Connections with the USB C hub multiport adapter:
The terms USB C hub adapter and dock are often used equivalently without being well defined. For this guide, we have considered that everything that is nomadic has a hub. Some models can power a laptop is connected to a USB-C charger, but they do not come with their charger. This is the difference with the docks, which are real docking stations, made to stay on a desk. With their power source, they can charge your computer without the need for a separate charger.
On the hub side, we tested models offering different port configurations, from those that only include USB-A connectors to those with USB-A ports, video out, Ethernet connection, SD card reader, and integrated charging system.
As for the USB C Docking Station devices, we have limited our research to models compatible with PCs and Macs, offering at least four USB-A ports and one USB-C output port, and capable of supplying power to a laptop and its peripherals.
While testing, we paid attention to the following:
While USB-A ports generally don't support data transfer rates as high as USB-C connectors, it is important to be able to transfer data quickly. We performed speed tests with test measurement software in conjunction with a portable SSD to measure transfer times. Since SSDs are faster than spinning hard drives, using the T5 assured us that the measured speeds were not hampered by the drive itself. Most of the USB C hub multiport adapter hubs we tested advertised USB 3.0 speeds, which, on paper, don't exceed 640MB/s, but we measured speeds in the range of 400 to 425MB / s, and we have eliminated all notably slower models.
A USB C hub adapter can be very useful on a desktop, especially if you want to connect the computer to an external monitor. We connected each of the docking stations via HDMI to an ultra-monitor with the resolution set to 4K. Mac computers only support a refresh rate of 30Hz in 4K (the image refreshes 30 times per second). And, although many hubs previously advertised that they run at 60Hz with PCs, most now only work at this lower number.
This means that the images on the display, such as the cursor moving on the screen or scenes in a movie, will not be as smooth as what we are usually used to on a computer or phone. When working with documents and emails, this effect doesn't necessarily bother you, but for graphic design work or watching videos, it's best to connect using DisplayPort, if possible. We excluded from the competition all hubs that did not perform well at 4K resolution.
A wired Ethernet connection is almost always faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi. Most of the USB C hub multiport adapter hubs with Ethernet ports support gigabit speeds, which means data can be transferred at speeds of up to 1 000 megabits per second. For each model in the test group, we checked the connection speed in network utility on a Mac, which shows the maximum link speed.
USB C hub adapter hubs and docks can heat up when in use, in particular, our findings, when the Ethernet connection is active. So, we measured the temperature of our favorites with an infrared thermometer after fifteen minutes of continuous use for data transfer over Ethernet, to make sure they did not heat up to the point of danger. Any transfer through Ethernet, HDMI, USB, or SD card readers consumes energy and it dissipates as heat.
All of the USB C Docking Station hubs we reviewed also have a USB-C port, so you can plug in your charger without having to use a second port on the computer itself. USB-C supports power up to 100 watts, while laptops draw between 30 watts. We used the MacBook Pro's 97W charger and the included USB-C cable and recorded what the computer recognized in its system information. The more power the hub transmits, the better, as this ensures greater compatibility in terms of charging speed.
SD card reader:
As photo and video files can be quite large, the SD card's fast transfer rate means you won't have to wait to import a day's worth of photos from your card. As SD cards are used less commonly than USB ports these days, this feature is less important.
MicroSD card reader:
Taking into account our knowledge of SD cards, we applied the same reasoning to microSD cards, which are less used these days and slower by nature. We performed the same test as above using the card for Nintendo Switch. The numbers for the top-performing USB C hub adapter hubs were closer to what we've seen in other tests, with reading speeds around 89MB/s and maximum write speeds of around 59MB/s.
We also considered the size. We tend to want to take our hub everywhere, so the smaller and lighter it is, the better. However, this factor is less important for docks, as the latter are generally fixed.