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Connect all of your legacy devices to your modern USB-C notebook.

The best USB-C hubs for your laptop or tablet

By

Senior Editor,

PCWorld |

A USB-C hub allows you to add connections and ports that your laptop or tablet lacks: an HDMI connection, for example, or an SD card slot. Some laptops only have USB-C ports—that means a USB-C hub is essential if you want to connect a wired USB mouse or keyboard, or an older wired printer. 

Fortunately, there are so many USB-C hubs available with various combinations of legacy I/O that finding one to meet your particular needs is as easy as ordering off a menu. We’ve divided our picks into two categories: basic and full-featured, the latter denoting hubs that offer greater extensibility, including charging. We’ve also tried a sampling of hubs to point out details you can’t tell from the specs, like whether the ports are too crowded or the hub runs a bit hot. Below our picks you can find information on how to choose a USB-C hub and how we tested these hubs in our evaluations.

A USB-C hub connects to the USB-C on the side of your laptop, such as on this Lenovo Yoga C740. In this example, the left port is used for charging, so you’d need to buy a USB-C hub with a charging input to use with this slot. (Of course, you could also buy a hub without charging capabilities and use it in the other USB-C port, to the right fof the charging port.)

You shouldn’t have to think too hard about a basic USB-C hub. Look for a good price, consider whether you want to pay a little extra for something like ethernet, and try to find products with a good warranty for added peace of mind. 

If you’re considering a USB-C to USB-A hub like the AmazonBasics L6LUD012-CS-R, it’s worth weighing Aukey’s hub first. That’s because (at press time) Aukey’s hub was cheaper and gave you more: the same three USB-A connections that Amazon offers, plus SD and microSD slots.

While the CB-C65’s compact (3.75 inches long by 1.25 inches wide) plastic casing admittedly looks and feels cheap, it’s not janky. The 7.5-inch cord is longer than most, though the hub may still dangle from the side-mounted USB-C port on many tablets.

There are some quirks. You’ll have to insert the microSD card upside down to put it in, though Aukey thankfully does away with the awkward spring-loaded slot that sucks your card into many competing products. As this is a basic hub, there’s no charging input, which means that your laptop or tablet will need a second USB-C port or a dedicated power cord for charging while using the hub.

We checked the spacing between the two USB ports and SD slot mounted on the hub’s side (a third USB port is on the end) and found it sufficient. Overheating won’t be an issue. Aukey even doubles the 12-month warranty its competitors offer to 24 months.  In all, we believe Aukey’s CB-C65 3-port USB-C hub adds up to a solid value.

 

The AmazonBasics L6LUD001-CS-R provides three USB 3.1 Type A ports, plus Gigabit ethernet, to your laptop’s existing USB-C port. There’s no HDMI or charging inputs; this is merely an incremental step up from the AmazonBasics L6LUD012-CS-R, which forgoes the ethernet capabilities.

This hub is handy for those who don’t have or don’t trust Wi-Fi on the go; the lengthy 14-inch cord adds some flexibility to your desktop layout. Otherwise, there’s not much to say; the hub performed comparably to the others we’ve tested, and there weren’t any issues with temperature or power.

At press time, the price was only $3 or so above the price of the aforementioned AmazonBasics L6LUD012-CS-R, which makes this a no-brainer if you just want a basic hub. Though the hub ships in both black and white, we noticed Amazon will occasionally discount one or the other by a few dollars.

 

 

Upper-tier USB-C hubs typically feature even more ports, including ethernet, HDMI, and power inputs. This is essentially the dongle equivalent of a docking station. Many of these more expensive hubs share the same basic 6-inch cable of their cheaper cousins, meaning they may dangle from tablets and some laptops. 

The VAVA VA-UC008 offers a compete docking station within an attractive, professional chassis that’s priced affordably. It provides virtually all of the connectivity you’ll need: three USB-A (two USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.1) ports, separate microSD/SD slots, 4K (at 30Hz) HDMI capabilities, and Gigabit ethernet. It also allows you to charge your laptop through a separate USB-C power input, up to 100W. It only lacks an audio jack.

At nearly five inches long and two inches wide, the VA-UC008 is a bit larger than some other hubs, and what appears to be about six inches of cord length is still a bit too short if your laptop’s USB-C port is mounted alongside the display panel. But the USB-A ports are smartly divvied up so that even fat novelty USB sticks shouldn’t interfere with other connectors. We’re not in love with the USB 2.0 port, but it can be assigned to a mouse or keyboard with no issue.

We tested a prior generation of hub from Vava, and it offered excellent performance without getting hot. 

The FlePow USB C Hub Multiport Adapter is compact (4.5 x 1.1 x 0.4 inches) for a 7-in-1 hub. The only thing it cuts out in the name of spacing and price is ethernet. Otherwise, the hub includes three USB 3.0 ports, two SD slots (full-sized and microSD), HDMI, and a dedicated USB-C charging port. 

One feature that we like here is the sensitivity to overheating: There’s dedicated circuitry to prevent this, FlePow claims. While we’ve never encountered a hub that we thought would cause a fire, an overly warm one can be a little alarming. We haven’t tested this model, but it’s highly rated on Amazon.

Your USB-C hub choices extend far beyond what we’ve recommended. Hubs mix and match different port types, and different form factors, too. Pay attention to our ratings, prices, and the quirks of each hub to find alternatives that may fit your specific needs. 

Lention’s C15 USB-C hub falls into the “basic” category, offering just three USB-A Type 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and a microSD/TF reader—and that’s it. Note that the USB-A ports are spaced far enough apart to support standard-sized USB keys and cords, but without much wiggle room.

