USB Hub recommendations wanted!
January 13, 2010 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm drowning in choices with no clear indicators -- help me select a good USB hub!

I've been browsing Amazon's selection of USB hubs and am completely stuck. I have no idea what is a good brand, or what is a good design, or anything about these. I used to run everything possible through FireWire because it daisy-chains, but I'm finally at the point of needing to expand my USB capability. I tried looking at CNET for reviews, but it was little to no help. (Searches for "USB hub" bring up such useful and cheap items as Xbox 360s, etc.)

I'd prefer to spend ~$20, but could be talked into going into the $40-50 range if there is a good reason.

Does anyone out there have strong opinions or recommendations or bad experiences to share with their USB hub purchases?

The details: I'm running an Intel iMac with Leopard, and it has shockingly few USB ports on it, so I need to expand a bit. I think I may want a plug-into-the-wall powered USB hub, 4 ports would be enough, 7 would allow for "future expansion". I do run a USB 2.0 hard drive as my Time Machine drive, and have a USB iPod dock (because the new models don't allow synching through FireWire). Other things I might plug into it are my Mighty Mouse (for visitors who can't cope with my TrackMan Wheel which is my primary pointing device and is plugged into the keyboard anyway), a mixing board for faux DJing, and possibly my Yamaha Electric Grand as a MIDI keyboard. It's possible that I might someday have other devices (e.g. a digital camera) which would also require USB connection. Is that a clear enough picture of my USB needs?
posted by hippybear to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, don't buy this one for the reasons stated in the negative reviews (one is mine).
posted by nitsuj at 4:18 PM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: Pick the first USB hub you find that meets this criteria:

#1: a name you recognize
#2: the number of ports you need, plus a few extras
#3: a competitive cost
#4: at least five reviews, with no negatives, or at least fifteen reviews, with a 10:1 positive comment ratio.
posted by davejay at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2010

(note: with a 2-star or less review counting as negative, nitsuj's USB hub linked above fails my criteria -- 52 reviews, 15 negative.)
posted by davejay at 4:22 PM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: I got this one, which while $35, seems to work pretty well. Works a lot better than the flimsy off-brand hub I used previously.
posted by grouse at 4:23 PM on January 13, 2010

I also have the Domehub that grouse links to and it works well. It's heftier than most hubs, which is nice.
posted by zsazsa at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: I have an Intel iMac with Leopard too. This one works great for me:

D-Link DUB-H7.
7 ports, powered, $28 but it currently has a $10 rebate.
posted by sharkfu at 4:30 PM on January 13, 2010

Seconding the D-Link 7 port hub. I'm now up to three of them on my iMac, and they seem to work just fine.
posted by nonliteral at 4:41 PM on January 13, 2010

This is the kind of choice that Newegg's reviews are really good for. If it works well for most people, it will probably work well for you too.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2010

I have the same hub as grouse and zsazsa. I'm running an older mac and everything just works, including my external harddrive that powers off of usb. I only got it at Christmas, but so far it's great.
posted by ansate at 4:45 PM on January 13, 2010

Thumbs down for making me reach up and take down my USB hub from the hook where it's hung for 3 years now, that was an awful lot of cobwebs, gross! It turns out that I have a Micro Innovations 4-port USB hub. Apparently it can be plugged into a power source, although I've long since lost the power cable (and why would I want to plug it into the wall anyway? Baffling.)

I'm pretty sure I bought it at Walmart in a fit of desperation. It would have cost less than $20. I use it to connect my printer, digital camera, and iPod. Never had a complaint.

My point being, there isn't going to be a huge difference between a $10 USB hub and a $50 hub. There's little that can go wrong with a USB hub, and little that can go super right with it either.

