USB hubs are an efficient technique to maximize the utilization of a single USB port. They’re primarily utilized on laptops with limited space for USB ports, although nothing prevents you from receiving greater value from a front USB port on a PC.
When shopping for a USB hub, there are a few “secret” specifications to keep an eye out for. We use the term “hidden” because they are not genuinely hidden from you — they are right in front of you. They’re simply too simple to overlook when purchasing a hub, which might result in some regrettable purchases.
1. The Ports
This may seem arrogant, but it’s important to look beyond what you require for ports. As an example, suppose you despise your laptop’s touchpad and keyboard. As such, you’re likely to want a two-port hub — one for a mouse and another for a keyboard.
However, pause for a moment before making a purchase. Do you transmit data with a USB stick? If so, is there another USB port available on your laptop that you could use? If not, consider purchasing additional ports. In this manner, you may use your memory stick without unplugging a keyboard or mouse.
Such foresight will avert future annoyances. It’s worth looking into USB hubs with a few more ports than you require; if the price difference is minor, you can grab that one and avoid future headaches.
2. The Hub’s Power Output
When purchasing a hub, you have the option of purchasing one that is powered by the original port or one that is powered by an external power source. The latter may appear more appealing; after all, they are frequently less expensive than an electric plug socket.
However, before purchasing a hub without an external socket, examine what you’re connecting in. Each of your gadgets depletes the USB port’s power in a unique way. When a port is converted to a hub, the complete power limit of the computer port is distributed among the ports on the hub.
This means that if you overload a hub without an external power supply, some of the devices on the hub will fail to function. The amount of power that the hub can handle is specified in its product description; it will appear as a number followed by “mA.” A self-powered hub will typically draw around 500mA.
Once you’ve established the power limit, calculate the power consumption of your peripherals. Occasionally, this information is printed on a sticker attached to the underside of the peripheral. For example, my mouse draws 100mA and my keyboard draws 400mA, for a combined working current of 500mA. This neatly meets the 500mA criteria for a self-powered hub, but adding a memory stick would bring the entire contraption to a halt!
3. The Power Source for the Hub
While we’re on the subject of powering the hub, take a moment to consider its intended usage. As an example, suppose you want the hub to power or charge your devices while the PC is turned off. If you get a hub that is powered externally, you may charge your gadgets regardless of whether your computer is turned on or not. You may have a computer that can charge devices even while it is switched off; in that case, you can probably do without the extra plug.
4. The USB Version of the Hub Port
Take a peek at the ports’ version on the hub itself. While some hubs use USB 2.0 to save money, this results in decreased data transfer speeds for USB 3.0 devices. Naturally, if all of your gadgets have USB 2.0, this is ok! However, if you do have any 3.0 devices, it’s worth investing a bit more for a hub that can keep up.