Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of Satechi’s USB hubs in my effort to combat my growing need to wire in more stuff to my Mac’s 4 USB ports. While wireless is often more convenient and downright necessary on laptops to have a good experience, I still enjoy the speed and reliability of a wired connection on my desktop setup. To have a completely ergonomic experience and avoid plugging and unplugging things, a USB hub of some sort is definitely needed. The challenge to buying the right hub for your needs is deciphering how each hub differs; it’s not just limited to the number of ports available…
Like most people, I don’t keep anything wired in to my MacBook Air. Even my backups are wireless with Time Machine over WiFi. My desktop, however, is a Mac mini with an external display. Right off the bat, the webcam and external microphone require USB ports (you can see where an iMac is advantageous here). Luckily my display includes two USB ports and wires out to one on the Mac mini, so now we’re down to one for mic and cam, but now we’re down to three on the Mac mini.
I also keep a Super Drive connected for convenience so I don’t have to dig it out of a drawer once a year when I need it (and also because it was $79 and I’m stubborn so it helps me justify the expense). Two ports left.
My printer is wireless, but it’s not AirPrint compatible (I use Printopia to get around this) and the scanner functionality requires a connection to work. One port left.
I also frequently connect my iPhone and iPad to my Mac over the Lightning cable (my iPad less frequently). I don’t do this to sync with iTunes or add content to my iOS device; rather, I connect to my iPhone and iPad to purge the photos and videos the Camera Roll on either device.
I also have a 2 TB USB 3 external hard drive (specifically, this big ol’ $80 box) for Time Machine backups wired to my desktop in case my Mac’s hard drive goes back or I lose a file unintentionally.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
It doesn’t need a power adapter and the wire to connect to your computer is built-in so you don’t have to remember two pieces of hardware when you travel. The hardware matches the aluminum finish found on Apple computers, too, so it’s not an ugly accessory that you want to hide.
It’s really great for throwing in a backpack and having while you travel with a laptop, and it looks the best out of all the USB hubs. Where it falls short is when a device requires more power to function; for that, you need a less attractive setup, but the 7 port USB hub does a good job to make it presentable…
Just see for yourself. The Satechi 7 Port USB 3.0 Premium Aluminum Hub (Amazon Prime $54.99, also in black) also matches Apple’s hardware with its aluminum design and its trim comes in both black or white.
The extra expense here affords you a powered connection that is required by devices to function. For me this includes my external hard drive for Time Machine backups (which works great even while connected to the hub) and the Super Drive (if I wanted it connected to the hub). It also supports Apple’s USB-to-Ethernet converter and lots of other accessories that need power to function.
I think the 7 port hub is probably the best version for most people looking for a capable and attractive USB for a permanent desk arrangement.
It does have a few drawbacks for me though.
Conceptually, it’s appealing to have a hub that looks attractive like the 4 and 7 port hubs do, but when you have a lot of wires connected, it mostly looks like a bunch of different wires going in various directions so the USB hub is typically something I want to place out of site.
The 7 port hub also tends to get a bit front heavy as the balance gets less than even with several wires pulling it forward. This isn’t frequent but happens enough to notice; sticking a minimal amount of adhesive beneath it resolves the issue.
Lastly, USB cable from the hub to your computer connects on one side while the power adapter connects on the other; it would be a lot more elegant to have both on one side so you could have half of it out of sight.
Nevertheless, the 7 port hub is good looking and probably the right choice for most desktop setups… unless you want to charge an iPad.
That’s where the big guy comes in. The Satechi 10-Port USB 3.0 Hub (9 Port USB 3.0 + 1 iPad Charging Port) (Amazon $59.99+free shipping) is the least attractive and most industrial looking of the three, but for me it’s also the most functional and I keep it out of site to hide the wires anyway.
It features nine USB 3.0 ports on top with three sets each with its own switch to power it off and on and a blue light behind it to signal that it’s powered on.
It also features a dedicated USB 3.0 port on its side with its own switch for charging the iPad. While the previous two USB hubs allow you to sync and import photos and videos from the iPad, you need this hub to have iPad charging functionality.
While it’s design doesn’t match Apple’s aluminum look (I bet it does look good next to a 2013 Mac Pro, but I wouldn’t know!), it is pretty sleek and minimal aside from the blue lights. I keep mine hidden behind my display and speakers and the top-facing USB ports are easily accessible.
Having 10 ports is somewhat excessive even for my desk, but it has especially came in handy when friends and family visit and need somewhere to plug and charge the smartphone.
Both this model and the 7 port model require external USB cables to connect to your computer and the power adapter to have full functionality so they’re not exactly portable solutions; for me, at least, the need for something as particular and powerful as the 7 and 10 port USB hubs stays at my desk and doesn’t travel with me.
If you’re frustrated with limited USB ports or just in the market for a new USB hub, Satechi’s offerings are top-notch in quality. While I prefer to simpler designed and more robust 10 port hub, the 4 port is very attractive and portable and the 7 port equally handsome and probably preferred by most people. You can find links and prices for each USB hub above or see all of Satechi’s plethora of computer accessories here.