In the age of laptops with sleek USB-C ports, USB-C hubs and dongles provide an answer to a common laptop question.
How can I connect printers, mouse, and keyboards that require a rectangular USB-A port when my laptop only has a rounded USB-C port?
The answer lies in the practical and cost-effective solution of USB-C hubs and dongles.
These accessories serve as a bridge, allowing you to add the extra functionality needed to connect various devices to your laptop seamlessly.
We have compiled a comprehensive list of the best USB-C hubs and dongles available, taking into account not only the available port options but also lesser-known details that go beyond the manufacturer’s description.
This includes considerations such as the spacing between ports and whether the hub tends to overheat during use.
USB-C connectivity has evolved into two main categories: traditional USB-C dongles, which are relatively inexpensive (priced around $30-40), and USB-C docking stations, which are more premium (costing $150+). Traditional dongles provide a few essential ports to connect to your laptop or desktop, while docking stations offer additional features such as power delivery, more ports, and enhanced bandwidth through software compression. We have expanded our coverage to encompass a broader range of options, considering the blurred lines between these product categories.
Our USB-C recommendations are organized as follows: traditional USB-C hubs are listed first, followed by our top pick for the best USB-C docking station.
Understanding the multitude of options can be overwhelming, so we have included a FAQ section at the end of this article to provide further buying advice and clarity.
In summary, if you require connections for printers, SD cards, microSD cards, mice, keyboards, or legacy 1080p monitors, a USB-C hub will suit your needs. However, if you desire to connect additional displays, especially 4K resolution, or high-speed SSD drives, we recommend exploring our list of USB-C DisplayLink or Thunderbolt docking stations.
A USB-C hub serves as a convenient accessory that connects to the USB-C port located on the side of your laptop. For instance, if the left port on your laptop is designated for charging purposes, you would require a USB-C hub equipped with a charging input to utilize this particular slot.
However, it’s important to note that you also have the option to purchase a hub without charging capabilities and utilize it with the other USB-C port, which is situated to the right of the charging port.
1. Best Overall USB-C Hub: Anker 7-in-1 USB-C Hub (A83460A2)
Anker’s 7-in-1 USB-C hub stands out with its elegant design and premium build quality, featuring a metallic (aluminum and polycarbonate) sheen. While slightly more expensive than its rivals, this hub justifies the cost with its reliable performance and excellent temperature management, operating at a cool 87 degrees even under heavy load.
The hub provides ample spacing between the two 5Gbps USB-A ports, along with a 5Gbps USB-C port for data transfer. Additionally, it offers a second USB-C port for power input, delivering up to 85W of power (although the charger allows up to 100W input). The HDMI port supports 4K/30Hz video or 1080p/60Hz video to a single external display, meeting industry standards. However, Ethernet connectivity is not available.
Anker’s hub excelled in data delivery during testing, ensuring efficient simultaneous data transfer between USB-A ports and active SD ports. The product comes with an 18-month warranty and a convenient carrying pouch. It is worth noting that the more expensive Anker 8-in-1 Hub on Amazon, priced at $79.99, is not recommended unless you solely require two 1080p displays.
- Offers a good mix of legacy and newer ports
- Supplies 85W of power
- Great value for money
- Excellent build quality
4K output limited to 30Hz
2. Best Full-Featured Hub– Lasuney Triple Display USB Type C HUB
Lasuney’s 10-in-1 hub offers an impressive array of features, including two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI 1.2 ports supporting 4K@30Hz, a DisplayPort, gigabit Ethernet, microSD/SD slots, and USB-C power input.
The hub provides excellent value for money, particularly due to its unique mix of two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort. With support for Ethernet, this hub efficiently replaces the need for multiple wired connections. Its power input is rated at 100W, with around 87W available to the laptop.
However, one caveat is that the USB-C bus on which the hub operates does not support simultaneous use of all ports. As a result, users may need to limit themselves to a pair of 1080p displays to avoid saturating the bus and slowing down connections.
Some customers on Amazon reported issues with only one port working, likely due to the bus being saturated. Additionally, the SD card slot demonstrated slower data transfer compared to other hubs.
, Lasuney’s hub boasts solid construction with well-spaced ports. Additionally, it maintains a comfortable temperature even under heavy use. However, it’s crucial to set realistic expectations – while we appreciate the hub’s flexibility, it may not support using all its features simultaneously.
