Is there such a thing as a quality USB hub?
April 10, 2012 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as a quality USB hub?

After much (semi-competent) troubleshooting, I have found that my music collection is not on a shoddy disk, but simply on a decent disk connected via a shoddy USB hub. I'd like to replace it, with something that doesn't freak me out with disappearing-disk issues. The thing is, all USB hubs seem like cheapo junk to me. Is there such a thing as a higher-quality USB hub?

What should I be looking for?
posted by pompomtom to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One that plugs into the wall, so that you never run the risk of underpowering your devices.

I own this, and it's great.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:09 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

oceanjesse brings up the first issue I'd look to solve before blaming the equipment outright - what else are you trying to do with the hub apart from connecting your external?

I have a cheap 4-port hub (cost something like $6) that I can use for my main external, my mouse and keyboard, and my headset. I've never had a problem with my devices disconnecting.

Also, are you sure your USB port connected to the hub isn't damaged at all (loose, scraped, dirty, etc.)?
posted by timfinnie at 11:15 PM on April 10, 2012

At present I have a lucky-dragon/yum-cha 7 port hub (which cost maybe $10), which connects one 1tb drive to a mac mini, and also bristles with USB keys. Every now and again, the 1tb drive disappears, and then either reappears by itself, or is power-cycled by me and then reappears.

The hub has a power port, but no transformer. It worked in this arrangement for about a year, and then started going flaky.

I'm pretty sure the port it's connected to isn't damaged, as it hasn't been moved for the abovementioned year.
posted by pompomtom at 11:20 PM on April 10, 2012

Do you know that the USB disk doesn't have a flaky usb board? Can you confirm you're using a powered hub without any power?
posted by devnull at 11:23 PM on April 10, 2012

Sorry, I assumed you had a laptop -- never needed a hub for a stationary machine.

Since you're not prone to moving it, I'd second a recommendation of a nice powered hub, but I've got no specific model (I have to have a completely mobile setup). Sorry about that, but thanks for clarifying, though.
posted by timfinnie at 11:25 PM on April 10, 2012

Yeah, what oceanjesse and timfinnie have said, assuming your disk is also unpowered.

In theory, an unpowered hub should only supply 100mA to the far-side ports (i.e. a 4 port hub = 4 x 100mA + 100mA for the hub = the 500mA max of the USB 2 spec). In practice, many will "supply" whatever the device asks for.

Since most USB-powered disks draw near 500mA, once you factor in the current drain of the hub itself (20~100mA) you've already overloaded the USB 2 host port. A powered hub should be able to supply 500mA to each port.

On magical auto-preview: A 7-port hub, unpowered, is an abomination before God (or at least the USB Consortium). You might have just sailed through before, but as things age and draw slightly more power (or you add just one more little USB key - after all, they don't draw much, do they?), you'll definitely run into problems.
posted by Pinback at 11:26 PM on April 10, 2012

Do you know that the USB disk doesn't have a flaky usb board?

Well, now that it's connected directly to the mac, I have been able to back it up over USB. While still using the hub I was restarting the rsync job daily, and it would inevitably fail. With small copies, there was no problem, but with a ~200gb rsync task it'd fail at some point. A direct connection fixed all that, so I reckon I've narrowed it down to the hub.

Can you confirm you're using a powered hub without any power?



Yeah, what oceanjesse and timfinnie have said, assuming your disk is also unpowered.

No, the disk is powered.
posted by pompomtom at 11:28 PM on April 10, 2012

You need to power that hub. Surprised it even works at all that way.

I have several of these. They work just fine. They get a little warm if you're charging multiple high-draw devices, but they work as expected.
posted by scruss at 1:04 AM on April 11, 2012

I've owned two of these (one at work, one at home) and they've never let me down. The top detaches so you can add more ports to a laptop if needed, and it includes a handy tray to put random desk crap in.
posted by hnnrs at 1:32 AM on April 11, 2012

I have the same one as hnnrs and it's pretty nice and not too expensive.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:36 AM on April 11, 2012

Thirding Belkin, though a different hub again! I have this on my MediaPC with 5x2TB external drives connected to it, and it's never caused me any problems...
posted by benzo8 at 4:47 AM on April 11, 2012

Even if your disk is powered, running external storage through a hub is not a good idea. You should connect storage directly to the PC if at all possible.

If you are running lots of USB devices, pick a small unpowered USB hub for connectivity to low-draw and/or (ideally "AND") low-bandwidth devices. For example, keyboard, mouse, webcam, possibly a printer, etc. This helps clarify your USB architecture. I like to pick up some inexpensive little quad-port hubs for this purpose. This almost always leaves me with sufficient host USB ports that I do not need to worry about a powered hub.

However, if you still need more ports, it's time to add a powered hub - look at one with a real external transformer, one capable of providing full power to all its ports. While in no way an endorsement, I will tell you that the D-Link DUB-H4's we have all come with a 5V 2.5A power supply. Since 4 ports can take up to 2A, and it's nice to have a little extra headroom, this should be able to put out enough power to keep all ports powered without any problems.
posted by jgreco at 5:14 AM on April 11, 2012

I have a couple of Linksys powered hubs, no problems. I think it was $29 five years ago.
posted by gjc at 5:34 AM on April 11, 2012

After dealing with the flakiness of hubs, I just bought an internal card providing more ports.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:40 AM on April 11, 2012

Nth the suggestion that you need external power on your hub. USB flash drives take up quite a bit of power, even if your hard disk is self-powered. If speed is an issue, you should probably plug it directly into your computer, since everything on the hub shares the same bandwidth.

Personally I have a Plugable powered USB hub on my PC workbench and it hasn't flinched at anything I've thrown at it. Flash drives, hard drives, charging cell phones, LED arrays that suck two amps over USB (!), it doesn't care. Probably cheaper to just get a power adapter for your current one and see how that works, however.
posted by neckro23 at 8:44 AM on April 11, 2012

Back in the day, I heard that Multi-TT USB hubs were the best and got a 7 port unit.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2012

You heard right, but it's less significant these days -- the transaction translators handle routing of USB 1.1 (full-speed/low-speed) traffic through USB 2.0 (high-speed) hubs.

A single-TT hub means that all USB 1.1 traffic is bottlenecked through a the single 12Mbps transaction translator. But that won't affect you much unless you have a lot of high-bandwidth USB 1.1 full-speed devices. These days I think pretty much the only such devices remaining are audio devices -- everything mass-storagey has all long since gone to USB 2.0 high-speed.

This article -- from 2003! -- has a handy diagram describing single-TT vs multi-TT.

(But I agree with everyone else: get a powered hub. That bristling of USB keys is probably aggregating to too much power draw.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2012

This happens to me too. Don't have an answer to your question, but you might want to try swapping the actual USB cable.
posted by archagon at 2:51 PM on April 15, 2012

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