Choosing a USB 3.0 hub

As laptops and tablets become slimmer, some functions fall by the wayside. The first to disappear are usually multiple USB ports. If you’re lucky, you can get a laptop today that has more than two ports. But gadgets such as Apple’s MacBook only have one USB connection. If you already have a wired keyboard or mouse plugged in, you’ll have to make another plan to access an external hard drive.

That’s where a USB 3.0 hub comes in. Typically the size of a laptop’s power adapter, a USB hub occupies one USB slot and expands that to several. You can easily find as many as seven or eight additional ports on a hub, and some even provide HDMI video slots or access to memory cards.

Data vs. charging

When you look at the specifications of a USB 3.0 hub, you’ll notice that some ports are designated differently from others. That’s because the ports are generally two kinds: data and charging.

As the name implies, data ports are used for transferring information from a device to your computer. Think of a thumb drive, an external hard drive or a memory card. They also work with mobile phones so you can download photos or transfer music files. 

A charging port, meanwhile is exactly what it sounds like. While it can’t transfer data, it is used to quickly charge any connected device. In this case, gadgets such as mobile phones, power banks or wireless keyboards can recharge. 

But as technology advances, it has become more common to find ports on a USB 3.0 hub that can do both simultaneously. This lets you access and transfer the data from a connected device while it charges.

Just keep in mind that charging ports need to draw power from a source. If the hub doesn’t have a power adapter that connects to a wall socket, it will use power from your laptop to charge the device. This will drain your laptop’s power much faster.

Compatible with your computer

Naturally, the hub connects to your computer or laptop through a USB cable. The key is to ensure that it’s compatible. Most connection cables use a male USB 3.0 but for Apple’s MacBook, you must use a hub with a USB-C connector.  However, this isn’t a problem with Apple’s desktop iMac computers, as they have both USB 3.0 and USB-C ports.

Similarly, you won’t be able to connect a USB-C hub to your computer if it only has USB 3.0 ports.

Number of USB ports

The most important aspect most would look for is the number of USB ports on the hub. Simply put, the more ports you have available, the more gadgets you can connect or charge. Anything from a mobile phone and tablet to a keyboard and mouse can go through the hub. 

But as pointed out earlier, you must ensure that you connect it to the correct port. For example, a keyboard plugged into a charging port won’t be of much use — unless it’s a wireless model that requires a quick recharge.

The best USB 3.0 hubs

Anker 10 Port 60-Watt Data Hub

Anker 10 Port 60-Watt Data Hub

If you need to connect a lot of gadgets, this hub has seven USB 3.0 ports that transfer data at 5 gigabits per second. It also has three PowerIQ charging ports with an output of 2.1 amperes each, letting you charge devices while connected to your laptop or computer. Sold by Amazon

Corsair USB100 Seven-Port Expansion Hub

Corsair USB100 Seven-Port Expansion Hub

Connecting multiple USB-C gadgets to your computer is often a hassle. But this hub has four of them in addition to the four USB 3.0 ports. It ships with a 3.3-foot USB-C cable and an external power supply adapter. Sold by Amazon

TP-Link UH720 Powered USB Hub 3.0

TP-Link UH720 Powered USB Hub 3.0

This hub has seven USB 3.0 data ports and two fast-charging USB ports. The chip inside automatically identifies the connected device to deliver the fastest charging speed possible. It has built-in protection from overcharging, overheating and electrical surges. Sold by Amazon

Kingston Nucleum USB C Hub

Kingston Nucleum USB C Hub

If you work with data on numerous storage systems, this hub is an excellent solution. In addition to the two USB 3.0 ports, it has two USB-C ports and a slot for two kinds of memory cards. There is also a 4K HDMI output so you can connect your laptop to an external display. Sold by Amazon

Anker Four-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub

Anker Four-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub

A slim, compact solution to your connectivity problems, this data hub has four USB 3.0 ports. While it can’t charge any connected devices, it can transfer data at 5 gigabits per second. The hub is compatible with Windows and Apple devices. Sold by Amazon

Sabrent Four-Port USB 3.0 Hub with Individual LED Power Switches

Sabrent Four-Port USB 3.0 Hub with Individual LED Power Switches

To conserve power, this hub has a unique feature in which each of the four USB 3.0 ports can be turned on or off through a switch on top. An LED indicator displays the power status of each port. The 2-foot cable is ample for keeping your workspace tidy. Sold by Amazon

Hiearcool 7-in-1 USB Hub for MacBook Pro

Hiearcool 7-in-1 USB Hub for MacBook Pro

Compatible with Apple’s Macbook Pro, this hub has seven ports. There are two USB 3.0 connections, a 4K HDMI port, a slot for SD memory cards and a 100-watt USB-C Power Delivery charging port. Sold by Amazon

Atolla 10-Port Powered USB 3.0 Hub With Individual On-Off Switches

Atolla 10-Port Powered USB 3.0 Hub With Individual On/Off Switches

When you have more gadgets than anyone else on your block, you’ll need this 10-port USB 3.0 hub. Each port has an individual switch so you can turn them on or off when you want. The supplied power adapter protects against overvoltage and overcharging. Sold by Amazon

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