Modern laptop designs have come a long way from even a few years ago. The latest models are smaller and lighter than ever. The one disadvantage to the more streamlined designs is that there’s less space for ports. Where you could have had four or more USB ports on laptops a few years ago, there’s not enough space in many current models.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to add more ports to your MacBook that support the latest USB-C connection, Thunderbolt 4. A USB hub can turn a single port into several, along with other connections like HDMI, Ethernet, and SD card slots. Today, we’re going to look at the most frequently asked questions that will help you find the ideal USB hub.
1. What Is an Active USB Hub?
An active USB hub is another term for a powered USB hub. These hubs connect to an external power source to provide the full power output from each port on the hub.
Passive hubs don’t have that external power supply. Instead, they take the power output from the computer’s USB port they’re connected to and split it between the devices connected to the hub.
Some USB devices need full power from the port they’re plugged into to work properly. Those devices may not work correctly if you try to run them from a passive USB hub.
In some cases, the device could function intermittently but not reliably while in other cases, it wouldn’t function at all.
2. What’s the Difference Between the Powered and Non-Powered USB Hub?
Some USB devices need more power than others. If you’re connecting items like USB memory sticks or a teleconferencing headset, they likely don’t need the full power output of a standard USB port. In that case, a non-powered USB hub that splits the power between several ports will likely still provide plenty of juice to support those connections.
If you’re connecting something that needs more power, like an external hard drive, webcams. it may not get enough power from a non-powered USB hub. This can result in the device not working at all or in some cases, working intermittently.
For example, the USB flash drive may work well with an active USB Hub, but may not power on whilst connected to the passive USB hub. As USB 3.0 standard optimizes the power management capabilities based on the previous USB versions, which need higher power devices that USB hubs can run.
3. Do You Need the Expensive USB-C Hub?
When comparing USB-C hub, you’ll find a range of prices. The price doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the quality though. It’s more about what type of connections the hub supports.
Higher-priced USB-C hubs generally have more USB-C ports but also add other types of connections such as the newest PD charging, 4K HDMI video, and Ethernet (RJ45).
For example, the UGREEN 10-in-1 USB-C Hub includes 4K HDMI video, PD, VGA video, Ethernet, and an SD card reader. It’s a little more than double the price of the 6-in-1 USB-C Hub, which has fewer connection options.
They’re both an excellent value, but if you don’t need the extra ports on the 10-in-1 model, you’ll be perfectly happy with the more affordable 6-in-1 option.
4. Will the USB-C Hub Work With Your Smartphone?
Some USB-C hubs will work with Android-based smartphones, the USB-C port, but they don’t necessarily support all the same connections as a computer would. They mainly let you connect a USB hard drive or memory stick through the USB-C hub.
This type of connection typically requires a phone that supports the OTG (on-the-go) function so you’ll need to check your phone manual or the manufacturer’s website to see if your particular model can connect this way.
For example, the 6-in-1 USB-C hub works with several of the most recent models of the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones.
5. Can You Use Any USB-C Hub With the Nintendo Switch?
Many Switch gamers ask this question, usually about whether they can use a USB-C hub to connect their Switch to HDMI and Ethernet connections.
This is possible but to support Switch compatibility, the USB-C hub needs to use a special chipset. Many cheap USB-C hubs don’t have the right chips to work properly with the Switch so you’ll need to choose carefully if you don’t want to run into problems (or just have it not work at all).
UGREEN’s 9-in-1 USB-C hub has the necessary chipset to give it full compatibility with the Nintendo Switch. Of course, it also works with computers that support USB-C like the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS so you can use it with all your devices.
Related article: M1 MacBook Air vs Pro 2020: Which One Should You Buy
6. Why Do Some USB-C Hubs Require Drivers to Get Installed?
USB-C hubs are typically plug-and-play devices. You connect them to your computer or other device and they work without having to load any special software or device drivers.
The exception is a USB-C hub with an RJ45 Ethernet connection that you’re connecting to a computer running an older version of Windows, such as Windows 7, or Mac OS. In either case, you’ll need to install a driver to use the network connection.
The UGREEN 7-in-1 USB-C hub is one of the models that support older versions of Windows like this. But if you connect it to a PC running Windows 10, it will likely work without any special drivers.
And keep in mind that the rest of the ports should work without any special drivers on Mac OS and older versions of Windows. If you don’t need to use the network connection, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the rest of its features.
7. Why Does the USB-C Hub Heat Up?
If you find your USB-C hub gets a little warm when you’re using the devices connected to it, it’s not something to be too concerned about. The hub will get warm when it’s transferring data or charging devices connected to it, particularly if you have several things connected at once.
Hubs made of metal, particularly aluminum, have a huge advantage in heat dissipation. An aluminum USB-C hub allows the heat from the electronic components and circuitry within the hub to dissipate quickly and efficiently. This makes metal hubs a safer choice, particularly if you plan to plug in many external devices or transfer large amounts of data.
Choosing the Right USB-C Hub
After reading through this list of USB-C hub FAQs, you should be better equipped to choose the right model for your needs. Powered vs non-powered depends on what you need to connect as well as where you’ll use it. You don’t necessarily have to spend more to get the best hub, either.
Figuring out the answers to these questions lets you pick the best hub without spending more than is necessary. You can browse the entire collection of UGREEN USB-C hubs on our website and if you have any other questions that we didn’t cover above, leave them below.