This is where I implement my traditional shopping method: click to sort by price, and pick the 3rd cheapest. According to that metric, you should buy this one.
posted by ErikaB at 5:31 PM on January 13, 2010

nthing newegg - they have good sales, and the user reviewers have become a key decision-making aid for me in my tech purchases. I usually navigate down to topic > discount item > top sellers and then start checking out the reviews; right now there aren't that many on sale so you can just check out the top sellers.
posted by Billegible at 5:35 PM on January 13, 2010

I bought a couple of these, one for laptop use, one for home use. No problems so far. I like that there is a port on each side of the hub and they aren't stacked or grouped together. Sometimes you have a fat connector or USB key that just doesn't like to have neighbors right up on them.
posted by ijoyner at 5:42 PM on January 13, 2010

I stole my father's old DUB-H7 last week and I'm using it right now with my MacBook. Running mouse/keyboard, hard drive, and iPhone through it with no problems.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:27 PM on January 13, 2010

I like my Belkin F5U307 because my normal daily use fills the five ports on the side, and the two occasional use ports are on top where I can find them. Plus, it's brown.
posted by scruss at 6:43 PM on January 13, 2010

I can give you a firm recommendation. I just went through this a couple of months ago, when I needed one for my new iMac. I looked high and low, and there are sites that are specifically dedicated to reviewing hubs(!), and the winner was this Targus 7 port.

I then went and looked for reviews by users, including Amazon, and those were good too - far better than the belkins an iogears linked in some of the comments here, fwiw.

What's great about this hub is that it recognizes that USB ports can have different power loads - so there are a couple of high power ports included and marked as such. Plus, a very neat audio input.

I've been using mine for 2 months now, and it's worked splendidly.
posted by VikingSword at 7:09 PM on January 13, 2010

I have 2 of these. They're pretty great. The nice thing is they stack.
posted by chairface at 9:55 PM on January 13, 2010

(and why would I want to plug it into the wall anyway? Baffling.)

Well, some older laptop motherboards behaved badly at the upper end of the USB spec'd power draw.
posted by atrazine at 5:44 AM on January 14, 2010

I've had this hub recommended to me and plan to buy it when the need arises.
posted by L0 at 6:36 AM on January 14, 2010

Best answer: (and why would I want to plug it into the wall anyway? Baffling.)

There are low-power and high-power USB devices and ports. Low-power tend to be 100mA, high 500mA.

Say the USB port on your computer is high-power, and can thereby supply 500mA. You plug a hub into it. That 500mA has to power the hub, plus all the devices plugged into it.

You plug four low-draw devices [keyboard, printer, etc] into it, and you don't notice any issues. 4 x 100mA = 400mA, so you're under the 500mA ceiling.

If you plug two 500mA-drawing devices [say two external hard drives] into that hub, you'll probably see a message like "That USB device requires more power than is available" [wording dependent on platform] or maybe your external drive will mount and unmount all by itself as the available power fluctuates due to the load.

If I plug my WD Passport drive into the keyboard hub on my wife's Mac Mini, this is the message I see, because the hub in the keyboard cannot supply sufficient power. The [old, Bob's Pretty Good] unpowered hub plugged into the Mac itself also cannot power it. If I plug that hub into the wall, all is well.

Plugging the hub into the wall allows the hub to provide maximum power to all ports, regardless of how much power the source USB port can provide.

This power issue is also why external hard drives often used to come with two USB cables for one drive. They drew more power than a single port could provide.
posted by chazlarson at 10:10 AM on January 14, 2010

Best answer: I've had this one for two years and really like it. It has 7 ports, can plug into the wall, and has a permanent mounting base, but you can still easily remove it for travel. Plus, it's black, and the power light is blue like all the other lights on my system. Don't even ask why I want all the lights to be the same color.
posted by timepiece at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. I ended up ordering the Domehub because it seems to be one that doesn't require mounting but will likely allow me to do one-handed plugging / unplugging without much difficulty.

I loved the advice about the ratings and what to look for there -- I'll be using that metric often in the future.

The other hubs look great, too, and I marked the ones which I had on my short list as best answers too for anyone looking up this thread in the future. Just because your suggestion wasn't marked doesn't mean it isn't great -- sometimes these are taste issues as much as anything else.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2010

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