In the best of times, working from home can be a welcome relief from the daily grind. In the year 2020, it’s become less of a luxury and more of a depressing reality. It can be tough to focus at home, particularly if you have kids and the schools are closed. And if you live with a significant other, you’re either closer than ever or finalizing your list of divorce layers. It’s gotten to the point where most people can’t wait to get back to work.
Added to all of that is the fact that our homes aren’t always ideally set up for work. If you’re lucky enough to live in a large home, you can set up a home office. You can work from a proper desk, with a separate printer table and all your supplies where they’re needed. But for many of us, “home office” means “wherever the baby’s playpen is”. And “desk” means “kitchen table”. The last thing you need to deal with is working in an uncomfortable position. A good laptop stand will keep your back straight and your wrists nimble.
We’re about to review the UGREEN X-Kit, the world’s first integrated ergonomic hub-stand. UGREEN is an established manufacturer, making everything from video adapters to wireless earbuds. They launched the X-Kit through an Indiegogo campaign, which is still ongoing. They’ve long since met their goal and started production, but some of the backer deals are still available. Needless to say, we were excited to be among the first to get our hands on this innovative product. We’ve given it a thorough examination, and now we’re going to tell you everything we learned. Let’s get started!
What is a Hub-Stand?
Since this is a unique product, let’s take a second to talk about how it works. To put it simply, this is a combination of a laptop stand and a USB hub. But what exactly does it do, and why is it unique?
Let’s start with the stand itself. A laptop stand is hardly a new concept. However, there are certain features you should look for. You want an open back, or some kind of venting at bare minimum to allow for good airflow. Not only that, but you should be able to easily manage any cords or cables. The stand shouldn’t block them off with oversized brackets or anything of that nature.
Laptop stands are a good choice in any situation where you’re not at a normal desk. For instance, many people work from a standing desk in their office — or on a kitchen counter at home. This can be beneficial, since you’re standing up straight instead of sitting all day. However, you can end up typing at an awkward angle. Elevating or tilting the laptop makes it easier to work. The same is true if you’re working on an external monitor. A few inches of boost can keep your keyboard and your screen at a similar height.
As for a USB hub, it’s simply a tool for plugging multiple USB devices into a single port. So if your laptop only has one USB port, you can use it for a keyboard and a monitor at the same time. This is not the same as a docking station. Docking stations are designed to provide power as well as connectivity. Hubs rely on your computer for power, but can be used without the need for a power outlet. So a docking station is more versatile, but a hub is more portable.
The X-Kit is a lightweight stand that weighs only 9.98 ounces. It’s constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, so it’s durable and corrosion-resistant. The surface is sandblasted, and has a smooth feel with a satin finish that doesn’t collect fingerprints. It’s designed to be collapsible, and folds up both horizontally and vertically. When fully collapsed, it looks and feels like a reading light, at only 2.2 inches wide and 10 inches long. This makes it easy to carry around in your laptop bag. Whether you’re working from home or traveling for business, the X-Kit is easy to take from place to place.
When fully opened, the stand locks into place to prevent it from dropping anything. It supports your laptop on a pair of angled arms, with hooks at the bottom for added support. The arms are padded with silicone bands, which serve two distinct purposes. First, they keep your laptop from sliding around if it gets bumped. Second, they keep the aluminum arms from scratching the bottom of your computer.
The X-Kit can also be adjusted between four different angles. The shallowest is 15 degrees, which is nearly flat. That’s useful for situations where you’re standing and typing, or typing on a low surface like a table. At 25 degrees, the keyboard is noticeably steeper. This is ideal for an ergonomic typing angle on an ordinary desk. At 30 and 33 degrees, you’ll have more comfortable angles for reading, or for working with an external monitor.
The X-Kit will fit all laptops between 11 and 17 inches. This fits almost any laptop on the market, including all MacBook variants. That said, it might be a bit small if you’re trying to support a big media machine. That kind of laptop is going to require a bigger, beefier stand to support its bulk. If that’s what you need, check out our list of the best laptop riser stands. They’re all great choices, but none of them has the X-Kit’s unique built-in USB hub.
The lower left side of the X-Kit’s base functions as a built-in hub. This positioning makes it easy to connect to your laptop, since most laptop ports are on the left. Even if your ports are on the right or the back, there’s nothing obstructing you from running a cable. The input port for the hub is USB Type-C, which is standard with most modern laptops. If you’ve got an older-style laptop, you’ll need a Type-A to Type-C cable. Other than that, you’re going to have everything you need.
Towards the front of the stand, there’s an HDMI port, which is capable of supporting 4K video. This can be used to connect newer, 4K displays. Obviously, 4K support depends on a 4K-capable laptop. If your laptop doesn’t have 4K support and a USB Type-C drive, you’ll be limited to 1080p.
Behind the HDMI port, you’ll find a pair of USB Type-A 3.0 ports. Both of these ports can be used simultaneously, so you can connect both a keyboard and a mouse. They’re also capable of 5 Gbps, which means you can use external hard drives and transfer large files.
Finally, the X-Kit has an SD card slot capable of reading both SD and Micro SD cards. It has a transfer rate of 104Mbps, which is significantly slower than USB. However, this is par for the course with any SD card reader. The X-Kit’s is right in line with industry standards.
One thing the X-Kit is very good at is power management. It draws less than one watt, even when all ports are in use. The result is that it hardly has any perceptible impact on your battery life. Even with a keyboard and mouse connected, you can still use a MacBook Pro for over 11 hours.
Safety and Other Features
The X-Kit is one of the safer stands on the market. With its lightweight design, it only touches the bare minimum of your laptop’s surface. In other words, even under a full load, you don’t have to worry about your system overheating. There will be plenty of airflow on all sides of your machine. As for sturdiness, once it’s locked into place, it will support any laptop on the market. You’ll run out of space far before you run out of weight capacity.
The hub is similarly safe for your laptop as well as your peripherals. It has built-in short-circuit and overcurrent protection. This will shut down a connection if there’s a faulty wire or a power surge. Assuming your laptop is in good working order, the latter shouldn’t be a concern. But if anything does go haywire with your laptop battery, the X-Kit will prevent it from damaging your peripherals.
The ports themselves are even well-engineered. The flimsiest component is the SD slot, which is rated for 2,000 cycles. The USB 3.0 and HDMI ports are rated for 5,000 cycles each, and the USB Type-C port for 10,000. By the time you’ve plugged and unplugged that many times, current USB standards will already be obsolete.
As you can see, the UGREEN X-Kit has a lot to bring to the table. Before we even talk about its USB features, let’s acknowledge the design. It’s exceedingly portable, so you can carry it wherever your laptop goes. Despite its small size and light weight, it still holds most laptops, although it’s too small for multimedia machines. It allows plenty of airflow for safety, and the silicone arm pads are nice and soft.
In terms of connectivity, you get a truly unique stand. It’s not an actual docking station, so it doesn’t provide power. But that would go against the X-Kit’s ethos. Remember, it’s supposed to be portable! Moreover, there are enough ports to connect all your devices. You get 5Gbps data transfer for USB devices, and 4K video for external monitors. You even get a built-in SD card reader. All in all, there aren’t many things you can’t plug into the X-Kit. And with its rugged engineering, it will last at least as long as the USB 3.0 protocol.