lying around with photos, documents, or movie files on it.
Older laptops likely have a few USB-A sockets for charging and using older accessories. Newer laptops may have a mix of USB-A and USB C ports, while the latest models often don’t have any USB-A ports at all.
Since it’s far more powerful and versatile, USB C is the new standard for many industries. It can support higher video quality, transfer data at higher speeds, and charge devices faster, all with a slimmer design and a plug that can be inserted in either direction. If your laptop has a USB C slot, that’s the way to go. Otherwise, look for a regular USB hub.
Bottom line? Make sure the hub can connect to your computer, and make sure it has the right type and number of ports you need.
Best Powered USB Hub: Atolla 5-Port USB 3.0 Hub
USB hubs are becoming less common as more and more laptops and other devices switch to USB C cables. If you’re still in the market for one that plugs into a USB-A port, check out Atolla’s 5-Port USB 3.0 hub.
Compatible with most Windows, macOS, and Linux systems, the hub ships with an optional wall adapter for when you’re using power-hungry devices. It includes four data-only USB 3.0 ports on the top of the hub, along with a fast-charging port that can put out up to 2.4 amps (12W).
In a useful touch, each of the ports on top has a separate on/off switch and lights up to let you know it’s in use. This simple hub is ideal for transferring files, charging a single device, and connecting external accessories like 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
Best Powered USB C Hub: Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1
The Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB C hub has all of the extra ports you’re likely to need, while supporting Power Delivery (PD) for charging your laptop as well. Plug it into a wall socket and you’ll get pass-through charging of up to 85W as well.
Those include a 10Gbps USB C Power Delivery port, USB C data, two USB 3.0 data, 4K HDMI, 1Gbps Ethernet, and both SD and microSD card readers. This should easily cover most requirements, and thanks to that pass-through charging, you don’t even lose a USB C port in the process.
Unusually for hubs like these, you get 60Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution from the HDMI port. Most top out at 30Hz, which makes for a less-smooth viewing experience.
The only real downside is that you can’t charge from the USB 3.0 ports or the USB C data port, so this isn’t the answer for powering a bunch of devices at the same time. For almost anything else, however, it’s the way to go.
If you don’t need the Ethernet port, 4K/60fps HDMI, or the faster 10Gbps USB C data transfer, there’s a 7-in-1 version of this hub that’s often around half the price. It’s a noticeable trade-off, but for some users, one that may be worth making.
- 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
Best USB C Hub For Travel: Anker 5-in-1 USB C Hub
If you like to travel light, you’ll appreciate Anker’s slimline 5-in-1 USB C hub. It weighs less than two ounces, but still manages to pack in three USB 3.0 data ports, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port. It also comes with a convenient pouch to protect your hub on the move.
The USB 3.0 ports are all data-only, and aren’t intended for charging. They’re designed for connecting external devices such as a hard drive, mouse, or keyboard, and will quickly transfer files to or from your laptop.
If your laptop supports USB C Power Delivery, however, or you know you’ll need the extra USB C ports or card readers, it’s worth considering the Anker 7-in-1 USB C Hub mentioned above. It’s a bit bigger and heavier, but the extra ports and pass-through charging will justify the size for many travelers.
- 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
Best USB Hub On A Budget: Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
The Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 hub is a simple and effective budget USB hub that lets you turn one USB port into four. All ports supports transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, but since they’re not powered, don’t expect to charge your devices from them.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, the hub is lightweight and includes individual on/off switches for each USB port. It also comes with a two-foot cable, which may be good or bad depending on your needs.
That cable will get you closer to other devices like an external monitor or television screen, but it can get in the way if you don’t need the extra length.
You won’t be adding any extra power or functionality with this hub, but it’s a cheap and easy way of adding 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
Best USB C Hub On A Budget: QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C Hub
The QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C hub is an easy, low-cost way of making better use of your laptop’s USB C ports. The hub includes a USB C PD port, an HDMI port, and two USB-A sockets, ideal for adding an external mouse or keyboard, connecting to a monitor, or transferring files via a memory stick or portable drive.
It’s a useful little tool, does what it needs to for the price, and covers the basic needs of many laptop owners. You can charge devices from the USB C port, or plug anything up to a 100W charger into it to power your laptop. That’ll also provide extra power to the USB-A ports, handy when you’ve got hard drives or other high-draw gadgets plugged in.
The HDMI port, as usual with cheaper hubs, supports [email protected] or [email protected] Note that the USB C PD port is only for charging, and can’t transfer data. Don’t plan to plug in a hard drive or run a monitor from it.
The manufacturer advises against charging from the USB-A ports, but they will put out up to 1.5amps (7.5W), so you may still be able to slowly juice up your phone or other small USB device.
Lightweight, small enough to fit in your pocket, and with an 18-month warranty, this is a simple, inexpensive way of adding a few extra ports to your laptop.
