If you've been following my Surface Pro 3 series, where I am replacing all my computing needs with just the tablet and the Microsoft branded docking station, you know that I've been going back and forth between configurations to find just the right mix.
As I've continued down my journey (most successfully, I might add) I've been adding more things to my setup. I intended to start slow and ramp up gradually, but now that I feel comfortable that the Surface Pro 3 with docking station can handle it all, I've accelerated growing my configuration. And, that means I've begun attaching more devices, which requires additional USB ports – more than the docking station provides. So, I needed to expand my available ports a bit.
Anytime I consider hardware expansion I look first to see what Plugable offers. Plugable has become my goto source for port expansion. The products are usually fantastic, and they just work as touted. For my setup, I decided to try out the USB 3.0 Superspeed 10-port hub. You might think that 10 ports is too much, but once you start adding gadgets, 10 ports is probably just about right – at least it is for me.
Despite having a huge port capacity, the actual unit is pretty small and it's light. The box contains the hub, a connection cable, and a power adapter. The power adapter is pretty significant (larger and heavier than the hub) and it might seem surprising that such an adapter is required, since it's about the same size and spec as a regular laptop power adapter. But, the 12V 4A 48W power adapter has a two-fold purpose.
First off, USB 3.0 can be extremely demanding, particularly when hitting data transfer rates of 5Gbps – which the Plugable hub supports. Additionally, USB 3.0 demands 900mA per port power so when you have multiple devices running at once (like I do), the additional power is a requirement. The power adapter comes with a six foot cable so you can tuck it somewhere out of sight and forget about it.
The second reason why the power adapter is needed, is that this particular Plugable hub also provides gadget charging services. Two flip-up ports are available to provide constant charging access for smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets. The flip-up ports are dual use. They provide connectivity when connected to my Surface Pro 3 setup, and then switch over to charging my Bluetooth running headphones and HTC M8 when I'm done for the day.
As you can see from my photo, I still have four ports available. Three ports are powering my monitors, two ports (the flip-up ports) are powering my Skype headset and my HTC M8 connection, and the last port is managing my Yeti Blue USB 3.0 studio microphone (which I'll be reviewing in the coming days).
The more interesting thing, and totally unexpected, is that by switching all my monitors to USB 3.0 (eliminating the mini-display port on the docking station) my monitor performance improved. When I was using the mini-display port and two USB 3.0 powered monitors, there was a lag sometime. It was insignificant, but noticeable. I suspect the reason is because I eliminated an additional hardware driver that Windows 8.1 had to manage, but I'm not sure about that. No matter, it just works much better and that's the bottom line for me.
Plugable offers smaller USB 3.0 hubs, with a smaller number of ports, but if you have man-sized, high-capacity needs, the 10-port hub is the one you want. And, the dual-use flip-up ports are becoming a valuable commodity for me, too. The hub supports both USB 3.0 and 2.0/1.1 devices, so it can be used for all your current USB capable hardware.
You can snag one from Amazon for $49.95: Plugable USB 3.0 SuperSpeed 10-Port Hub with Two Flip-Up Ports and 48W Power Adapter