The recent shift to USB-C connectivity in mobile devices and laptops means that manufacturers can create thinner and lighter devices. But while USB-C adoption is increasing rapidly, it’s far from ubiquitous at this point. Indeed, it’s likely that everyone with a device that has only USB-C ports also has non USB-C devices: USB-A mice and keyboards, external hard drives, HDMI monitors, Ethernet-based network connections, etc.
This makes it almost a necessity for USB-C-based laptop owners to also pick up a USB-C hub or dock. These devices connect to your laptop via a single USB-C cable and then offer multiple other ports and connectivity options. There’s no shortage of USB-C hubs and docks available, but we were asked to evaluate one such hub from Inateck, an electronics accessory company we’ve rated well in the past.
Inateck HB5002 Multi-Port USB-C Hub
The Inateck USB-C hub has the benefit of offering a good selection of ports combined with a compact size and relatively low price point ($46.99 as of the date of this review’s publication). It connects to your laptop (we tested it with a 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro) via a built-in 6-inch USB-C cable and is “plug and play” with both macOS and Windows, meaning that it doesn’t require any special drivers or software to work.
Once connected to your device, the hub offers multiple ports for data, video, and connectivity:
2 x USB-A USB 3.0
1 x HDMI 1.4 (up to 4K30 output)
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x SD Card
1 x microSD Card
1 x USB-C input (power and data)
The device will work as a standard hub just by plugging it into your USB-C laptop, but there’s also the option to use the hub’s USB-C port for power delivery. When connected to a compatible power adapter such as the Inateck 60W USB-C charger ($36.99), the hub can supply up to 60 watts of charging power to your laptop. That’s not enough to charge power-hungry laptops like the 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed, but it’s more than adequate for devices like the 12-inch MacBook, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Dell XPS 13.
The ability to access the hub’s ports and supply power simultaneously is especially import for those with laptops that only have a single USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port, such as the aforementioned 12-inch MacBook Pro. If you don’t need the power delivery features, you can use the hub’s USB-C port to connect another USB-C device, such as an external hard drive.
In terms of performance, we tested all of the hub’s ports and found that everything worked acceptably. Network speeds on our wired gigabit network reached their peak real-world limit, and transferring pictures and videos via the SD Card reader was just as snappy as using our dedicated USB-based card reader.
Data transfers via the USB-A ports were slightly slower than native, however. For example, our Samsung T5 SSD offers the ability to connect via both USB-C and USB-A. When natively connected to the MacBook Pro via USB-C, we saw peak performance of about 500MB/s. When connected via USB-A to the Inateck hub, peak performance was only about 400MB/s, pointing to a limit in the USB chipset included in the hub. Losing 100MB/s is not insignificant, but in the case where you have an external drive that doesn’t have a USB-C option, the ability to use it via the Inateck hub, even at a slower peak speed, is certainly better than not being able to use it all.
Finally, note that while you can achieve video output via the HDMI port at up to 4K resolution, you’re limited to just a 30Hz refresh rate. This is fine for productivity-based tasks like word processing, web browsing, and spreadsheets, but not ideal for gaming or high refresh rate video applications.
Overall, the Inateck USB-C hub isn’t the cheapest available, but it offers a good port selection and build quality for the price. Pair it with a high wattage charger and you’ll have everything you need to ensure maximum connectivity for your USB-C laptop.
You can pick up the Inateck HB5002 Multi-Port USB-C Hub now from Amazon for $46.99 while the 60W USB-C charger is available separately for $36.99. Both are available via Amazon or the company’s website.
Review Disclosure: Both the USB-C Hub and USB-C charger were loaned to TekRevue by Inateck for the purpose of this review. Neither Inateck nor anyone outside of TekRevue were consulted prior to this review’s publication, and neither TekRevue nor its employees were compensated in any way for the publication of this review.
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