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Best USB hub 2022: Improve your laptop’s connectivity for under £20

Best USB hub

Tired of switching plugs in and out of sockets or looking for an easier way to connect? Splash out on one of the best USB hubs to buy

The best USB hubs are perhaps the most humble of computer/laptop peripherals. Yes, modern laptops have stunning high-resolution screens and the processing power to run the most demanding applications, but if there’s one thing they lack, it's connectivity. Those super-slim, featherlight MacBooks, Chromebooks and Windows laptops look great and are easy to lug around, but there’s a price to be paid when it comes to ports and sockets. Most have room for one or two USB-C ports and, if you’re lucky, a couple of USB 3.1 or 3.2. Looking for an HDMI, DisplayPort or Ethernet connection? You might be lucky, or you might need an adapter. Nor are only laptops affected. A growing number of all-in-one PCs and micro desktop systems suffer from a similar deficit of ports.

This is why you need a good USB hub. Plug one into a spare USB port and you’ve suddenly got three, four or more ports ready for action. You can hook up your USB peripherals and hard disks, and still have a socket or two free. Better yet, the more sophisticated models include HDMI outputs and Ethernet ports. You can take one on the move to give you connectivity wherever you need it, or leave it plugged in on your desk with everything hooked up, giving you a whole desktop setup over just one connection. Pick the right one, and it might change how you use your computer entirely.

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Best USB hub: At a glance

How to choose the best USB hub for you

USB hubs start from around £8 and go up to £60 or more. As with most things, you pay more for a higher spec or extra features, so the choice comes down to working out what you need and finding the best hub to meet your requirements.

The most basic hubs focus on giving you more USB connections, so that you can plug in three or four USB devices in while using just one USB port. Some also work as a way of using your existing USB Type-A devices (those with a big, square-edged USB plug) on a laptop or tablet that has only a USB Type-C socket (for the smaller, round-edged plugs). These tend to be affordable, slimline units that differ mostly in what connections they offer, whether or not they use external power, and how well they’re built.

The more expensive hubs add extra connectivity, making the most of the features of the USB-C spec. They may have one or more HDMI outputs for a monitor or projector, an Ethernet socket for connecting to a wired network, and even a built-in microSD or SD card reader. The higher-end models may also feature a USB-PD (power delivery) input and passthrough, so that they can charge your laptop while connected, as long as the hub is powered by a suitable USB-PD charger. At this point, the hub is effectively a USB docking solution, enabling you to hook up a monitor, keyboard, mouse, storage and a network connection, then plug your laptop in when you want to work at your desk. This is especially handy if you’re working from home.

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What should I look out for?

As you might expect, the connections are the most important thing. Most USB hubs will offer two or more USB-A 3.0 ports (also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1) running at a maximum 5Gbits/sec, which is fine for anything bar a fast external SSD. For those, you’ll need a hub that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, to achieve speeds of up to 10Gbits/sec, or a USB-C connector supporting the USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard.

Beyond your USB connections, you need to check the specs of any HDMI or Ethernet ports. Most HDMI ports in USB hubs only support the older HDMI 1.4 standard. This means that, while they’ll support 1080p full HD and 1440p QHD monitors at the normal 60Hz refresh rate, they’ll only handle 4K displays at a half-rate 30Hz. This won’t be unusable, but you may find movement less fluid than usual and the screen slightly flickery.

Ethernet is easier, as it’s hard to find a hub that doesn’t support Gigabit Ethernet speeds. That said, a small number now support the faster 2.5 Gigabit (2.5GbE) standard, which isn’t a priority for most home networks, but a plus for advanced users or just for future proofing.

Take some of the claims made by some manufacturers with a pinch of salt. We tested a couple of hubs that promised high-end features but failed to deliver during testing. For example, they might promise 4K at 60Hz, but you might find that this only works on specific laptops and displays.

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What about power?

The cheaper USB-only hubs take their power from the USB socket, which is fine when you’re only connecting, say, a printer and a mouse and keyboard, but might cause you problems when you’re hooking up more power-hungry gadgets. In fact, most manufacturers will state a maximum power load for their hub, measured in milliamps, to give you some idea of what you can connect at once. A normal mouse or USB Flash drive (under 100mA) won’t be any bother, but start connecting gaming peripherals or external hard drives (500 to 900mA) and you might have trouble. For this reason, some hubs will also take a signal from a micro-USB or USB-C charger, to make sure that there’s enough power to go around.

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.

Finally, take a good look at the warranty. USB hubs, particularly those with a wide range of fast connections, can have a nasty habit of over-heating and permanent failure, so it pays to buy from a brand with a decent reputation. You might also want to look at buying one backed by a decent warranty, so you can replace it if you need to.

