If you’ve been in the market for a new laptop lately, you’ve probably noticed that more and more models are being designed with fewer and fewer ports. Some of the most recent MacBook models, for instance, have just a pair of USB C ports and nothing else.
Apple may be done with external devices, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are. USB hubs give back the flexibility that manufacturers have taken away, letting you connect to all of those things that don’t have USB C ports: HDMI TVs and monitors, Ethernet cables, SD cards, or just a simple memory stick. Some even let you charge your laptop or other devices from them as well.
We’ve pulled together our favorite USB and USB C hubs for various needs including travel and those on a budget, plus the best choices overall. Be sure to determine whether you’ll be plugging yours into a USB-A (old-school) or USB C (the newer type) port before you start shopping around.
- Connection Type: USB-A
- Size: 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches (121 x 46 x 23 mm)
- Weight: 8.5oz (242g)
- Ports: 1x USB-A charging, 4x USB-A data
- Connection Type: USB C
- Size: 4.8 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches (121 x 55 x 15 mm)
- Weight: 4.5oz (128g)
- Ports: 1 x USB C PD, 1 x USB C data, 2 x USB-A data, 1 x 4K HDMI, 1x Ethernet, 1 x SD, 1 x microSD
- Connection Type: USB C
- Size: 4.4 x 0.9 x 0.7 inches (112 x 23 x 17 mm)
- Weight: 1.9oz (54g)
- Ports: 3 x USB-A data, 1 x 4K HDMI, 1 x Ethernet
- Connection Type: USB-A
- Size: 3.4 x 1.4 x 0.6 inches (86 x 36 x 15 mm)
- Weight: 1.7oz (48g)
- Ports: 4 x USB-A data
- Connection Type: USB C
- Size: 3.4 x 1.0 x 0.4 inches (85 x 26 x 10 mm)
- Weight: 1.4oz (40g)
- Ports: 2 x USB-A data, 1 x USB C PD, 1 x HDMI
- Connection Type: 2 x USB C
- Size: 4.7 x 1.1 x 0.4 inches (12 x 2.9 x 1cm)
- Weight: 1.1oz (32g)
- Ports: 1 x USB C PD, 1 x USB C data, 2 x USB-A data, 1 x 4K HDMI, 1 x SD, 1 x microSD
What to Consider When Choosing a USB Hub
Compared to most tech gadgets, USB hubs don’t cost much. Even top of the line versions cost under $100, and reliable budget models can be found for under ten bucks.
First and foremost, shop for a USB hub that meets your specific requirements and includes the ports you need. If your laptop only has a USB C port, make sure to only look for hubs that connect via a USB C cable. If you only need a few extra USB sockets, don’t go wild with a 12-in-1 hub that has a bunch of features you’ll never use.
Powered USB Hubs and Charging Devices
Powered USB hubs plug into an external electrical source as well as your laptop. This is usually a wall socket, but can sometimes also be a portable charger. Since they have their own power, you don’t have to worry about draining your laptop’s battery while using them.
Some powered USB hubs support Power Delivery, which lets them provide power to your laptop as well as whatever’s plugged into them. If you’re planning to charge your laptop like this, make sure the hub has enough power to do it. While some laptops need as little as 30W, others need as much as 85W to charge at full speed.
Even with a powered hub, don’t expect to charge all of your devices at once. Just because the hub has the right ports, it doesn’t mean they are designed for charging. Most give one additional port for charging at most, which should be indicated in the product description as a pass-through or USB C Power Delivery port.
USB or USB C data ports are only designed to connect accessories, not charge them, but some brands gloss over the difference or only mention it in the fine print. Read the product specifications carefully, and assume if it doesn’t mention charging, it’s not designed for it.
USB Hubs vs. USB C Hubs
Simply put, USB hubs connect to USB-A ports and USB C hubs connect to USB C ports. Those big, flat USB-A ports were the standard for many years, and odds are you still have an old USB key lying around with photos, documents, or movie files on it.
Older laptops likely have a few USB-A sockets for charging and using older accessories. Newer laptops may have a mix of USB-A and USB C ports, while the latest models often don’t have any USB-A ports at all.
Since it’s far more powerful and versatile, USB C is the new standard for many industries. It can support higher video quality, transfer data at higher speeds, and charge devices faster, all with a slimmer design and a plug that can be inserted in either direction. If your laptop has a USB C slot, that’s the way to go. Otherwise, look for a regular USB hub.
Bottom line? Make sure the hub can connect to your computer, and make sure it has the right type and number of ports you need.
Best Powered USB Hub: Atolla 5-Port USB 3.0 Hub
USB hubs are becoming less common as more and more laptops and other devices switch to USB C cables. If you’re still in the market for one that plugs into a USB-A port, check out Atolla’s 5-Port USB 3.0 hub.
Compatible with most Windows, macOS, and Linux systems, the hub ships with an optional wall adapter for when you’re using power-hungry devices. It includes four data-only USB 3.0 ports on the top of the hub, along with a fast-charging port that can put out up to 2.4 amps (12W).