If simultaneous usage of multiple peripherals is essential, we recommend considering higher-end USB-C docking stations listed below for more comprehensive capabilities.
Remarkable port flexibility
USB-C bus throughput limits simultaneous usage of all ports
3. Best Budget USB-C Hub: Yeolibo 9-in-1 USB-C Hub (RU9A)
Yeolibo may not be a well-known brand, but its 9-in-1 USB-C hub stands out with its impressive features and attention to detail. The hub’s small but informative manual, well-labeled ports, and well-rounded functionality make it an excellent budget-friendly option.
The hub offers three USB 3.0 (5Gb/s) Type A ports, one USB 2.0 Type A port, a USB-C (5Gb/s) port, and a USB-C PD charging port capable of handling 100W of input power. Additionally, it features an HDMI port and microSD and SD slots, supporting SDXC cards up to 2TB and SDR25 (25MB/s) data rates. Unfortunately, Ethernet connectivity is not available.
During testing, the hub efficiently accepted 62.5W input from a 65W USB-C charger and remained cool throughout. While it performed as expected for protected content playback via its HDMI port, it faced some dropped frames when playing 4K content over YouTube, supporting 4K30 resolutions.
Incredible price and value
No Ethernet port
4. Best Budget USB-C Hub with 4K/60 Output: Lention USB-C Hub with 4K Output (CB-C35sH)
The CB-C35sH from Lention has a bit of a rattling when first opened, which suggests that a few corners were cut. The hub’s power input, rated at 60W, allows for HDMI 1.2 output, supporting 4K resolution on an external display at 60Hz. The hub remained cool, even with a charger attached, although its power input reached 55W during testing.
The hub features four 5Gb/s USB Type-A ports but lacks microSD slots, Ethernet, or audio connections. While a more comprehensive selection of ports would have been beneficial, the USB-C connection capably handled mouse and keyboard connections and data transfer. It is worth mentioning that the Lention hub provides a comfortable 60Hz HDMI output at the same resolution, making it ideal for extended use.
Both the Anker A83460A2 and the Yeolibo 9-in-1 hubs are superior options overall, except for their limited HDMI output at 30Hz. In contrast, the Lention hub delivers a smoother 60Hz output, providing a more eye-friendly experience. Additionally, Lention offers a 12-month warranty with 24-hour support turnaround for added peace of mind.
- Flawless performance
- 4K HDMI output at 60Hz
- No SD/microSD slot
5. Best Compact USB-C Dock: IOGEAR Travel Pro USB-C Mini Dock (GUD3C460)
The IOGEAR Travel Pro Mini Dock is a compact and affordable USB-C dock, measuring 2.8 x 0.31 x 1.22 inches. It uniquely plugs directly into your laptop’s USB-C port without requiring a connecting cord.
Although the compact design is convenient for laptops with standalone USB-C ports, it may block other ports on laptops with closely spaced USB-C connections. The dock provides just enough space to accommodate your laptop’s USB-C charger alongside an HDMI cord, USB key, or cord, and a 3.5mm jack. It supports up to 60W of power from an external charger.
The Mini Dock can handle up to 60W of power input from an external charger.
However, this works well only if your laptop’s USB-C port is the only one available. For laptops like the Asus ZenBook, which have USB-C ports positioned too closely together, using the IOgear Travel Pro Mini Dock may block other ports, including the 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Smallest docks
- Minimizes desk clutter
- No cable
- Can block ports
6. Best Hub for External Hard Drives: RSHTECH USB C Hub Powered 4 Port USB Splitter (RSH-516)
The Rshtech RS-516 USB-C port splitter features an unusually long 2-foot cable to split a 5Gbps USB 3.0 input (over USB-C) into four USB 3.0 Type A ports. What sets it apart is the presence of LED-lit button switches, offering control over the ports, and an optional 5V/2A adapter to power the entire hub.
The hub efficiently divides the 5Gbps input among the ports, with each port being active only when the corresponding LED-lit button is pressed. This control applies to both power (charging, although not fast-charging phones) and data. The hub boasts a well-spaced port design and features an ABS/aluminum construction that handles heat well.
While the hub connected to most devices without issues, it encountered difficulties identifying and connecting to a bus-powered SSD. When all ports were occupied, the performance of a powered external hard drive declined to about 20 percent, but with the optional power cable plugged in, performance surged to about 67 percent—Rshtech recommends using the power cable with external storage.
