USB technology is a part of everyday life. USB cables allow mobile devices and computers to transfer data back and forth or run peripherals. USB also carries power to charge batteries in the mobile devices we use daily.
Because people often own more than one mobile device, charging them can be a hassle. That's where a USB hub enters the picture. These hubs have multiple USB ports in one device, usually between four and 10, which allow you to charge several items at once. For example, our top recommendation from Anker has 10 ports for ultimate convenience.
Beyond power transfer, a USB hub can perform data transfer capabilities in an efficient manner. USB hubs provide a lot of convenience, making them a vital component to have on hand.
Considerations when choosing USB hubs
Number of ports
When shopping for a USB hub, pay attention to the number of ports it has. People often just pick a device with the largest number of ports they can afford. Remember, though, that devices with several ports cost more and may be larger than you need.
If you plan to carry your USB hub with a laptop for on-the-go convenience, look for a slim USB hub. These units will not take up much room in a backpack or briefcase, while still delivering plenty of functionality. Slim USB hubs have a slightly higher cost than larger hubs, but the difference is minimal.
If you plan to use the USB hub to charge devices, make sure it meets your power requirements. Some USB hubs have smart charging technology. This is a great feature, as the hub will adjust the power it's delivering based on the needs and limitations of each device plugged in.
Some USB hubs work as port replicators. Devices connect to your computer through a single USB port, but they provide access to other types of ports. For example, you can use a single USB connection to set up a hub. You can then plug devices such as an Ethernet port or an HDMI port.
Using a port replicator is a nice feature if your computer doesn't have a specific port you need. Note: running these add-on ports through a USB hub doesn't give you the same speed and connection stability of using the actual port.
USB hubs have a reasonable price, especially if you're just seeking a basic unit. You can find a hub with four to 10 ports for between $10 and $50. Many of these ports will support USB 3.0 technology.
Pricier USB hubs typically deliver port replicator technology. You could pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for this style of USB hub.
Q. Should I get a hub with USB 2.0 ports, or should I only consider USB 3.0 hubs?
A. The USB 2.0 standard is slower than USB 3.0 in terms of data transfer speeds. However, to take advantage of the USB 3.0 speed, all devices in the chain must be USB 3.0 compatible. If one device in the chain is only USB 2.0 compatible, all devices will slow down to USB 2.0. So having a mix of 3.0 and 2.0 ports in the USB hub will work fine for most people.
Q. Does the USB hub need special software to operate?
A. No. A USB hub simply provides the means to connect two devices. It doesn't run software or require upgrades. USB technology passes data and power back and forth between devices connected. Your computer just needs to be able to recognize the USB hub, which most PCs will do automatically.
USB hubs we recommend
Best of the best: Anker 10-Port 60W USB 3.0 Data Hub
Our take: Versatile USB hub built with 10 ports, placing it at the top of the market and giving you a great value.
What we like: Seven of the ports can handle USB 3.0 speeds, which is impressive. Offers compatibility with all major operating systems.
What we dislike: Pricey. Your computer may run slower whenever this complex hub is attached to it.
Best bang for your buck: Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
Our take: Excellent value for USB 3.0 speeds on all four ports, and the small size gives it portability.
What we like: Extremely easy to begin using straight out of the box. Each of the four ports has a separate power switch, allowing for precise control.
What we dislike: Struggles with data transfer speeds when running an external hard drive through the hub.
Choice 3: Atolla 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
Our take: For those seeking an easy-to-use USB hub, this model has LED lights that indicate that the ports are powered up and working.
What we like: Has one USB port made specifically to charge mobile devices quickly. The four USB 3.0 ports in the hub deliver excellent data transmission speeds.
What we dislike: Connection cable is only two feet long, so you're limited as to where it may be placed in the room.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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