As new tech shrinks each year, essential ports like USB-A, HDMI, and ethernet are being replaced by the slimmer USB-C. A hub (often referred to as a dongle) is a small, port-laden gadget that plugs into a single USB-C slot on devices such as laptops, transmitting advanced data and power signals to stand in for those disappearing inputs and restore functionality.
Befitting a tool that connects many others, these hubs are versatile, sometimes in ways that aren’t always apparent. Through them, many electronics you already own can connect to peripherals and displays. With some experimenting, you can turn a streaming stick, gaming console, or phone into fully functioning computers.
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Switch Between a Laptop and a Desktop
You probably know how to use a USB-C hub to add external devices like a hard drive and mouse to your laptop. You can take your USB-C hub a step further to create a full workstation, complete with a dual-monitor setup. With double the screen space, you can juggle multiple open app windows. Typists who prefer the feel of mechanical keys can connect their favorite keyboard to the hub, while those who crave precise pointer control can plug in a mouse. We recommend that your USB-C hub have an HDMI port with at least 60 watts of passthrough charging power to provide enough juice to your laptop and each connected accessory. If you have a lot of devices or a power-hungry laptop like a MacBook Pro, look for a hub with a minimum of 100 watts for stable performance. Say you’re just connecting to a mouse and a keyboard, plus the occasional webcam or microphone; five ports should do.
Plug your laptop’s USB-C charger into a wall outlet and connect the USB-C end into the hub’s passthrough power delivery port (indicated by an image of a plug or the letters PD).
Neatly load up your USB-C hub with a mouse and keyboard of your choice in any lower-bandwidth USB 2.0 slots. (USB 3.0 is preferable for power-hungry devices like webcams, microphones, and hard drives, as it provides better performance.)
Attach an HDMI wire from an external display to the HDMI port on your USB-C hub.
Hook up the USB-C hub to your laptop to start charging and connect it to every device you have plugged in. When done correctly, you should see your laptop’s background image spring to life on your second monitor and be able to take the reins via the mouse and keyboard you hooked up. And since everything plugs into your hub and attaches to your laptop through that, all you have to do when you need to move around the office or head home for the day is unplug the single wire connecting the dongle to your laptop. This gives you the wireless freedom and portability of a laptop but makes it easy to hook up to the slew of devices on your desk without the need to reattach each individual one.
Turn Your Streaming Device Into a Living-Room PC
A Chromecast with Google TV, with the help of a USB-C hub, can function as a full-fledged living-room computer with your TV as the monitor. Surf the web, share USB or SD stored media with a group, or video chat with friends and family.
Load up your hub with a wireless keyboard receiver, webcam, and SD or USB card storage. Plug the USB-C hub into the Chromecast.
Navigate to the Play Store using your Chromecast to download a browser such as Puffin, which you can use to surf the web on your TV screen.
View your media using an app like VLC Media Player. After opening the app, navigate to your connected device, and select the media file you want to open up.
Download Google Duo, and connect a webcam to create a video-capture source. Give your contacts a call to video chat over Google Duo.
Optional. Connect an ethernet cable to your USB-C hub for a hardwired connection to eliminate stream buffering.
Turn Your Tablet Into a Mobile Content-Creation Station
Despite manufacturers’ best efforts, tablets remain the overlooked middle child between phones and computers. There’s a common misconception that they aren’t serious production machines, but linking them up with a USB-C hub can make them legitimate alternatives to laptops. Attach a powered USB microphone through a USB-C hub to facilitate quality podcasting or live-streaming. Or connect a keyboard to write out scripts or a mouse to work on designing visual social media posts in content-editing suites.
Plug in your tablet’s wall adapter and connect the USB-C charger into the hub’s passthrough port.
Load up your USB-C hub with production equipment like a USB mic, keyboard, or control deck.
Open up a recording app to monitor your audio input source, and ensure it matches the name of your attached accessory.
Connect a mouse and keyboard for design or text work.
Launch into a media-editing suite to start recording. If you’re into live broadcasts, crack open your platform of choice and start rolling.
If you’d like to share your work with a group or simply view it on a full-size screen, attach an HDMI cable to your USB-C hub. The screen will pop up on your external display.
Mind the Heat: Accessories attached to a USB-C hub draw power and heat. And a hub’s transfer speed and device performance may suffer if it’s fully loaded up and gets too hot. To keep yours in peak condition, remember to give it enough room to breathe, so to speak, and unplug it from both your device and a wall adapter when you’re not using it. The cooldown period and no power running through it will give the internals a break.
