What Should I Consider When Buying a USB Hub?

Ken Black

The Universal Serial Bus has quickly become the standard used to connect peripherals to a main computer system. However, many computers may not simply have enough USB ports to connect everything the user would like to connect at once. To make up for this shortcoming, many users rely on a USB hub, which allows multiple devices to be connected through a single computer USB port. There are a number of important factors to keep in mind, however, when purchasing a USB hub. These include: speed, operating system, number of ports, and price.

A variety of USB cables.
A variety of USB cables.

One of the primary considerations with any USB hub is speed. Many people may be disappointed with the speed of a slower USB hub, usually operating on a standard called USB 1.1. USB 2.0, and the soon-to-come USB 3.0, offer much faster speeds. It is important to remember while one device may work adequately on the slower standard, if you are connecting four or more devices to a computer at once, they are all competing for the same bandwidth. Thus, going with a faster hub may be a better idea.

USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as printers, keyboards and music players -- to computers.
USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as printers, keyboards and music players -- to computers.

The other thing to consider when looking at various USB hubs is the operating system of your computer. While many hubs may be able to be used on either a Macintosh or a Windows-based system, some units may be more specialized. It is important to check the technical information on the packaging to verify if the device will work on your system. Choosing the wrong USB hub will mean a quick return trip to the store, causing unnecessary inconvenience to the user.

The first USB 3.0 devices were sold to consumers in 2010.
The first USB 3.0 devices were sold to consumers in 2010.

Another consideration is the number of ports on the USB hub. While many may consider four ports more than enough, some users, who depend on a multitude of peripherals, may find they need a few additional ones. While this could be accomplished by purchasing a second USB hub and plugging it in to another empty port on the computer, the better way may be to simply purchase a USB hub with a greater number of ports built in. This may also be the cheapest option in the long run.

The number of ports is an important consideration when buying a USB hub.
The number of ports is an important consideration when buying a USB hub.

The prices for USB hubs run a large gamut. It may be possible to find some very cheaply, but these are likely be older, slower units that use the USB 1.1 standard. Those with more options, or better features, such as higher speeds, wireless capability, and more ports, will cost more.

USB hubs are a good idea for people who have a lot of digital gadgets to plug in.
USB hubs are a good idea for people who have a lot of digital gadgets to plug in.

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Discussion Comments

Hadit

I've been looking for a long time to find out why some USB hubs cost over $100, and some only about $15.

I've checked the specs on the expensive ones next to the cheaper ones, and can't figure out what's so different.

For instance, a Digi Hubport 7port hub costs $128 to $138. It has USB : 4 x 4 pin USB Type A,

USB : 1 x 4 pin USB Type B interfaces, and

4 USB 4 pin USB Type A,

1 USB 4 pin USB Type B free ports.

# UL, CE compliant,

USB Data link protocol,

12 Mbps transfer rate.

Another, the StarTech 7 Port Compact costs $13.38 to $30. It has Hi-Speed USB : 7 x 4 pin USB Type A,

Hi-Speed USB : 1 x 4 pin USB Type B interfaces, and 7 Hi-Speed USB 4 pin USB Type A,

1 Hi-Speed USB 4 pin USB Type B free ports.

# FCC, RoHS, CE compliant

Hi-Speed USB Data link protocol

480 Mbps transfer rate

Both are externally powered. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems as though the cheaper one is actually better. What's going on? Thanks.

lokilove

A USB hub is not the same as a docking station right? I have a whopping 2 USB ports on my desktop and need at least 2 more. I'm thinking a 4 port 2.0 should be fine, but a friend of mine said that I should just get a docking station because I'll need one in the long run.

There's a pretty big price difference and I don't want to waste the money if I don't need it.

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