In the old days, laptops used to have lots of connectors and ports dotted around their edges. But in the last year or two makers have slimmed down their devices even more and left no room for such things as an HDMI output or Ethernet socket.
Indeed, more and more laptops (including Apple MacBooks) and tablets use the latest USB-C connection standard because it’s small and versatile: the port can be used for a variety of things including connecting peripherals and even charging.
But if you still need to connect non-USB-C devices to your laptop you’ll need a USB-C adapter. This will let you attach external hard drives, memory sticks, DVD drives, phone chargers and external displays or a projector for meetings.
The great news is there is a wide choice of quality USB-C adapters and hubs now available, and at reasonable prices.
What is a USB-C hub?
While these products are often described and named as adapters or dongles (as so many devices hang off them) they are really hubs that take one port on the laptop and add multiple and varied other connection ports.
If you want something more substantial to anchor your laptop to at home or in the office, you should consider a full USB-C docking station that has even more ports and power delivery (USB PD) that charges your laptop at the same time. And if your laptop features Thunderbolt 3 (a sort of super-charged USB-C) read Macworld’s best Thunderbolt 3 docks, which is good for both Macs and PCs.
First, consider what you need from the hub or adapter. Most are multiport, so have more than one type of connection functionality included.
USB A: Also known as USB 3.0. Do you just need to attach some accessories that use older standard USB connections? If so, there are many simple adapters at low cost.
HDMI: Need an HDMI port for your laptop? There are plenty of USB-C hubs that include HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), including 4K.
DisplayPort: These, er, display ports are more often found on full docking stations; see link above.
Power: Some laptops have just the one USB-C port, so add an adapter and you have nothing left to charge your computer at the same time. In which case, you should look for a hub with an extra USB-C Power Delivery (PD) port so you can continue to power your laptop while using the adapter. This is known as passthrough charging. 85W and over will power most laptops at full speed.
Chargers: And some hubs are really chargers with built-in adapters. Check out our Best USB-C Chargers roundup for a selection of recommended products.
Ethernet: Even with Wi-Fi so prevalent you still can’t beat the speed of a wired Ethernet connection, still found in hotels and of course from your router. If so, you want a hub with an RY45 Ethernet port – and make sure it’s a Gigabit Ethernet connection for faster data transfer.
Memory cards: Fewer laptops these days include memory-card slots – certainly none from Apple. If these are important to you, look for SD-, MicroSD- and TF-card slots on the hub or adapter. You can quickly and very cheaply add portable storage to your laptop setup.
Second, think about portability. If it’s your laptop that uses USB-C then you are likely to want the hub to travel with you and not be a giant brick. So, look for portability in size and weight. There are enough small and lightweight adapters that you can slip in your laptop bag or even pocket and not notice.
And third, of course, is the price. There are certainly some very cheap USB-C adapters out there, but we’ve tried to pick the quality end of the market (but still at reasonable prices) so you don’t risk the safety of your device or even home with a dangerously cheap adapter.
Cables: Read our roundup of the best USB-C cables if this is all you’re looking for.
Docking stations: Larger, abler (and usually less portable) docks can include many more ports and connect dual displays at 4K in Extended Mode; see our Best USB-C docking stations roundup for more choices.
Kingston Nucleum 7-port USB-C adapter
The quality Kingston Nucleum boasts seven from one USB-C connection, including a 4K HDMI output, power pass-through (60W) to charge connected devices, and SD and microSD slots.
Use the HDMI port to output to a 4K UHD or Full HD 1080p monitor or projector.
You can power up a USB-C laptop while also connecting to a USB Flash drive and charging your smartphone. It’s compact in size and lightweight, and features a short built-in cable so works well as a travel accessory.
The two old-school USB-A ports also provide power pass-through to charge devices such as your smartphone or Bluetooth headphones.
One USB-C port on the Nucleum can be used for charging, and the extra USB-C port can connect your other more-modern devices.