Turn Your Phone Into a Gaming Console
You can take your favorite mobile game to a bigger screen by connecting your phone’s USB-C port to a hub equipped with an HDMI output. Plugging the other end of the HDMI wire into a TV or computer monitor brings your app in a widescreen for more details and action. Unlike when using wireless protocols to cast your display, there’s virtually no lag, resulting in smooth competitive play. If your USB-C hub has an ethernet jack, you’ll even be able to hardwire a rock-solid connection and avoid the network interruptions that can happen over Wi-Fi. Add a wireless controller to this setup and you’ll get a console-like performance and experience from your mobile gaming device.
Connect your phone’s charger to a wall outlet and the USB-C end into the PD port.
Plug your TV or monitor’s HDMI cord into the hub and set your display to the appropriate input.
Connect your phone to the other USB-C port on your hub to charge.
View your phone on the TV and confirm your desired resolution.
Pair a Bluetooth controller (such as your Xbox or PlayStation’s) to your phone.
Load your favorite mobile game and play on the bigger screen.
Turn Your Samsung Phone Into a PC
Samsung has blurred the line between phones and PCs with its Desktop eXperience (DeX) operating system. When you connect a Samsung phone to a compatible USB-C hub and external display, the OS kicks in automatically. Reminiscent of Windows, it lets you work on full-screen apps, like Microsoft Word, using a third-party keyboard. Your phone remains freed up for calls, texts, or scrolling TikTok. You can work, watch media, or transfer files over SD or USB for usable extended storage just like a computer.
Plug your Samsung device into a DeX-compatible USB-C hub like IOGear’s Dock Pro 60 (below).
Hit Continue and then Start on your phone to allow DeX access.
With DeX displayed on your external monitor’s larger screen, open up your app of choice, and get to work.
The Best USB-C Hubs From Our Test
We evaluated ten USB-C hubs with a range of prices and features over the course of a month, running each through the same simultaneous load by plugging in a gaming mouse, a gaming keyboard, and a condenser microphone. These are power-drawing items we use every day that could give us a baseline comparison and suss out any performance issues.
Using BlackMagic Disk Utility on Mac and AJA Disk Test on Windows, we measured average file transfer speeds for USB 3.0, SD, and micro SD, using a 4GB 1080p file across both major operating systems. We noted port connectivity (number and range), video output quality, and overall design. Lastly, we factored in any other defining useful features.
—BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE—
Satechi Multiport Adapter V2
Price: $79 | Ports: 4K HDMI (60Hz), Ethernet, USB-C passthrough charging, SD/Micro card reader, three USB 3.0 | Transfer speeds (MB/sec): 40 (read) and 160 (write) through USB 3.0; 35 (read) and 90 (write) through Micro SD; 75 (read) and 90 (write) through SD
Satechi’s USB-C hub is compact and to the point, packing the seven most essential ports for getting work done. Each offers a satisfying click-lock mechanism that keeps whatever you plug into it secure. Data transfer speeds for USB and card storage were easily the fastest of the models we tested. And while other hubs lock their detail-packed 4K resolutions at a middle-of-the-road rate of 30 Hz, the Satechi offers a silky smooth 60-Hz performance. It does get a bit hot under maximum power draw, yet the aluminum body dissipates that heat well. We do wish Satechi offered more than 60 watts of passthrough power delivery for more stable performance from connected devices.
Price:$79 | Ports: Ethernet/RJ-45 Port, Type C PD3.0 charging port, two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, 2 HDMI video output with 4K (60Hz single, 30Hz dual), VGA, 3.5mm auxiliary, SD & TF card reader | Transfer speeds: (MB/sec): 51 (read) and 110 (write) through USB 3.0; 33 (read) and 89 (write) through Micro SD; 81 (read) and 88 (write) through SD
The Totu 13-in-1 hub turns a single USB-C port into 13 different connectors. With support for two HDMI display outputs at a 4K resolution, tons of USB ports, card storage, and a gigabit ethernet hookup, this hub lends itself nicely to use as a docking station. A larger body, along with slightly slower transfer speeds than the Satechi model and limited 75-watt power delivery for all the devices you could possibly load this USB-C hub up with, bumps the Totu USB-C hub to an extremely close second place.
IOGear Dock Pro 60
Price: $79 | Ports: Two USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI | Transfer speeds: (MB/sec): 55 (read) and 110 (write) through USB 3.0
IOGear’s Dock Pro 60 supports Samsung’s Desktop Experience (DeX) feature and can also output a Switch’s display to a TV using just an HDMI wire—eliminating the need for Nintendo’s original bulky dock. This makes it easy to tote group games like Mario Kart and Super Mario Party to social gatherings in one compact package. We found that this USB-C hub slipped into pockets with ease, thanks to a body that’s about the same size as a pack of playing cards. Game+ Mode ensures your connected device reaches maximum resolution with support for up to a 4K Ultra HD resolution at 30 hertz. We did have to subtract points for the relative lack of ports.