Despite the inconvenience of the proprietary power cable, the hub’s functionality impressed with its access and control over external hard drives that spin up and down randomly and loudly.
- Push-button on/off switches are a rarity
- For external hard drives that spin up and down, button control is great
- Unusual power requirement
7. Best Full-Size USB-C DisplayLink Dock, Runner-Up: Ugreen USB-C Triple Display Docking Station
The Ugreen USB-C Triple Display Docking Station, also known as the USB-C Multifunction Docking Station PRO, offers an array of impressive features. However, it comes with some peculiarities, such as the need for a separate charger.
Despite these quirks and its relatively higher price, the docking station performs well, supporting three displays simultaneously. Users should ensure they download the DisplayLink software.
- Compact design
- Excellent port selection
- Support for three displays
- Name discrepancy on the box
- Relatively high cost
- Emphasis on requiring drivers may be insufficient
- Charger not included
- USB-C connection limitations
8. Best Full-Size USB-C Dock: Cyber Acoustics DS-1000 Docking Station
The Cyber Acoustics DS-1000 Docking Station offers an efficient and compact design, delivering a solid value for its price. However, compatibility may be limited to recent laptops, making it necessary to verify compatibility before purchasing.
In recent years, laptops have introduced a new USB-C technology known as HBR3 with DSC (Display Stream Compression). This technology offers similar functionalities to DisplayLink, but it is an industry standard. Although laptops with 11th-gen Core processors partly support this technology, it performs optimally in 12th- or 13th-gen laptops.
The plastic Dock, though slim and plastic-built, packs a punch in terms of features. With a width just over 6 inches and a depth of about 3 inches, it lacks a stand and can become warm under load.
However, its rear side houses two HDMI ports, four 5Gbps USB-A ports, and gigabit ethernet. Additionally, it offers a USB-C cable, approximately 2.5 feet in length, extending from the side of the dock. While the documentation is somewhat lacking, it boasts a USB Type A port and another USB-C port on the front.
Notably, the front USB-C port delivers 6.7W of charging power, making it convenient for fast-charging smartphones. As a powered dock, it can provide 90W of charging power to your laptop as well.
- Great compact design
- Solid value for the price
- Requires a recent laptop for compatibility, not guaranteed
9. Best Full-Size USB-C DisplayLink Dock: Plugable USB-C Dual 4K Display Horizontal Docking Station (UD-6950PDH)
Plugable’s UD-6950PDH is an DisplayLink dock that offers enhanced features, making it slightly more expensive than a typical USB-C docking station. However, its benefits outweigh the cost, including the option to choose between two pairs of optional DisplayPort and HDMI connections and the provision of 100W charging power for your laptop. One minor drawback is the lack of a dedicated charging port or any USB-C port at all, unlike other products in the market.
With an appealing $199 MSRP, the price is justified for a DisplayLink docking station. Just remember to bring your smartphone charger, as it is not included.
- Great value for office workers
- Versatile display options
- Abundance of USB-A ports
- SD/microSD card slots available
- 100W charging power
- No USB-C ports
- Absence of dedicated charging ports
- DisplayLink lacks full Thunderbolt bandwidth
- Requires software driver
How to choose a USB-C hub?
When selecting a USB-C hub for your laptop, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure it meets your specific needs. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make the right choice:
1. Assess Your Peripherals
Begin by examining the peripherals you currently own or plan to use. Determine if you have devices that rely on traditional USB-A cables, such as an old external hard drive, or if you need to access data from an SD card.
Additionally, consider whether you require a stable ethernet connection due to unreliable Wi-Fi. Identifying your required ports is crucial for finding a suitable USB-C hub. Note that this advice mainly applies to Windows users, as Macs have different limitations regarding USB-C connections.
2. Check Your Laptop’s Ports
Take stock of the ports available on your laptop or tablet. Determine if it has one or two USB-C ports and whether there’s a separate charging connection. For devices with a single USB-C port used exclusively for charging, opt for a USB-C hub that includes a dedicated charging input port.
Keep in mind the input power the hub allows and ensure it meets your laptop’s power requirements. Otherwise, you might face a dilemma between charging your laptop or accessing other devices, which is counterproductive.
3. Consider Power Needs for Laptops and Peripherals
Understand that the hub’s power port is meant for supplying power to your laptop, not for charging phones. However, some USB-C hubs can still charge your phone, though there may be limitations. A “bus-powered” USB hub draws power from your laptop, which it shares among several devices, resulting in lower performance.