It costs £52.50 or US$49.99, and comes with a two-year warranty. At the time of writing, it is also available from Amazon UK for £42 and Amazon.com.
VAVA USB C Hub 8-in-1 Adapter with 4K HDMI
This USB-C hub from Vava is super portable for travel – it’s slim and lightweight (63g), and could slip into your pocket without you noticing, although the dangling cable might attract some puzzled looks.
It attaches to the laptop by a 15cm flexible cable, and includes eight ports in its slim body. It also has a 100W Type C Power Delivery (PD) charging port, so you can keep your laptop charged while using the hub.
There are three standard USB 3.0 (USB-A), which should be enough for most people. The HDMI port is 4K compatible (3,840-x-2160 at 30Hz).
There’s a Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet port, that fits the slim hub by means of a drop-down flap.
Camera and memory card users will appreciate the SD Card and MicroSD Card readers.
Startech USB-C Multiport 4-in-1 Video Adapter
The Startech USB-C Multiport 4-in-1 Video Adapter can connect your USB-C laptop to a VGA, DVI, HDMI or Mini DisplayPort (mDP) display.
It features USB Power Delivery (PD), so you can power your laptop while outputting video using the same USB-C port. And it does this at up to 95W so can charge most laptops at full speed.
The short breakout cable features a magnetic retainer that secures it in place while you’re not using it.
The HDMI and mDP outputs support UHD 4K resolutions. All of the outputs (HDMI, mDP, VGA, DVI) support high-definition resolutions up to 1920 x 1200. The adapter is compatible with USB-C DP Alt Mode devices.
It’s available in Aluminium, Rose Gold, and Space Gray trim, which will please owners of Apple MacBooks – but it will work with Windows laptops, too, of course.
Lenovo USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Data Hub
If all you need is a bunch of older, standard USB 3.0 (USB-A) ports to add a phone charging cable, memory stick or external hard drive, then you won’t need a more versatile hub – just an adapter with a row of USB 3.0 ports.
There are plenty of these about, but for a quality brand take a look at the Lenovo USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Data Hub, which is inexpensive and ultra-portable.
It has four USB 3.0 ports. No HDMI, no extra USB-C port for passthrough charging. But, who cares, you just want a few old-style USB ports and this has enough to satisfy the most ardent accessorist.
Satechi Aluminum Type-C Slim Multi-Port Adapter 4K
Available in a range of colours (silver, gold, rose gold, and space gray) that match Apple’s MacBooks – but compatible with any USB-C laptop – the Satechi Aluminum Type-C Slim Multi-Port Adapter 4K is one of the lightest and smallest multiport USB-C hubs we’ve seen.
Weighing just 46g and both slim and short, the hub/adapter boasts dual USB 3.0 ports for standard accessories and a 4K HDMI port for displays and projectors.
It also has an extra USB-C port for pass-through charging, so you can keep your laptop powered up while it’s in use.
The flexible cable is 15cm long.
Moshi USB-C Multimedia Adapter
This Moshi hub is a simple 3-in-1 adapter with four ports.
It features two USB 3.0 (USB A) ports for adding extra peripherals, a built-in SD card reader for transferring photos and videos, and a 4K UHD (30Hz) HDMI video adapter for connecting to an external display.
The card reader slot supports both SD and SDHC/XC memory cards with transfer speeds up to 104Mbps.
It doesn’t boast an extra USB-C port, so if your laptop has just the one USB-C port this hub won’t allow you to charge at the same time as you’re using it. Laptops that boast more than one USB-C port can of course use those for charging.
The adapter attaches to the laptop via a 12cm flexible cable, and weighs 64g.
Anker 5-in-1 Premium USB C Data Hub
The space-grey Anker 5-in-1 Premium USB C Data Hub calls itself a “USB, Video, and Internet Data Station”.
Its width of just 2.3cm is one of the smallest – and weighing in at 52g, is one of the lightest – we tested.