- 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
Best USB Hub For MacBooks: Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2
Apple has been ruthless about removing ports from its laptops, forcing users to resort to expansion hubs to add them back. USB C ports may be the way of the future, but chances are you’re still lugging around some tech from the past, and if you’re not, those around you are. When you get tossed a USB key to grab a file, you need to know you can connect it.
The Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Hub for MacBook includes 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.
The slim device matches the look of Apple laptops, attaching directly to both USB C slots on the side of your laptop. This means you won’t have any cords hanging loose off of your computer, but you also won’t get any closer to other devices if you’re trying to share ports with friends or reach a wall-mounted TV.
The downside to this device is that you need to plug it into two Thunderbolt ports but only get one in return. This is fine if you have a MacBook with four USB C ports, but if yours only has two, you might want the bulkier 7-in-1 version of the hub instead.
We posted an in-depth review of the Anker PowerExpand Direct USB C Hub last year.
- 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
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No one wants to carry around extra tech gadgets they’ll never use. When choosing which USB hub is right for you, consider which ports you need and how often you’ll actually use them.
If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles, save yourself some money and space by going for the smaller, simpler models. If you think you’ll use extras like card readers and HDMI ports or want to charge your laptop and other devices from your hub, on the other hand, it’s worth the additional size and cost to grab a model that includes those features.
Looking for some great accessories to plug into all those extra ports? These are our favorite USB microphones, headsets, and flash drives right now.
Main image via Yogas Design, USB-A to USB C cable via Fructibus / CC0, product images via Amazon
About the Author
Jordan works remotely, from home or abroad, to help businesses conquer their online messaging. When she's not working or relaxing outside, she's watching movies and shows to contribute to her goal of creating the largest database of online drinking games. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.
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What we liked
Why you should trust me
I’ve been covering mobile and computer accessories for more than a decade. During my tenure, I’ve reviewed more than 1,000 iOS and Mac products, including dozens of hubs and docks over several iterations of this guide.
Who this is for
USB-C hubs and docks let you hook your old stuff up to your new stuff. Many new computers, including Apple’s MacBook models and Dell’s XPS 13, have only USB-C ports. If you need to connect flash drives, printers, an Ethernet cable, a display, or any other accessories you already own, a USB-C hub or dock lets you hook them all up to a single USB-C port at once. If you just need more USB-A ports, a hub or dock that accepts that cable standard is still a great choice.
If you’re looking for a more-powerful desktop docking option and your computer’s USB-C ports also support Thunderbolt 3, you might consider a Thunderbolt 3 dock, which can connect to more monitors and transfer data faster, though you have to pay quite a bit more for the privilege. If you’re simply looking for a way to get more USB-C ports, unfortunately you’re out of luck: As of mid-2021, we have yet to find any USB-C hubs or docks that add extra USB-C data ports.
How we picked
We researched and tested hubs with a number of different port layouts, ranging from models with just USB-A ports to those with USB-A plus power pass-through, video output, Ethernet connectors, and SD card slots.
We tested each hub with a MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019). Our tests included the following:
- USB-A speed: Although USB-A ports generally don’t support data-transfer rates as fast as those of USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connectors, it’s still important to be able to transfer data quickly. We ran AJA System Test speed tests using the Samsung T5 Portable SSD (500 GB) to measure transfer speeds. Since SSDs are faster than spinning hard drives, our use of the T5 ensured that the speeds we measured weren’t hindered by the drive. Most of the hubs we tested advertised USB 3.0 speeds, which max out at 640 megabytes per second on paper. Our measured speeds landed largely in the 400 to 425 MB/s range; we eliminated any model that was noticeably slower.
- HDMI: A hub can be very useful at a desk, especially if you want to hook your computer up to an external monitor. We connected each of the hubs via HDMI to a Philips 272P7VUBNB/27 monitor with the resolution set to 4K, and we used the Blur Busters UFO Motion Test to confirm the refresh rate. Most hubs support only a 30 Hz refresh rate (the image refreshes 30 times a second) at 4K resolution, but a handful now support a smoother 60 Hz rate, and we prefer those hubs that do.
- Ethernet: A wired Ethernet connection is almost always faster than Wi-Fi and is more reliable, too. Most hubs with Ethernet ports support gigabit speeds, meaning data can transfer at up to 1,000 megabits a second. For each model in the test group, we verified the connection speed in Network Utility on a Mac, which displays the maximum link speed. (Note that unless you have reliable Gigabit Ethernet service, you won’t be able to measure if the port is actually performing at full speed.)
