In favour of a seamless and compact design, more and more laptops are being shipped with a lack of USB ports, if any. When you buy a new laptop these days, it’s becoming increasingly common that you’ll also pick up a USB hub on your way to the checkout, as a way to increase your available ports.
While Bluetooth is an essential feature that all modern gadgets must have, there are still plenty of uses that are overlooked when developers forgo the basic necessity of a USB port. For instance, ever since we started working from home, there’s been a demand for computer monitors, which in turn, leads to the need for a HDMI port.
With so many devices comes the unwelcome Gordian knot of cable management and a lack of available power points. In the past, you may have used your laptop as an expensive USB hub to charge all of your gadgets. But now, all of your devices are competing for priority on what’s likely limited desk space. Choose between charging your phone, mouse, keyboard and whether you need to export those files from your SSD is a matter best avoided.
The solution for these problems is thankfully quite simple and doesn’t even have to be all that expensive, because all you need 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 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 okay, 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
Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Data Hub, $14.99 Sabrent’s 4-port USB hub includes individual LED power switches for each connection.
Tersely 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub, $15.99 Tersely’s simple hub sells itself on being cheap and fairly small.
Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub, $19.99 Anker’s USB hub includes a lengthy 60cm cable and four USB 3.0 ports for your peripherals.
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.
Novoo USB Type C Hub Adapter, $29.99 It’s only got two 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, $38.99 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.
IVETTO USB 3.0 7-Port Hub, $39.43 If you need lots of ports, IVETTO has you covered with its seven-port hub.
HERILIOS 9-in-1 USB-C Hub, $40.79 Need more ports and a wide range of options to accommodate the occasional HDMI adapter, SD card reader or Ethernet port? This HERILIOS can cater to all of that and more.
Satechi USB-C Clamp Hub, $61.59 If you happen to have the new 2021 iMac, you can go with this nifty clamp hub which snaps onto your computer monitor. Not only does it offer an additional six ports for card readers or USB-compatible devices, but it’ll also save you some desk space in the long run.
Editor’s note: Descriptions and features are as taken from manufacturer/seller claims and user reviews on Amazon.