The Swiss Army Knife of USB-C Hubs
Did you buy one of those ultra-thin laptops and fall in love with the light weight, sleek size and powerful processor? Yet, sit there not be able to use all its power because you don’t have the ports to connect what you want? The 9 in 1 USB-C hub will solve your problems. You can do almost anything with it, just like your desktop.
The USB-C hub allows you to connect a monitor, speakers, headphones, SD card and 10BseT network cable at home (very useful). The hardwired Ethernet cable connection is clutch, but the other thing which is valuable to me is connecting a spare VGA monitor for a second screen.
The 9 in 1 hub is compact, lightweight (like my laptop) and well built. The hub consists of wedged shaped aluminum tube with the taller side featuring the video ports. A circuit board is suspended inside by plastic inserts that also serve to align and cover the gaps in each port. The two end caps are press fitted into the tube without any additional adhesive. I doubt the device will fall apart if dropped, but if it does, easy enough to snap back together.
Understanding the quality of a product requires one to take it apart and see how it’s manufacturer. The hub disassembles easily by popping off the plastic cap over the Ethernet port. The board inside then slides out without effort. The cap on the cable end can be removed to complete disassembly but is not required to full access the board. The USB-C cable is wired to the board through some form of displacement connector and secured with adhesive. The shielding on the cable is also ungrounded thus add minimal functional. Fortunately the cable is short enough it should have minimal effect on signal reliability.
All major components, other than the DAC, are older but from recognized manufacturers. The hub is wired with 2 of the 4 USB-C high speed lanes assigned to USB and the remaining lanes assigned to Display Port. This means USB operates without compromise while DP is limited to 2 lanes. This means higher bandwidth operation such as 4K 60Hz is not possible. The on-board 3A DC converter should supply ample power to all components. There should be no issues operating all ports simultaneously assuming low power USB devices are used.
- The USB hub supports 2.4A fast charging; thus charging a single device quickly maybe possible. However, the hub itself is limited to 3A so charging multiple devices at high speeds will not work.
- The HDMI output is limited to HDMI 1.4. But all non-3D HDMI display modes within the spec should be supported.
- VGA output works in both widescreen (16:9) 1080p and 4:3 UXGA
- Card reader functions simultaneously with both Micro SD and full size
- 2-Ch DAC functions requires output from HDMI. It converts HDMI audio to analog 2-ch output.
- Ethernet uses both link detection and EEE to conserve power both when idle and while operating. Shorter Ethernet cables/connection should result in less heat generated. Ethernet also supports various wake functions.
When compared to the OEM Microsoft branded Surface dock that sits around $200.00, there really isn’t a choice for most users. This dock is certainly worth it’s money at $30 (time of this post).
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