In a useful touch, each of the ports on top has a separate on/off switch and lights up to let you know it’s in use. This simple hub is ideal for transferring files, charging a single device, and connecting external accessories like a mouse, keyboard, or card reader.Buy on Amazon
Best Powered USB C Hub: Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1
The Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB C hub has all of the extra ports you’re likely to need, while supporting Power Delivery (PD) for charging your laptop as well. Plug it into a wall socket and you’ll get pass-through charging of up to 85W as well.
Those include a 10Gbps USB C Power Delivery port, USB C data, two USB 3.0 data, 4K HDMI, 1Gbps Ethernet, and both SD and microSD card readers. This should easily cover most requirements, and thanks to that pass-through charging, you don’t even lose a USB C port in the process.
Unusually for hubs like these, you get 60Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution from the HDMI port. Most top out at 30Hz, which makes for a less-smooth viewing experience.
The only real downside is that you can’t charge from the USB 3.0 ports or the USB C data port, so this isn’t the answer for powering a bunch of devices at the same time. For almost anything else, however, it’s the way to go.
If you don’t need the Ethernet port, 4K/60fps HDMI, or the faster 10Gbps USB C data transfer, there’s a 7-in-1 version of this hub that’s often around half the price. It’s a noticeable trade-off, but for some users, one that may be worth making.Buy on Amazon
Best USB C Hub For Travel: Anker 5-in-1 USB C Hub
If you like to travel light, you’ll appreciate Anker’s slimline 5-in-1 USB C hub. It weighs less than two ounces, but still manages to pack in three USB 3.0 data ports, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port. It also comes with a convenient pouch to protect your hub on the move.
The USB 3.0 ports are all data-only, and aren’t intended for charging. They’re designed for connecting external devices such as a hard drive, mouse, or keyboard, and will quickly transfer files to or from your laptop.
If your laptop supports USB C Power Delivery, however, or you know you’ll need the extra USB C ports or card readers, it’s worth considering the Anker 7-in-1 USB C Hub mentioned above. It’s a bit bigger and heavier, but the extra ports and pass-through charging will justify the size for many travelers.Buy on Amazon
Best USB Hub On A Budget: Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
The Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 hub is a simple and effective budget USB hub that lets you turn one USB port into four. All ports supports transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, but since they’re not powered, don’t expect to charge your devices from them.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, the hub is lightweight and includes individual on/off switches for each USB port. It also comes with a two-foot cable, which may be good or bad depending on your needs.
That cable will get you closer to other devices like an external monitor or television screen, but it can get in the way if you don’t need the extra length.
You won’t be adding any extra power or functionality with this hub, but it’s a cheap and easy way of adding a bunch of USB ports to your laptop or desktop computer.Buy on Amazon
Best USB C Hub On A Budget: QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C Hub
The QGeeM 4-in-1 USB C hub is an easy, low-cost way of making better use of your laptop’s USB C ports. The hub includes a USB C PD port, an HDMI port, and two USB-A sockets, ideal for adding an external mouse or keyboard, connecting to a monitor, or transferring files via a memory stick or portable drive.
It’s a useful little tool, does what it needs to for the price, and covers the basic needs of many laptop owners. You can charge devices from the USB C port, or plug anything up to a 100W charger into it to power your laptop. That’ll also provide extra power to the USB-A ports, handy when you’ve got hard drives or other high-draw gadgets plugged in.
The HDMI port, as usual with cheaper hubs, supports [email protected] or [email protected] Note that the USB C PD port is only for charging, and can’t transfer data. Don’t plan to plug in a hard drive or run a monitor from it.
The manufacturer advises against charging from the USB-A ports, but they will put out up to 1.5amps (7.5W), so you may still be able to slowly juice up your phone or other small USB device.
Lightweight, small enough to fit in your pocket, and with an 18-month warranty, this is a simple, inexpensive way of adding a few extra ports to your laptop.Buy on Amazon
Best USB Hub For MacBooks: Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2
Apple has been ruthless about removing ports from its laptops, forcing users to resort to expansion hubs to add them back. USB C ports may be the way of the future, but chances are you’re still lugging around some tech from the past, and if you’re not, those around you are. When you get tossed a USB key to grab a file, you need to know you can connect it.
The Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Hub for MacBook includes a Thunderbolt 3 USB C port with 100W PD charging, a USB C data transfer port, two USB 3.0 ports, SD and microSD card readers, and an HDMI port.
The slim device matches the look of Apple laptops, attaching directly to both USB C slots on the side of your laptop. This means you won’t have any cords hanging loose off of your computer, but you also won’t get any closer to other devices if you’re trying to share ports with friends or reach a wall-mounted TV.
The downside to this device is that you need to plug it into two Thunderbolt ports but only get one in return. This is fine if you have a MacBook with four USB C ports, but if yours only has two, you might want the bulkier 7-in-1 version of the hub instead.
We posted an in-depth review of the Anker PowerExpand Direct USB C Hub last year.Buy on Amazon
No one wants to carry around extra tech gadgets they’ll never use. When choosing which USB hub is right for you, consider which ports you need and how often you’ll actually use them.
If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles, save yourself some money and space by going for the smaller, simpler models. If you think you’ll use extras like card readers and HDMI ports or want to charge your laptop and other devices from your hub, on the other hand, it’s worth the additional size and cost to grab a model that includes those features.