We Tested Several USB-C Hubs: These 3 Stood Out

We Tested Several USB-C Hubs: These 3 Stood Out

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(CNN) —  

Laptops have fewer ports than ever these days, but a good USB-C hub will make it easy to connect all of your monitors and accessories. That’s why CNN Underscored spent the past month putting some of the bestselling USB-C hubs through their paces in real-world testing. From basic media file transfers to playing demanding games off of a portable hard drive, we watched each device function under various stress loads while also comparing designs, connectivity and performance. Here are the three hubs that stood above the rest:

Different computers demand different levels of power, which is why power delivery was a major factor when it came to settling on the best USB-C hubs. Most hubs we tested fell into one of two categories of power: 60 watts and 100 watts (W). Hubs with 60W of power delivery have enough juice to work well with smaller 13-inch laptops (such as a MacBook Air), while you’ll need a 100W hub for reliable performance on bigger 15- to 16-inch laptops that require more power (such as a gaming notebook or workstation). As such, we aimed to find the best hub for each type of laptop owner as well as a desktop pick for those with more space to play with.

The Satechi USB-C hub delivered some of the fastest data transfer speeds in our testing pool, while packing Ethernet and 60W power pass-through in a slim, pocketable form factor that we found to be an ideal go-anywhere companion to a 13-inch laptop.

The Totu 9-in-1 triple display USB-C hub offers more ports and 100W power delivery while providing solid overall speeds on file transfer tests. It allowed us to use two external monitors with our laptop without any lag or stutters (and can handle up to three displays), making it a good fit for expanding the connectivity of more powerful 15-inch notebooks.

Finally, the Aukey 12-in-1 USB-C hub provides 12 ports for maximum connectivity, with triple monitor support, Ethernet and additional USB-C connections. However, its port placement quickly got crowded for us, and its larger form factor and power supply requirements make it best for those looking for maximum flexibility on the move or to outfit a desktop setup.

Key specs

Number of ports: 8 Video Output: Up to 4K @ 60 hertz (Hz) (single monitor) Warranty: 12 months limited warranty If you’re looking to expand the functionality of a 13-inch laptop (such as a MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13), the Satechi Multi-Port Adapter V2 is the best hub of its kind we tested in terms of overall speed and reliability. Satechi’s sleek “Space Gray” hub stands out against the rest of our testing pool, having one of the sleekest designs and some of the fastest data transfer speeds.

Port placement is both generous and versatile enough for any setup, and unlike most hubs we tested, the Satechi multiport adapter offers a Gigabit Ethernet jack, so you can stay connected regardless of where you may travel. Most importantly, the Satechi performed better with all ports in use than the similarly spec’d Aukey 8-in-1 hub, which exhibited choppy in-game performance and slower media transfers under similar conditions.

Its 4K HDMI out display sports a 60 Hz refresh rate, which is up to standard for this type of gadget and allows for smooth monitor performance. The USB-C connection will only pass 60W power; this will keep a 13-inch laptop charged, but it isn’t enough to supply a larger power-hungry machine, such as a 16-inch MacBook Pro; in that case, you’ll have to devote a separate USB-C or Thunderbolt port to your power adapter. Smaller machines that are 13 inches and below receive enough juice for stable charging.

The hub can get warm but is never unreasonably hot, even when loaded with high power-drawing accessories like hard drives and capture cards attached. For most people, the Satechi’s mix of fast transfer speeds, assortment of ports and smooth operation make it the best USB-C hub to greatly expand the functionality of less power-hungry devices, such as 13-inch laptops.

Hunter Fenollol/CNN

Totu 9-in-1 Triple Display USB C Hub

Key specs

Number of ports: 9 Video Output: Up to 4K @ 60 Hz (single monitor), 4K @ 30 Hz (dual monitor) Warranty: 12 months limited warranty The Totu 9-in-1 USB-C triple display docking station adds connectivity for multiple displays and display types, swapping out the Ethernet port of the Satechi for a VGA port and adding an additional HDMI port. With 100W of pass-through charging, the Totu USB-C hub lets you add a whole lot of useful connectivity and power to a15- to 16-inch laptop via a single USB-C port.

While the hub can support three displays (your laptop’s capabilities permitting), and like our top pick can drive a single 4K display at 60 Hz, it only supports 30 Hz for dual 4K HDMI displays, and attaching a VGA display lowers all monitor resolutions to 1080p.