- Heat: Because hubs and adapters can get hot during use—especially, judging from our experience, when Ethernet is in use—we also measured the temperatures of our picks with an infrared thermometer after 15 minutes of continuous data and Ethernet use to make sure they weren’t dangerously hot. As a representative from Satechi (a prolific hub and accessory maker responsible for one of our former picks) explained to us: “All the bandwidth that goes to Ethernet, HDMI, USB and SD card ports requires energy consumption and that’s transferred to heat. Operating temperatures between 86-122 degrees Fahrenheit … are normal.” We didn’t measure anything at or even close to 122 degrees, but we would have disqualified any model going over that temperature as a safety hazard.
- Power pass-through: All the hubs we considered also have a USB-C port that allows you to plug in your charger without taking up a second port on the computer itself (if it even has a second port). USB-C supports power at up to 100 watts, while laptops take anywhere from 30 watts (for a small machine such as the MacBook Air) to 45 watts (for many midrange laptops, as Chromebooks tend to be) to 97 watts (for the 16-inch MacBook Pro). We’ve found the Power tab in macOS’s System Report to accurately report the wattage of the power source, and in our tests we compared the figures stated there against what each company advertised.
- SD card: Photo and video files can be quite large, so with a fast SD-card transfer rate you won’t have to wait around to import a day’s worth of shots from your card. Since SD cards are less commonly used than USB ports these days, this feature isn’t as important. We ran AJA System Test on a 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro, the fastest UHS-I card we tested in 2020. We’ve measured read and write rates with this card at 93.78 MB/s and 84.58 MB/s, respectively, in other tests; with these hubs, the fastest read speeds were about 89 MB/s, and write speeds reached 75 MB/s.
- microSD card: Taking what we knew about SD cards, we applied the same thinking toward microSD cards, which are used less frequently these days and are naturally slower. We ran the same test as above using the SanDisk MicroSDXC card for Nintendo Switch. Figures for the best-performing hubs came close to what we’ve seen in other tests, with read speeds around 89 MB/s and write speeds maxing out at about 59 MB/s.
We also took size into consideration. People often use their hubs with a portable setup, so the smaller and lighter a hub is, the better.
The best USB-C hub: Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C PD 10Gbps Data Hub
Unlike other hubs we tested, the Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C PD 10Gbps Data Hub can send a clear, crisp image to high-resolution 4K monitors without sacrificing the smooth movement and animation of a high screen-refresh rate. It’s the best way to add the widest array and greatest number of the fastest ports to your USB-C–based computer. Plus, the sturdy and highly portable design makes it handy on the go or even as a semipermanent desk accessory.
Ports and features
The most noteworthy feature of the PowerExpand 8-in-1 is the video output from its HDMI port. Since this product category launched, we’ve been disappointed to see that every hub has limited its video signal to a 30 Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution. But this Anker hub is one of a handful of newer models that—finally—allow for 60 Hz, so they permit 60 refreshes of the display per second, or double the number of images per second compared with a 30 Hz refresh rate. The result is an experience as smooth as you get on the screens of most laptops, and it’s far nicer than the jerkier 30 Hz movement we’re used to.
|Read (MB/s)||Write (MB/s)|
Read and write speeds on the Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 Data Hub, in megabytes per second.
There are some kinds of ports that all hubs must have, and some that are nice but not necessary; the PowerExpand 8-in-1 hub has the essentials and omits anything superfluous. In our tests, this Anker model’s ports worked as expected. Its USB read and write speeds were faster than those of USB 3.1 Gen 1 models (that is, pretty much all the other hubs we tested) by about 22% for reading data and 12% for writing—on a par with the speeds of other USB 3.2 Gen 2 models we’ve tested. The Ethernet port, which is useful if you need a hardwired internet connection, measured at 1 gigabit per second, as advertised.
From left: the PowerExpand 8-in-1’s HDMI port and its USB-C data and PD ports. Photo: Michael Hession
From left: the PowerExpand 8-in-1’s microSD and SD card slots and its USB-A ports. Photo: Michael Hession
The PowerExpand 8-in-1’s Ethernet connector. Photo: Sarah Kobos
The PowerExpand 8-in-1 also has SD and microSD card slots on one edge for photo and video transfers. Their speeds match the fastest we’ve seen in our tests over the past several years.
When we connected Nekteck’s 100W PD 3.0 GaN Wall Charger to the hub, our 16-inch MacBook Pro reported receiving 85 watts—enough for the MacBook Pro to stay powered and to charge at just a little slower than full speed. The PowerExpand 8-in-1 can pass enough power for most laptops to charge at full speed, whether the laptop is a Chromebook, an ultrabook, or just about any smaller MacBook.
This aluminum hub is a bit larger than comparable devices, at 4.8 inches long, 2.2 inches wide, and 0.6 inch thick. Its 7-inch USB-C cable is long enough that you should be able to position the hub as needed, and the cable feels sturdy but not so stiff that it’s hard to keep the cord where you want it.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
This Anker hub’s price has jumped dramatically in 2021, from a usual selling price of $60 to $90 at this writing. Such a price hike isn’t unique to this particular product or to Anker, though, as chip shortages, shipping delays, and Amazon’s brand delistings have thrown a major wrench into the works for hubs and docks. If you can’t justify spending nearly $100 on a hub, consider our budget pick.
