Wireless gadgets are cool, but we still live in a world where a lot of our peripherals use a cabled approach. That’s totally fine if you’ve only got one or two devices to hook up, but that number can quickly multiply. A decent mechanical keyboard, wired mouse, printer, storage devices, possibly a game controller… it all stacks up pretty quickly. You shouldn’t let your peripheral needs be limited by the number of USB ports on your computer, and the best way to combat that problem is by making use of a USB hub.
It’s time to stop having to frantically plug and unplug peripherals, while dealing with the kind of tangled cable Gordian knot that would have given Alexander real headaches. As a reminder for the fans of the classics, slicing your USB cables in half with a sword rarely ends well.
Connecting up your cabled peripherals has only become more complex in a world where USB C and USB A peripherals co-exist. An increasing number of laptops ship with only a handful of USB C ports, which isn’t much help when your cable is has a rectangular USB A type plug on the end of it.
The solution for these problems is thankfully quite simple and doesn’t even have to be all that expensive, because what you need in that case is a USB hub to connect up to your computer. However, you shouldn’t just shop on price alone. While USB is a standard, there’s a few questions you should consider before making your purchasing decision.
How many ports do I really need? This isn’t as stupid a question as it seems, because it’s not just a matter of working out the number of peripherals you’re going to connect. More ports means a larger USB hub, and quite possibly the need for an external power supply to ensure that connected gadgets will actually work through it. Although a 49-port USB hub is still overkill if you ask me. A smaller hub may deliver fewer ports, but could be easier if you’re constantly on the go and want something simple to connect up just a few key gadgets to.
What ports do I need? The vast majority of USB ports sold currently tend to concentrate on offering USB A type ports, but there are some that will include additional USB C type slots as well. Others may include ports that strip out the data channels so they’re focused purely on charging connected gadgets, which could be a handy way to cut down on cable clutter if you want to charge your smartphone from them.
How fast does it need to be? If you’re only connecting up a mouse or keyboard, then a slower USB 2.0 compatible Hub is OK, but you probably want to buy a USB hub that will last you a good number of years. If you’re using any kind of storage device then USB 3.0 is vastly preferable thanks to its higher data transfer speeds. You can use a USB 3.0 storage device on a USB 2.0 hub, but should really only do so if you’re looking for an excuse to take a coffee break, because those transfer speeds are going to be slow.
Do I want or need other features? USB connections on a USB hub can be taken for granted, given it’s right there in the name and everything. You don’t have to stop there, however, with some models offering extra features such as connectivity lights for ports in use, ethernet adaptors for wired internet or inbuilt SD card readers for DSLR users.
Here’s a selection of USB hubs for you to consider:
Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub, $19.99
Anker’s USB hub includes a lengthy 60cm cable and 4 USB 3.0 ports for your peripherals.
Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Data Hub, $13.49
Sabrent’s 4-port USB hub includes individual LED power switches for each connection.
Tersely 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub, $12.95
Tersely’s simple hub sells itself on being cheap and fairly small.
Kokovolta Vertical Data Hub, $20.70
As the name suggests, the unique selling point for Kokovolta’s Hub is that it sits vertically, making it a decent option for desk workers.
TP-LINK USB 3.0 7-Port Hub, $42
If you need lots of ports, TP-Link has you covered with its 7-port hub.
Novoo USB Type C Hub Adapter, $29.99
It’s only got 2 USB 3.0 ports, but Novoo’s hub also supports 4K HDMI and SD/MicroSD card readers if you need an all-purpose hub.
ORICO 4 Port USB3.0 Clip-Type Hub, $29.99
Orico’s Hub is designed for those who need portability, with a design that’s meant to clip onto the side of your ultrabook in order to save space.
Editor’s note: Descriptions and features are as taken from manufacturer/seller claims and user reviews on Amazon.