You know the feeling: you look for somewhere to plug in a phone, a portable hard drive or some other peripheral, and discover you're completely out of USB ports. When that happens, it's time to buy a hub -- but some hubs are definitely better than others. This week we're looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.
Title photo by Clive Darra.
USB hubs come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and types. You can pay big bucks for a high-end USB 3.0 hub with powered ports and fancy lighting, or spend next to nothing on a portable USB 2.0 hub. While any USB hub will solve the basic problem of expanding your available range of ports, different models suit different approaches. It's a competitive market, so even once you've chosen a model, it pays to shop around online to find the cheapest deal.
Anker's powered USB 3.0 hubs are well regarded. The Anker 9-Port Powered USB 3.0 Hub (shown above) has just updated its design, and is small enough to go with you in your laptop bag. IIt even sports an additional port purely for charging your devices over USB. The hub is also powered, so if you have devices such as external hard drives that use USB for juice, they'll work without issue. They're not the cheapest models around, so make sure you have USB 3.0 devices and a USB port on your machine, as there's no real benefit otherwise.
Belkin doesn't list this 2-in-1 USB hub anymore, but it's still widely available. It actually bundles two USB hubs: a portable 4-port unpowered hub that's perfect for mice, wireless device receivers, USB keys and other light devices, which expands to a 7-port powered hub you get when you dock the 4-port hub into its powered base. The powered base adds three more ports, and even has a little storage drawer for paper clips or to rest your devices while charging.
The 2-in-1 is a USB 2.0 hub, so you should expect slower speeds if you connect USB 3.0 devices, but if you don't have (or care) about USB 3.0, it's a great and affordable investment. The full body, complete with powered base, is small enough to toss in a laptop bag or a suitcase and take on the road with you, and once disconnected, the 4-port mini-hub is small enough to slip into a pocket.
This pyramid-shaped USB hub is simple, affordable, and functional. It rests on its side and is small enough to fit in a corner of your desk or right under your monitor. If you don't need seven ports, a four-port model is also available. Both models separate out some of the ports to accommodate large USB devices with a big footprint, so they don't get in the way of the other ports. Both designs come with their own external power adaptor, and can be used in both powered or unpowered mode.
Plugable's 10-Port powered USB 2.0 hub earned multiple nominations for being affordable, portable and effective in small spaces. Two of the four rear ports flip up from the rear of the hub into a vertical position for easy use. Six front-facing ports keep the look slim, and while the hub is powered, Plugable doesn't recommend charging your gear with it. Still, it's a space-saving way to add a lot of USB ports to your PC without spending a large sum.
Any discount store hub
If you don't need USB 3.0 and you're not relying on your hub to provide power, then there's no need to spend a fortune. Hit any discount chain store (or eBay) and you can find USB hubs for under $5. For desktop use, investing in something more flexible makes sense, but sometimes cheap and dirty does the trick.
Honourable mention this week for the Doctor Who Tardis 4-port USB 2.0 Hub. When we talked about it around Lifehacker HQ, many of us noted that we'd rather have a novelty hub on our desks than a plain black box with nothing visually special about it.
Have something to say about one of the hubs we've discussed here? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Tell us what you use and why in the comments.