Powered USB Hubs for your Android PC

One of the most important accessories for an Android TV Stick is also one of the least understood.  A wide variety of seemingly contradictory (and sometimes false) information litter the pages of many an Internet site.  The USB Hub is perhaps one of the most debated subjects pertinent to Stick Computing.   In this article, I’ll attempt to set you on the right path for making an informed purchase for your Mini PC.   Keep in mind that there are as many USB hubs on the market as there are opinions – and we’re specifically interested in what’s appropriate for our diminutive media players.

The first question that needs to be answered is, of course, “What is a USB Hub and Why do I want one?”  That’s a great question, thanks for asking.  The answer is simply that a USB hub is a way of expanding the number of USB ports available on your particular computing device.  By connecting the cable of a USB hub to your PC or other device, you can grow the number of ports from one to many.

A Plugable 7 Port Powered Hub makes an excellent choice for Stick owners.

Typically, the latest computers have met buyers needs by expanding the number of ports and thus reducing the need for an external hub.  Stick Computers, however, are limited in port growth due to size constraints.  While they’ve managed to squeeze an additional Micro USB port in here and there, the number of full-size ports has been limited to one.

This becomes a problem when you have a variety of external devices that you would like to connect to your Android Stick.  Among the accessories that you could potentially add would be things like hard drives, memory sticks, audio players, mouse, webcam, keyboard, DVD player or even printer.   There’s seemingly no end to the number of devices.

The reason that USB is such a useful technology for applications like Mini PC’s is that no matter how many of these devices you add to the hub, they all have access to the same amount of data throughput back to the host device (your TV Stick).  Even though there is a very slight signal degradation by going through a hub it is very insignificant and probably not measurable unless you are performing benchmarks explicitly for that purpose.

Not to get too technical here, but there are several implementations of USB from 1.0 to the currently used 3.0.  There are a number of technical improvements, but from the perspective of a user, the primary benefit of 3.0 over 1.0 is speed.  USB 3.0 is about 10 times as fast as “High Speed” 2.0 and 400 times faster than what is referred to as “Full Speed” for earlier interfaces.

Obviously, when it comes to computing, faster is better.  So the first thing you want to consider when purchasing a USB hub is making sure you can take advantage of that speed.  Now, if you’re the owner of an older Android PC with USB 2.0, you’ll need to consider choosing from among the many fine USB 2.0 hubs.  But if you do have a 3.0 port on your device you should spend the extra money on a USB 3.0 hub.  The reason is simple – longevity.  Most, if not all, newer devices use USB 3.0.

There’s really no reason not to go with the newer technology.  USB 3.0 hubs are backward compatible with 2.0 devices.  So, if you have a variety of legacy USB 2.0 devices to attach, there’s no problem using a 3.0 hub.  Your data throughput is going to be set  by the accessory you attach.  While you can’t expect performance gains by buying a 3.0 hub and attaching 2.0 devices,  neither will you experience speed degradation.

Another debate that swirls around USB hubs is Powered vs Unpowered.  There’s really not much to consider here.  If you are connecting your hub to a Stick PC, you need to purchase a powered hub.  There is just not enough power left over from an Android Mini PC to power an external hub plus all connected devices.   While it’s possible to connect single devices, such as mice and keyboards directly to the Stick, adding any more load will bring everything to a screeching halt.

There’s another reason to get a powered hub, and that is that USB rated speeds are impacted by the amount of power available.  So if you want to maximize the speed (as if crash protection was not enough motivation) then get a powered hub.

What I like about the Plugable 7 Port

There are a few names that dominate the small hub market, including Anker and HooToo.  They both produce excellent and highly regarded products.  You probably will be happy with choosing either of those.

Plugable is one of the best known brands in USB, Bluetooth and other power related devices.  They’ve been making some of the most highly regarded devices for years.  In researching USB hubs their name was frequently mentioned.

Plugable’s best known product is the USB 3.0 7-Port SuperSpeed Hub.  It Includes a generous 60 watt power adapter at 12V 5A, enough to power and charge a variety of devices without difficulty.

The SuperSpeed is fully plug and play and devices can be hot-plugged with USB over-current protection. It is also compatible with most Windows, Mac, Linux and Android systems.

The Hub supports the USB Battery Charging 1.2 Standard (BC 1.2) for unique charge and data sync functionality that most hubs do not have.  When a BC 1.2 compliant device is attached to any of the seven ports it can charge at a faster rate.

It incorporates USB 3.0 transfer rates up to 5Gbps (640MBps) while still being backwards compatible with all USB 2.0/1.1 devices and hosts.   All 7 ports are located on one side to minimize cable clutter and maximize accessibility.   It has a Compact and stackable design.

The hub itself requires no driver installation (although individual devices may require drivers).

Pros and Cons

Pros

    • Fast transfer times
    • Ample power
    • Backward Compatible
    • Small footprint
    • All ports on one side

Cons

    • Some Mac Pro compatibility issues
    • Reported issues with Win 10
    • More expensive than some competing

Company Product Information

The 7-Port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Charging Hub is made by Plugable Technologies of Redmond, Washington.  They are a provider of USB, Bluetooth and other power devices for computers.  They were founded by a member of the Microsoft Windows USB and Bluetooth software development team.   In order to insure the authenticity of the product and the best quality and service you should always purchase a product like this from a name that you trust, such as Amazon.com.

What’s in the Box

  • 7-Port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Charging Hub
  • 60W (12V, 5A) UL certified power adapter
  • Removable 6 foot power cable (standard IEC320 C7)
  • 3 foot/1m USB 3.0 A to B cable to connect the hub to the host computer.

Here’s a well done introduction video so you can see what’s included.

Unboxing the 7 Port SuperSpeed

Features and Specifications

    • 7 Port Powered Hub
    • 60W (12v, 5A)
    • USB 3.0 (up to 5Gbps transfer)
    • Supports the USB Battery Charging 1.2 Standard (BC 1.2)
    • Supports Android, Mac, Linux and Windows

Comparison

Compared to other USB hubs in this price range you are not going to find a better product than the Plugable SuperSpeed 7 port powered hub.  It’s features and performance are at the top of the heap for low cost port expanders.

Some customer reviews:

THE ABSOLUTE BEST USB 2.0 PORT – TO USB 3.0 – POWERED/CHARGE/SYNC DEVICE ON THE PLANET!!

This 7 port USB hub is nearly perfect.

I owned a USB 2.0 hub from the same company, and it has worked well for many years. I plan to use this for many more.

Order with confidence and get fast delivery with Amazon.com