It has three standard 5Gbps USB 3.0 ports (great for connectivity but not powerful enough to charge the connected accessory), 4K HDMI display output, and a Gigabit Ethernet Port Network Adapter.
There’s no extra USB-C port for passthrough charging.
HyperDrive 7.5W Wireless Charger USB-C Hub
The HyperDrive 7.5W Wireless Charger USB-C Hub is a USB-C hub that doubles up as a wireless charger for your smartphone – particularly an iPhone as Hyper aims this product at Apple users, but it will work with Android too.
As an 8-in-1 USB-C hub it includes 3 x USB-A (USB 3.0 at 5 Gbps) ports, 4K HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, SD Micro SD, and another USB-C 100W per for pass-through power delivery.
All tucked up in a compact, lightweight case this hub has it all, and then some – slide out the top and you have a wireless charging stand for your iPhone that is optimised for iPhone 8/X/XS/XR.
It’s a 7.5W wireless charger that also supports 5/10/15W high-speed Android wireless charging.
Hub and wireless charging stand, the HyperDrive should be pretty much all you need on the road.
Moshi Symbus Q
The Moshi Symbus Q is a similar offering to the HyperDrive hub above. It offers slightly less functionality at a slightly higher price, but you’re really paying for the sort of premium finish and build quality that Moshi delivers.
As with the HyperDrive, this is a USB-C hub that doubles as a 15W wireless Qi charger. Beyond that it packs in two USB-A 3.1 ports, 4K HDMI, and Gigabit ethernet, while it offers 60W USB-C PD pass-through charging to whatever laptop it’s plugged into.
The main body is built out of aluminium, so feels pretty sturdy, while there’s a soft fabric and rubber finish to the top to keep any glass-backed phones from sliding around. It’ll also happily charge through most phone cases.
Bear in mind that this only takes power from the mains, so even if you don’t want to use it for charging you’ll still need to plug it in, meaning this is best suited to leaving on your desk, rather than a hub for travelling.
Satechi Aluminum Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 Combo Hub
While aimed at MacBook users (with its brushed aluminum design and choice of Space Grey, Silver, Gold and Rose Gold) the Satechi Aluminum Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 Combo Hub will work with other USB-C laptops too.
It doesn’t have the cable but attaches straight into the laptop’s USB-C port. This makes it tidier and more compact but maybe a less flexible solution.
It features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD and Micro SD card slot, and a passthrough USB-C charging port – but no HDMI.
LC-Dolida USB-C to HDMI and VGA Adapter
It might not be a super-multipart hub but the LC-Dolida USB-C to HDMI and VGA Adapter tackles that awkward moment when your prehistoric host proffers you the projector’s VGA cable.
This handy adapter takes audio and video signals via a laptop’s USB-C connector and switches to a display, TV, or projector equipped with HDMI or VGA input terminals.
While you can’t use both at the same time, you can extend the computer screen and set up in mirror mode.
The HDMI port supports video resolution up to (4K) at 3,840-x-2,160 at 30Hz.
There are no extra USB-C or even USB 3.0 ports. This adapter has one purpose only, and that’s to rescue you when there’s no USB-C display option.
HP Z9G82AA Travel Hub
One of the benefits of the HP Z9G82AA Travel Hub is the length of its flexible cable – measuring about 35cm, so longer than most on offer here.
It has a VGA port for old-school projectors, and HDMI, plus two USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C passthrough charger.
We’re not sure it will charge an Apple MacBook – for these, check out our best USB-C chargers for MacBook – but HP laptops should work well with this portable hub.
StarTech 7-Port Charging Station
If you want multiple USB-A ports with a couple of USB-C for good measure, the StarTech 7-Port Charging Station offers five of the older USB standard plus two C ports.
This hub is powered via a 1m power cable rather than relying on the laptop’s juice, so you can charge a bunch of mobile devices and a couple of laptops at the same time, or use it as a USB-C dock.
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