Some docks include a dedicated USB-C port solely for accepting your laptop’s USB-C charger. This allows the hub to power your laptop and connected ports more efficiently, making it convenient for fast-charging phones. However, certain specialized charging features, such as Samsung Galaxy S20’s Super Fast Charging, may still require using the original phone charger.
4. Understand USB-C Technologies
USB-C ports on laptops can run at either 5Gbps or 10Gbps, with the latter being more common. For basic peripherals like printers, mice, keyboards, or hard drives, either speed is sufficient, even when used simultaneously. However, higher-bandwidth peripherals like displays, ethernet, and high-speed SSDs consume more bandwidth.
Display technologies, especially for higher-resolution displays (e.g., 1440p or 4K), significantly influence the choice of USB-C hub.
While USB-C dongles are cost-effective for connecting to 1080p displays, options like USB-C docking stations become necessary for advanced display configurations. If needed, you can utilize separate Wi-Fi connections to bypass bandwidth limitations when using a USB-C dongle.
5. Learn About Docking Station Technologies
Traditionally, Thunderbolt docks provided ample bandwidth (40Gbps) for multiple peripherals, including dual 4K displays running at 60Hz. USB4 technology, similar to Thunderbolt, offers comparable capabilities for most users.
However, DisplayLink USB-C docks use software compression to simulate a Thunderbolt experience over a generic USB-C connection.
Although it requires a software driver, DisplayLink is an excellent choice for office work but may not be suitable for gaming. The cost of DisplayLink docks has been a factor, but recently, more affordable options have become available (around $150).
6. Consider HBR3 with Display Compression (HBR3 with DSC)
HBR3 with DSC is an industry-standard version of DisplayLink. However, it isn’t widely publicized or supported.
HBR3-supported docks work well with 12th-gen Core processors and newer laptops. Laptops with 10th-gen Core processors may not be supported, and 11th-gen Core laptops may have varying results. If you own a 12th-gen Core laptop, especially an Intel Evo brand member, you are more likely to have success with HBR3. Compatibility with AMD Ryzen laptops requires further testing.
Don’t worry about the branding on USB-C hubs being associated with specific platforms like MacBook Pro, Chromebook, or XPS. USB-C is universal among Macs, Windows PCs, and phones.
Hubs with platform-specific branding should work flawlessly with any Windows PC without requiring additional software or drivers.
How important is price when buying a USB-C hub or dongle?
Price matters, but not significantly. Pay attention to reviews and what the hub or dongle offers. There are solid and affordable USB-C hubs and dongles available on the market.
USB-C docking stations can be perceived as overpriced, partly due to the higher costs of Thunderbolt docks during the 2020-2021 pandemic. USB-C docking stations offer alternatives with similar functionalities, but their prices have also been affected.
What is the difference between a docking station and USB-C hub?
A docking station and a USB-C hub have similar purposes, expanding the ports available for a laptop, but they are not the same.
USB-C hubs are compact and portable port expanders, offering USB-C or USB-A ports, with higher-end models including SD Card slots, HDMI, or DisplayPort inputs. They are designed for easy mobility and draw power from the laptop itself.
Docking stations are larger and more stationary, aiming to turn a laptop into a desktop replacement. They offer all the features of USB-C hubs and more, such as connections for external monitors, Thunderbolt 4 ports, Ethernet ports, etc. Docking stations are usually powered via a power outlet, allowing connected devices to be powered directly from the docking station.
What is the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt?
Both USB-C and Thunderbolt ports are universal, but they have differences. USB-C ports support data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps and power charging, while Thunderbolt ports offer data transfer rates of up to 40Gbps, power charging, and video output up to 4K resolution.
DisplayLink USB-C docks use compression technology to transfer more data over the generic USB-C connection, making them suitable for most tasks except high-end gaming.
Newer laptops with 12th or 13th-gen Core chips may exceed 10Gbps via the USB-C port due to a technology called HBR3 with Display Compression, but laptop manufacturers rarely specify which models support it.
Why do USB-C hubs get hot?
USB-C hubs can become warm or hot during data transfer or device charging due to the heat generated by electronic components and circuitry within the hub. The material of the hub can affect heat dissipation, with metallic parts like aluminum allowing better heat dispersion.
If you’re worried about your hub overheating during use, you might want to consider investing in a hub constructed from metallic materials, like aluminum. These materials facilitate better heat dissipation, allowing the hub to stay cooler as it operates.