The best USB-A and USB-C hubs to buy

1. Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub: The best basic USB-A hub

Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon

There’s nothing fancy about this four-port USB 3.0 hub, but it’s very compact, just as lightweight, and works reliably without any fuss. The ports are widely enough spaced to take most cables, and while the casing’s plastic, it feels solid and well built. Speeds are USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 only, and there’s no USB input for charging or running HDDs, but what you’ve got is fine for connecting USB memory sticks and wired mice and keyboards, and in extended use we’ve had no problems with stability and reliability. If the 20cm captive cable isn’t long enough, you can also find it with a longer 60cm cable for roughly £2 more.

Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-A 3.0; USB ports: 4x USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1; Other ports: N/A; Power: N/A; Maximum power load: 900mA; Dimensions: 93 x 3 x 1mm; Weight: 35g; Warranty: 18 months

2. UGreen USB Hub 3.0 4 Port Ultra Slim: The best budget hub with power

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

This UGreen unit is another basic USB hub, with four USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 ports connecting through a single USB-A connection. Disappointingly, what looks like an aluminium casing turns out to be plastic, which feels a little creaky in comparison to some models, but it’s robust enough for daily desktop or mobile use. The big advantage this one has over similarly priced rivals is a 5V micro-USB input, meaning it can charge devices while in use (without any fast charge support) and run one or more USB SSDs or HDDs – we tried it with one of each without any issues. The only downside? You’ll need to supply your own charger and cable, but it’s hard to grumble at this price.

Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-A 3.0; USB ports: 4x USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1; Other ports: N/A; Power: micro-USB 5V; Maximum power load: 900mA per port; Dimensions: 103 x 30 x 10mm; Weight: 40g; Warranty: 24 months

3. AmazonBasics 3-port USB 3.0 Adapter with Gigabit Ethernet: The best USB-A hub for wired networking

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

Amazon’s cost-conscious brand usually delivers decent value, and this USB 3.0 hub is another fine example. This time you get just three USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 ports in a compact box with captive cable, but with a Gigabit Ethernet adapter for connecting to a wired network. This makes it particularly handy if you’re always moving between your home office and office. The 10cm cable is a little on the short side, but reinforced at both ends, and the unit itself feels solid. Most importantly, while some hubs with Ethernet adapters fail to deliver anything like Gigabit speeds, this one installs as a Gigabit adapter and behaves like one as well.

Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-A 3.0; USB ports: 3x USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1; Other ports: Gigabit Ethernet; Power: N/A; Maximum power load: 900mA per port; Dimensions: 46 x 80 x 15mm; Weight: 36g; Warranty: 18 months

4. Uni Slim Type C to 4-Port USB 3.0: The best basic USB-C hub

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

If your priority is to get some USB-A connectivity on a device that only has USB-C, this slimline Uni hub is hard to beat. For a start, it’s an all-aluminium unit that will look great with any modern slim-and-light design. The braided cord also looks the part and is well reinforced at both the hub and connector ends. Plug it in and you have four USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 ports ready for action, and it will happily support USB memory sticks, mice, keyboards and headsets – or anything that doesn’t require much power. For USB HDDs you’ll need something with a power input, and there’s no USB-C connectivity onboard, but you do get a choice of cables, with both 18cm and 1.2m versions available. An effective and reliable hub.

Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-C 3.1; USB ports: 4x USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1; Other ports: N/A; Power: N/A; Maximum power load: Not stated; Dimensions: 46 x 80 x 15mm; Weight: 45g; Warranty: 12 months

5. Anker PowerExpand 6-in 1 USB-C with 4K@60Hz: The best USB-C hub for a desktop setup

Price: £33 | Buy now from Amazon

The PowerExpand 6-in-1 isn’t cheap, but it does a whole lot more than the other hubs we tested. For a start, its two USB-A ports are USB 3.1 Gen 2 rather than Gen 1, so it’s a better choice for high-performance USB memory sticks and SSDs. It also has a 100W USB-PD passthrough, so it’ll charge your device while connected, along with a built-in SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack. Most importantly, its HDMI output supports 4K resolutions at 60Hz, and – unlike some other models we tested – this one actually does the job.

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.

Key specs – Upstream connection: 1x USB-C 3.1, 10cm captive cable; USB ports: 2x USB-A 3.1 Gen 2; Other ports: HDMI 2.0, SD Card, 3.5mm audio; Power: USB-PD 100W; Maximum power load: 900mA per port; Dimensions: 108 x 55 x 14mm; Weight: 109g; Warranty: 24 months

6. Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock: The best for connectivity

Price: £320 l Buy now from Razer

The most expensive USB-expanding solution on this list (by a significant margin), Razer's external docking solution is the very best money can buy. A do-it-all dock with ten ports, the Razer dock includes a total of four Thunderbolt 4-powered USB-C ports (one is reserved for connecting to your laptop), which can power two 4K 60Hz external displays at once. It also has three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, UHS-II SD Card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Naturally, it's a big brick of a thing, so it's not the most portable of USB hubs, especially since it also requires the supplied 135W power adapter, too. Still, if you can tolerate its lack of portability, and you don't mind paying a heck of a lot of money for one, then Razer's Thunderbolt 4 dock has all of your ports and connections covered. 

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

Buy now from Razer

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