With read speeds of 60 megabytes (MB) per second on our USB 3.0 transfer tests, the Totu was faster than the Satechi, which only managed 40MB per second. It fell short on SD card transfers, however, clocking only 20MB per second versus the Satechi’s speedy 90MB per second read speed. Nor did the Totu offer a satisfying click on inserting an SD card, as did our top pick. But for those not needing the fastest card read speeds, the Totu’s numerous display options, slim form factor and plethora of ports make this hub a great budget pick that’s especially ideal for expanding the functionality of larger laptops.

Hunter Fenollol/CNN

Aukey 12-in-1 USB-C Hub

Key specs

Number of ports: 12 Video Output: Up to 4K @ 30 Hz Warranty: 24 months limited warranty The Aukey 12-in-1 USB-C hub may not be as portable as our other picks, but with a whopping 12 ports, it’s more versatile. You’re covered whether you just need to connect a keyboard and mouse for everyday work or need to drive three monitors for presentations, and 100W of power delivery lets you quickly charge larger power-hungry laptops in addition to external devices like a phone or portable monitor…

Whether the hub is plugged into a Windows machine or a MacBook, all peripheral devices we tested with the Aukey were instantly recognized, though external display capabilities differ between the operating systems. While Windows is able to display a true extended triple display output, with three monitors displaying different screens, MacOS users are limited to mirror mode, with the same picture displayed on each monitor.

Poor port placement mars these inputs with clutter when fully equipped. On the right side sits two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports and a USB-C port. Slide downward and you’ll discover an Ethernet port (ideal for desktop users needing wired internet) in addition to a VGA port for legacy monitors. Rounding the corner to the left side of the device is a card reader, two HDMI ports and finally a power delivery USB-C charging port. This leaves all of your wires pulling in conflicting directions as if they’re trying to draw and quarter the hub. While using a wired mouse, one quick tug jerked the hub right. Turning an external monitor reoriented the hub in the opposite direction, making it difficult to find the perfect placement. The rubber feet provide a solid grip; however, you’ll want to ensure the wires of your peripherals are long enough.

The chunkier body of the Aukey 12-in-1 isn’t as portable as our top choices above, which is why we recommend it for more stationary setups. The card storage slots also pale in comparison, with read and write rates sitting at 25 and 20MB per second to the Satechi’s blazing 75 and 90MB per second. Aside from those caveats, the Aukey 12-in-1 hub offers some of the most expansive connectivity of any hub we tested while delivering good overall performance at an attainable price.

We tested each of these USB-C hubs in a variety of real-world scenarios over the course of a month. To test the hubs’ performance in both at-home and travel scenarios, we used each hub across three devices. Our test rigs included a powerful Cyberpower streaming desktop, a 15-inch MSI gaming laptop and a 13-inch MacBook Air productivity laptop. Hubs with 100W power delivery are suitable for more power-hungry 15-inch notebooks like the MSI, while those with 60W delivery work well with slimmer 13-inch laptops like our MacBook Air. Our testing pool consisted of newly released, fully featured USB-C hubs, bestselling hubs with authentically positive user reviews (verified via Fakespot) and selections made by our editor’s expertise.

To judge the design of each hub, all 12 choices were splayed out on a uniform white foam poster board for a visual comparison. Every USB-C hub was weighed, rotated and handled for heft, bulkiness and overall material quality. To test portability, we threw each hub in a backpack, pocketbook and a men’s pants pocket.

Next, we took note of the types of ports on each hub in addition to how many there were to judge connectivity. Power delivery capability was determined by maximum wattage output. Wattage determines how fast devices charge and the performance of connected devices like drives.

Performance-wise, we ran multiple tests for transfer speeds, video quality and heat dissipation. We transferred the same 1-gigabyte (GB) 1080p video file to each hub using a Kingston Canvas Go! Plus SD Card, Kingston Data Traveler USB 3.0 drive and SanDisk Ultra microSD Card. This tested for maximum read and write speeds and was performed twice on each setup to calculate an average transfer rate for each hub. We also used AJA System Test, a synthetic benchmark that measures how fast a drive can transfer files.

Lastly, we used two different monitors to check video outputs. Desklab’s 4K monitor

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