Why should you buy the C15? At just under $21, it’s dirt cheap, and tucks easily into your bag. It’s worth noting that customers who have previously purchased the Lention C15 complained that the hub became unreasonably hot and in some instances apparently interfered with their Wi-Fi connection. We noticed no such issues, and the hub warmed up to just 84 degrees under load, barely above ambient temperatures. 

The C15 features an extra-long USB-C charging cable that stretches a full foot, substantially more than the few inches other USB-C hub makers allocate. If you’re concerned at the prospect of a dangling hub, the C15 is for you! Just remember to flip the microSD card upsde down before inserting it—it’s an odd quirk that some USB-C hubs suffer from, including this one.

About the length and shape of a cigar, Anker’s AB331 USB-C hub is for those whose notebook or tablet contains a USB-C port as well as an microSD/SD card slot, such as the Microsoft Surface Go. Yes, there are three USB 3.0 Type A ports, Gigabit ethernet, and an HDMI connector—but that’s it.

You also get Anker’s good reputation for supporting its products.

The hub looks nice, and there’s even a cloth carrying case for its slim 4-inch by 0.75-inch form. But the USB ports are jammed close enough that three standard USB sticks next to one another barely fit—and watch out if a USB stick is slightly oversized. Why couldn’t Anker have used both sides of its USB-C hub for ports?

(As it turned out, it did: since we wrote this review, Anker rearranged the hubs and took about $10 off the price, with this redesigned version.)

The 6-inch USB-C cord is too short for a tablet with a USB-C connector mounted in its top half, from which this hub would dangle. There’s also no USB-C charging. You shouldn’t have any concerns with overheating though—we copied files from two USB-connected drives while also downloading a file over ethernet, with no slowdown or noticeable heat.

At press time though, the price was $60—too much, in our opinion.

Lenovo’s GX90M61235 USB-C travel hub retains the same black, boxy aesthetic as generations of ThinkPad laptops. The odd pairing of connectors—VGA, HDMI (4K at 30Hz), a single USB 3.0 port, and Gigabit Ethernet—means you’ll be using your laptop’s keyboard, possibly a mouse, and either display connector. We’d rather see Lenovo pick either VGA or HDMI and add another USB port.

To be fair though, all of the ports performed as expected and there was no perceptible heat increase when we tried to saturate the ethernet link and USB-C port simultaneously.

We think that there are better deals elsewhere, in terms of price and ports. But if you need a VGA connector, this is one of the few options from which to choose.

ICZI’s IZEC-TH01 breaks from the typical USB-C hub design, foregoing the “candy bar” form factor in favor of a radial hub. Two (not three) USB 3.0 Type A ports are seated next to SD and microSD card slots, HDMI (4K at 30Hz) and VGA, GIgabit ethernet, and a USB-C input connection for charging your laptop.

The extra-long 11-inch cable wraps around the outside of the hub for storage. Sadly, the radial design means other cables (VGA, HDMI, etc.) will end up going in all directions. The center of the hub is taken up by a magnetic faceplate, large enough to store a dongle. Otherwise, our hub came with no documentation whatsoever, just a 24-month warranty card that’s double the duration of most of its competition.

The IZEC-TH01 does get a bit warm under load (copying files from an SD card to a PC while also copying files from an external hard drive to an SSD, while streaming YouTube) but only to about 88 degrees F. It was a tad faster than other hubs, too. VGA and HDMI can be used simultaneously, and the hub supplies up to 900mA via USB-A for charging.

At 3.75 inches in diameter, IZEC-TH01 is a bit big and bulky for our tastes, especially with all the cables going every which way. Otherwise it’s a good value, and narrowly misses an Editor’s Choice award.

 

This AmazonBasics USB-C hub is as simple as its name suggests: one extra-long (14 inches!) USB-C cable to your PC, connected to four USB 3.1 Type A ports for your legacy devices. Note that most hubs provide 5Gbps USB 3.0 ports, while this one provides 10Gbps USB 3.1 connections; you’d probably never notice the difference.

We connected the hub to two bus-powered drives (one a 2.5-inch hard drive, and the other an SSD) plus a USB 3.0, bus-powered DVD-RW drive. We noticed a slight drop in performance while playing back a DVD and copying data between the two drives. But while one commenter on Amazon’s site noticed a power drop, we were able to burn a disc just fine with our drive—it seems enough power gets through the cable. The  hub’s surface temperature didn’t rise more than a few degrees above the ambient temperature.

This hub is cheap, basic, and delivers satisfactory performance for a great price. It lacks an SD slot or some of the other connections other hubs include, however, which are literally available for just a few dollars more.

 

While VAVA’s VA-UC006 packs a ton of functionality in a compact package, several  design flaws mar what’s otherwise a solid product. This “kitchen sink” hub measures slightly less than 4 inches by 2 inches, and combines three USB Type A ports, microSD/SD slots, HDMI (4K at 30Hz), and Gigabit ethernet, plus a USB-C charging port for charging your laptop. It has a 6-inch cord.

Unfortunately, the VA-UC006’s USB ports are spaced too closely together for even a slightly oversized USB key, like a SanDisk Cruzer Glide. The microSD card slot awkwardly forces you to lever the card in with a fingernail, to the point of it being flush with the hub. And because of its thinness, the ethernet port is expanded via a hinged piece, rather than being built into the hub itself. While that makes for a workable solution, it also has the potential to break. During use, the hub heated up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit under load—not uncomfortable, but among the warmest we tried.

We really like VAVA’s goal of combining everything you want it in a small (4×1.88-inch) form factor, and we used the VA-UC006 to help set up our tests. But there are other, better alternatives. 

 

Keep reading to learn about the essential features for any USB-C hub.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

This Article was first published on itnews.com

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