Despite all of its promise for a better future, the reality of living with USB Type-C is kind of a nightmare. Sure, one day maybe we’ll get to the place where every cable, every gadget, and every screen uses the next generation connector specification but we’re nowhere near that today.
Which means if you’ve got a USB-C laptop like Apple’s MacBook Pros or Dell’s latest XPS 13, and you want to get your old ports back — things like regular USB, HDMI, Ethernet, headphone jacks, DisplayPort, MicroSD, and SD card slots — you’re going to need a USB-C hub.
To be clear, we’re only looking at a very specific subset of USB-C hubs here — for the sake of this comparison, they’ve got to provide the option to continue to charge your laptop through a pass-through power port, and they can’t need their own separate power supply. That means that all those super powerful $300 Thunderbolt 3 hubs are out.
The best USB-C hub is one that gives you access to all the ports you need, and is small and light enough to easily keep in your bag at all times. It shouldn’t be too expensive, and it should work reliably without getting too hot.
We’ll continue to update this article as new hubs come out — USB-C is still a relatively new market, and companies are still constantly tinkering with form factors, port selection, and design to hit the perfect balance — so be sure to check back if you’re not buying a new laptop today. Or, more optimistically, that one day you won’t need this guide at all, because everyone will have finally switched over to using USB-C (although that still seems a long way from now.)
For now, you’ll still need a USB-C hub, and the best one out there is the Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2, which manages to check almost every single box on the list.
First and most importantly, Satechi’s hub just flat out offers the best port selection: three USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, and both MicroSD and SD card slots, along with a USB-C port for passing through power. (There’s also a slightly pricier version that throws in a Mini DisplayPort should you need one, but it rearranges the other ports to be a little more inconvenient to get to.)
The Satechi hub itself is a single compact aluminum wedge that’s doesn’t take up too much space in your bag or on your desk. And despite the metal construction, it didn’t get any hotter than my normal laptop charger did during testing.
The port layout is also one of the better thought out designs, with a single built-in USB-C cable that plugs into a computer on one end, and a USB-C input for power and Ethernet jack on the other. One side features the SD card slots, while the other has the three USB-C jacks and the HDMI port. Everything is spaced far enough apart to still easily plug things in, which is an issue with other plugs.
The Satechi isn’t perfect — it’s only specced at 49W for pass-through charging, so it may not charge your laptop quite as fast as just using the charger on its own, and it only supports 4K HDMI output at 30Hz, not at 60Hz. Plus, the higher-than-average price might be a bit of a tough selling point, especially if you’ve just spent over $1,000 on a new laptop.
But for a well-designed portable hub with the port selection that it offers, nothing else came close at the price point.
If you’re looking to save a little money, the next best hub is the HooToo USB-C hub. There are definitely some sacrifices that you’re going to make here, particularly Ethernet — but you’ll still get the three USB 3.0 jacks, a full-sized SD card slot, and HDMI for video out. It also actually charged faster than our main pick, offering 55W of power pass-through.
That said, unlike our main pick, there’s no Ethernet or MicroSD card slot, which might be a deal-breaker for some. But at almost half the price of the Satechi hub, it’s a great budget option, assuming you can get along without Ethernet.
You’re also getting what you pay for with the HooToo hub, which feels cheap compared to the Satechi hub, despite also being made out of aluminum. And there’s no getting around the tacky, glowing HooToo logo on the top of the hub that lights up every time you plug it in, but that’s nothing that some electrical tape can’t fix, if it really bothers you.
There are plenty of other USB-C hubs available, with different port configurations, form factors, and price points. They’ll all probably get the job done in a pinch, but for one reason or another, they didn’t beat our top picks.
Given that they’re accessory hubs, at the end of the day, almost anything should work. There are still a few things that you’ll want to look out for, including support for the USB-C PD (Power Delivery) standard, which will make sure that your devices charge right. But ultimately, go with whatever ports and style best suits your setup.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.