The PowerExpand 8-in-1’s two USB-A ports are somewhat tightly arranged side by side, so you may not be able to connect multiple flash drives or thicker plugs at a time.
Like many USB-C hubs we’ve tested, the PowerExpand 8-in-1 gets hot during use. We measured it at 108.7 °F after 15 minutes with the USB-C power cable and a USB drive plugged in. That’s warm enough to be noticeable when you touch the hub, but not so much that it’s dangerous—as we noted above, that’s within the normal operating temperature for this kind of accessory. Your laptop’s charger probably gets hotter than that.
A great array of data ports at a lower price: Anker PowerExpand+ 7-in-1 USB-C PD Media Hub
If you need to hook up a lot of USB-A accessories at once: Anker 10-Port 60W USB 3.0 Hub
The Anker 10-Port 60W USB 3.0 Hub is the best hub for most people who need to connect a lot of devices at once. It has a great, usable design that most competitors lack: Sporting seven upright-facing USB-A data ports (3.1 Gen 1) plus three USB-A charging ports each capable of supplying 12 watts, it’s one of the few multiport USB-A hubs we trust that are still available as USB-C becomes the new standard.
We connected seven of our favorite flash drives to the hub and transferred data to them while also charging an iPad on one of the hub’s charging ports. It was just as speedy as the best of the other large hubs we tested—but they all had worse designs in one way or another.
All 10 of the hub’s ports face upward to reduce desk clutter, so you don’t have a bunch of USB plugs sticking out in every direction. Although Anker advertises the three charging ports as providing 2.1 amps (or 10.5 watts) each, we measured them at 2.4 amps each (12 watts). Anker told us that when all the ports are in use, individual ports “might not reach the max 2.4A value,” so the company under-promises on performance. This hub’s measured results indicate that it can charge even power-hungry tablets, as well as smartphones and other devices, at fast rates. (There’s no harm in plugging your phone into a 12-watt charging port—the phone will draw only as much current as it needs.) This Anker hub also kept all our devices connected and charging—we didn’t experience any unexplained disconnections during our tests. And the charging ports work even if the hub is connected only to its AC adapter and not to a computer.
It’s still just a black rectangle, but it’s sturdy, designed with an LED indicator for each data port, and equipped with lengthy AC and USB cords for easy setup. It’s also covered by an 18-month warranty. Note that this 10-port hub comes with a USB-A cable, so if you’re looking to connect it to a USB-C–based computer, you’ll need a USB-C–to–USB-B cable.
Anker’s USB hubs are especially reliable. One Wirecutter editor has been actively using a variant of this pick since 2013, and it’s still working well, so we’re confident this hub will last you.
Ugreen’s 9-in-1 USB C Hub was our former upgrade pick for an Ethernet connection, but like all of the other models we’ve dismissed, its video output is limited to 30 Hz at high resolution.
Vava’s VA-UC010 and Aukey’s Link PD Pro USB-C Hub (CB-C71) are a little slower than our picks. Of their three USB-A ports, only two support USB 3.0 speeds, with the last limited to 2.0 rates. But they each have an Ethernet port, so if that’s of value to you and one of these models pops up at a great price, go for it.
Aukey’s 12-in-1 USB-C Hub (CB-C78) is large and expensive—for the price, you get two HDMI ports and four USB-A ports, among others. In our testing, its SD and microSD read and write speeds were much slower than those of other models.
Despite advertising 60-watt power pass-through, Anker’s PowerExpand+ 7-in-1 USB C Hub (similarities in name aside, this model is different from our budget pick) put out only 48 watts in our tests.
Twelve South’s StayGo comes with both a short USB-C cable (which you can store inside the unit) and a longer cable; the combination allows you to easily use the hub at your desk or on the go. Unfortunately, at 5 inches long and 2.4 inches wide, this model is larger than most of the hubs we’ve seen, and in our testing it didn’t produce a proper 30 Hz refresh rate even at 1080p resolution, let alone 60 Hz at 4K. It’s also the most expensive hub we tested.
Kingston’s Nucleum is one of the few USB-C hubs to feature a USB-C data port in addition to one for power, but it lacks an Ethernet connection. If you value that extra USB-C port and don’t need Ethernet, consider it.
About your guide
Nick Guy is a senior staff writer covering Apple and accessories at Wirecutter. He has been reviewing iPhones, iPads, and related tech since 2011—and stopped counting after he tested his 1,000th case. It’s impossible for him not to mentally catalog any case he sees. He once had the bright idea to build and burn down a room to test fireproof safes.
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