Belkin USB-C 4-Port Mini Hub with Tethered USB-C Cable - USB-C Hub for MacBook Pro, Chromebook Pixel and Other USB-C Laptops, Black
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There are still a couple of caveats here. First, your device needs to support a DisplayPort 1.4 video output over USB-C, which will count out many Chromebooks and some MacBooks and Windows laptops. Second, the hub itself takes 15W of power, which means that – even with a 100W USB-PD charger – you may find some laptops not charging at their highest speeds. But if you’re happy to live with these compromises, this is one of the best USB-C hubs we’ve seen. It costs around the same as the OWC Thunderbolt Hub, reviewed above, and matches that hub on ports, with the only difference being that the OWC’s 10Gbps USB-A port can charge a device at 7.5W, while Plugable’s USB-A port is equally fast but doesn’t offer device charging. For that, OWC’s hub wins our best budget recommendation. Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Upstream connection (Type-A or Type-C?): USB hubs have multiple downstream ports to connect to your devices but only one upstream connector, which could be a port but is often a built-in wire that connects to your computer. Many laptops, including a lot of the best Ultrabooks, only have USB-C ports, so your hub's upstream connector would have to be Type-C. 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.)If you have a recent-gen iPad with a USB-C connector, you may find yourself wishing you could connect a USB Type-A device, headphones or even an external display. Anker’s 541 USB-C Hub for iPads has you covered with a unique design that’s meant to snap right into the side of your tablet or even a USB-C laptop. There’s no wire as the USB-C plug and a slight, protruding chin hold the entire metal hub in place. Both USB-C and Thunderbolt use the same USB-C connection. The difference is that a “generic” USB-C connection typically provides 10Gbps of bandwidth, and Thunderbolt provides 40Gbps, with a road to 120Gbps with 2024’s Thunderbolt 5. You can also get other versions of Inatek's USB hub, the HB2025 for example, that connect to your computer via USB-C, which is a more common interface for 10 Gbps connections, particularly on laptops. We really wish one of these hubs had a mix of USB-C and USB Type-A downstream ports, but they are all Type-A downstream. Powered or not? Some USB hubs come with their own AC adapters so that they can provide more power than your computer delivers from one of its ports. Bus power from your computer can be pretty low, not enough to juice several power-hungry peripherals at once or to charge devices at a reasonable rate. By definition, a USB hub that needs its own plug isn’t very portable. Unlike cheaper hubs, it supports a full 60Hz refresh rate over HDMI, while there’s a Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 port for when you need a physical network connection. The Type-C and Type-A connections could be faster, with our SSD speeds limited to around 458MB/sec, but this is a great fully featured hub that’s still affordable and – most importantly – just works.
The other 11 ports include super-fast 2.5Gb Ethernet, fast SD, audio and seven USB connectors, so it is specced out at the top end, although we would have preferred more USB-C ports than USB-A. It sullies its Pro title, however, with a couple of the ports being rather average, and the power supply could do with being higher, but it is otherwise well equipped. At 4.8 volts, which is around the minimum voltage most USB devices will tolerate, we got 1.25 and 1.32 amps from the charging and data ports, respectively. When I plugged my Android phone in to charge, a real-world situation because a device will negotiate the best combination of volts and amps, the charging ports sent 4.78 volts at 1.35 amps while the data ports gave the same amount of volts, but just 0.35 amps. To make a long story short, you'll get 6.4 watts from the charging ports, which is decent but not the 15-watts that fast phone chargers provide. All three charging ports should be able to deliver this at once. In addition to the SSD, the Anker PowerExpand has an HDMI out port and two USB 3.x Type-A ports that operate at 5 Gbps. There’s a USB-C power pass-through you can plug your laptop’s power adapter – up to a 100-watt unit – so that you can charge your computer while using this hub (the USB-C port does not work for data transfer; we tried).It is priced the same as the Caldigit Element Hub, which is still our favorite Thunderbolt 4 hub, with its four 40Gbps/18W Thunderbolt 4 and four 10Gbps/7.5W USB-A ports. However, if you own a large power-hungry laptop, the Belkin’s 96W USB PD charging will impress. Some USB-C hubs go further by incorporating USB-PD passthrough. Here the idea isn’t so much to power the connected devices as to power the laptop the hub connects to, so that you just connect the laptop to the hub, and it charges as you use it without the charger taking up the spare USB-C port. The key thing here is how much power the hub can supply. Most will deliver 80W or more when used with a 100W charger, which should more than cover any laptop. However, with some you’re looking at 50W or less, which might mean missing out on fast-charging modes on some of those laptops that support them. This does make it reasonably hefty but still much easier to travel with, and is perfect for laptop professionals often on the move and working on location.
For years, Caldigit ruled the Thunderbolt 3 roost with its compact but powerful Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus). Its Thunderbolt 4 successor, the Thunderbolt Station 4 (TS4) is physically and stylistically similar but boasts even more ports at even faster speeds. Where once DisplayPort 1.4 was superior to HDMI, HDMI 2.1, as seen here, is as powerful if not more so than the top DisplayPort. That aside, the US-4VPD is a tempting offer, with 2.5Gb Ethernet future-proofing for fast wired network access as it becomes more mainstream. A USB-C port on your laptop can either run at 5Gbps or 10Gbps, with the latter being almost ubiquitous these days. That’s plenty of bandwidth for a printer, a mouse, a keyboard, or a hard drive, even all at once. Products like displays, ethernet, and high-speed SSDs gobble up that bandwidth, however.We also connected an Android phone to the ports and recorded how many volts and amps it received. The phone charging test was probably the most realistic as it showed what kind of volts and amps a real device would negotiate with the hub. All the USB (5x USB-A, 3x USB-C) and Thunderbolt ports (3x TB4) are super fast and offer impressive device charging—at the front, there’s a USB-C port with 20W power. Where I am seeing severe degradation in transfer speeds using USB 3 hubs is from SSD to SSD connected to the same hub. Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-C; USB ports: 3x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C 3x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2; Other ports: Gigabit Ethernet, SD Card, 3.5mm audio; Power:135W power adapter; Maximum power load: 90W per port; Dimensions: 190 x 75 x 27mm; Weight: 338g; Warranty: 12 months