Add Ports to Your Laptop

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In the old days, laptops used to have lots of connectors and ports dotted around their sides. But in the past year or two makers have slimmed down their devices even more and left no room for such things as an HDMI output or Ethernet socket.

Indeed, more and more laptops (including Apple MacBooks and Dell’s XPS line) and tablets (such as Apple’s latest iPad Pro) use the latest USB-C connection standard because it’s small and versatile: the port can be used for a variety of things including connecting peripherals and even charging.

But if you still need to connect non-USB-C devices to your USB-C laptop or tablet you’ll need a USB-C hub or adapter. This will let you attach external hard drives, memory sticks, DVD drives, phone chargers, wired Gigabit Ethernet connections, and external displays or a projector for meetings.

The great news is there is a wide choice of quality USB-C adapters and hubs now available at reasonable prices. Here are our favourites.

D-Link 8-in-1 USB-C Hub – Best USB-C hub for multiple ports

D-Link 8-in-1 USB-C Hub (M810)

Plugable USB-C 7-in-1 Multifuction hub – Best 7-port USB-C hub

Plugable USB-C 7-in-1 Multifunction Hub

Kingston Nucleum 7-port USB-C adapter – 7-port USB-C hub with two USB-C

Kingston Nucleum 7-port USB-C Adapter

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Hub for iPad Pro and Air – Best USB-C hub for iPad

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Hub for iPad Pro/Air

Startech USB-C Multiport 4-in-1 Video Adapter – Best USB-C adapter for display port choice

Startech USB-C Multiport 4-in-1 Video Adapter

Moshi USB-C to HDMI Adapter – Best for 4K HDMI

Moshi USB-C to HDMI Adapter

UGreen USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub – Best USB-C hub for old-school USB ports

UGreen USB-C Hub with 4 USB-A ports

TrendNet TUC-ET5G – Best for super-fast Ethernet

TRENDnet USB-C to 5Gbps Ethernet Adapter (TUC-ET5G)

Moshi Symbus Q – Best USB-C dock with Q1 wireless charging

Moshi Symbus Q USB-C Dock

VAVA USB C Hub 8-in-1 Adapter with 4K HDMI – Simple 8-port USB-C hub

VAVA USB C Hub 8-in-1 Adapter with 4K HDMI

Satechi Aluminum Type-C Slim Multi-Port Adapter 4K – Lightweight USB-C hub

Satechi USB-C Multi-Port Hub Adapter

Moshi USB-C Multimedia Hub – Simple 3-port USB-C hub

Moshi USB-C Multimedia Adapter

Anker 5-in-1 Premium USB C Data Hub – 5-port USB-C hub

Anker 5-in-1 Premium USB C Data Hub

OWC USB-C Travel Dock – Mini USB-C dock

OWC USB-C Travel Dock

StarTech 7-Port Charging Station – Powered USB-C hub

StarTech 7-Port Charging Station

Satechi Aluminum Type-C 3-in-1 Combo Hub – USB-C hub for 12in MacBook

Satechi Aluminum Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 Combo Hub

HP Spectre USB-C Travel Dock – Hub built for HP laptops

HP Spectre USB-C Travel Dock

What is a USB-C hub?

While these products are often described and named as adapters or dongles (as so many devices hang off them) they are really hubs that take one port on the laptop or tablet and add multiple and varied other connection ports.

If you want something more substantial to anchor your laptop to at home or in the office, with a lot more ports and a proper power supply, you should consider a full USB-C docking station that has even more ports and full power delivery (USB PD) that charges your laptop at the same time. And if your laptop features Thunderbolt 3 (a sort of super-charged USB-C) read Macworld’s best Thunderbolt 3 docks, which is good for both Macs and PCs.

First, consider what you need from the hub or adapter. Most are multi-port, so have more than one type of connection functionality included.

USB-A: This is the classic non-reversible USB. Do you just need to attach some accessories – memory stick, hard drive, webcam – that use older standard USB connections? If so, there are many simple adapters at a low cost.

USB-C: This is the latest reversible USB. There aren’t as many accessories as you’ll find with USB-A, but an extra Type C port can be used for data and, if labelled as such, for pass-through power delivery from a USB-C wall charger. 

Make sure you check the USB speed rating when choosing your hub, as they range from 480Mbps to 40Gbps.

HDMI: Need an HDMI port for your laptop? There are plenty of USB-C hubs that include HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), including 4K. Most of the HDMI-packing hubs listed here support 4K displays at 30Hz rather than the fully powered 60Hz 4K that offers higher graphics for sharper video and gaming.

DisplayPort: These, er, display ports are more often found on full docking stations (see link above) but you can buy USB-C DisplayPort adapters.

VGA: This is quite an old video port rarely found on modern displays, but if you are moving between offices a lot (or have an old monitor), then the option might be useful to you.

Power: Some laptops and most tablets have just the one USB-C port, so add an adapter and you have nothing left to charge your computer at the same time. In which case, you should look for a hub with an extra USB-C Power Delivery (PD) port so you can continue to power your laptop while using the adapter.

This is known as passthrough charging. 85W and over will power most laptops at full speed. The best docks will offer enough power for the connected devices as well as the laptop, but a well-powered hub might be enough if you don’t use all the ports at the same time. Remember that for most you will need a separate wall charger to supply this pass-through power – your laptop charger should suffice. Check out our Best USB-C Chargers roundup for a selection of recommended PD chargers.

Tablets mostly require less power. For example, the 12in iPad Pro will charge at full speed at around 40W.

Ethernet: Even with Wi-Fi so prevalent you still can’t beat the speed of a wired Ethernet connection, still found in hotels and of course from your router. If so, you want a hub with an RJ45 Ethernet port – and make sure it’s a Gigabit Ethernet connection for faster data transfer. Much more expensive adapters use the latest 2.5GBASE-T or 5GBASE-T ports that provide multi-gigabit speeds capable of up to 5Gbps over existing Cat5e or better cabling. But 1Gbps Ethernet will be speedy enough for most.

Memory cards: Fewer laptops these days include memory-card slots – certainly none from Apple. If these are important to you, look for SD-, MicroSD- and TF-card slots on the hub or adapter. You can quickly and very cheaply add portable storage to your laptop setup.

Second, think about portability. If it’s your laptop that uses USB-C then you are likely to want the hub to travel with you and not be a giant brick. So, look for portability in size and weight. There are enough small and lightweight adapters that you can slip in your laptop bag or even pocket and not notice.

And third, of course, is the price. There are certainly some very cheap USB-C adapters out there, but we’ve tried to pick the quality end of the market (but still at reasonable prices) so you don’t risk the safety of your device or even home with a dangerously cheap adapter.

Cables: Read our roundup of the best USB-C cables if this is all you’re looking for.

Docking stations: Larger, abler (and usually less portable) docks can include many more ports and connect dual displays at 4K in Extended Mode; see our Best USB-C docking stations roundup for more choices.

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