Why You Need A Powered USB Hub
Last Updated on May 1, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
Contemplating which type of USB hub to get? Your worries will be no more if you read through this guide. We will be discussing the topic ‘why you should get a powered USB hub.’ As you read through this guide, pay attention to the important points raised.
USB is the most commonly used external peripheral device connection standard for computers and other computer-like devices. Computers use USB ports to interface with devices like mice, keyboards, external hard drives, printers, scanners, gamepads, network adapters, flash drives, smartphones, and cameras. The USB standard is backward and forwards compatible, which means new devices and computers can take advantage of faster standards without sacrificing compatibility with older standards.
In addition to data, USB is also a power source for devices that don’t always use a data connection. For example, a cell phone connected to a computer with a USB cable can both interface with the computer and charge its battery. A cell phone that’s connected to a wall outlet charger by USB is only using the connection as a power source.
What is a USB hub?
A USB hub is like an extension lead for USB devices. It plugs into your computer and lets you connect more devices than your existing USB ports allow.
Some USB hubs are powered, others are unpowered. This short guide explains the difference, to help you understand which one you need.
Types of USB port hubs
There are two main types of USB port hubs: powered hubs and unpowered hubs.
- Powered USB hubs
Powered USB hubs provide their own power supply for devices. Typically, when you connect a device to your computer via USB, the device draws upon your computer’s power to function.
Powered USB hubs come with their own power source and provide power for your connected devices so your computer doesn’t have to.
Powered hubs are great if you’re connecting USB devices that operate on higher voltages. These devices may include:
- Large external hard drives
Both powered and unpowered port hubs plug into your computer via a single USB port. There’s only so much power that can be transferred through a single port, though. If you have several high-voltage devices connected to an unpowered hub, the hub will not be able to transfer enough power from your computer to power all those devices at once. It just can’t draw enough power through the single USB. There’s a good chance that one or more of the connected devices might not function properly.
Powered hubs alleviate this problem. Each device that’s connected to a powered port hub draws power from its own USB connection. As a result, one USB port doesn’t have to dispense power to multiple devices simultaneously. This is why powered hubs are crucial if you’re going to be connecting larger and more intensive hardware.
- Unpowered USB hubs
Does that mean you should avoid unpowered USB hubs? Absolutely not. Unpowered hubs are perfect if you’re going to be connecting smaller devices, like:
- Smartphone chargers
- Flash drives
Furthermore, unpowered hubs are more portable than powered hubs. Unpowered hubs are more compact and they don’t need to be plugged into a power outlet (which also means they don’t have the additional power cables that you have to lug around). They’re also a little more budget-friendly.
Why Should You Get Powered USB Hub
- Faster Computer Speed
Is using a USB splitter slowing down your computer’s speed? You can try switching to a self-powered USB hub.
Since a powered USB hub generates its own electricity, it won’t need to take any power from your computer or laptop. That takes a lot of stress off of your computer.
This is perfect for users who have multiple programs and apps running at the same time. You might notice a significant difference in speed as compared to using a regular USB port hub.
- Charge Multiple Devices
USB hubs allow users to charge multiple devices at the same time. For example, if you use multiple mobile devices, then you can attach them all at the same time to your laptop.
The only downside is that regular USB hubs take power from your computer. This means you’ll have to sacrifice your laptop’s battery power just to charge your mobile devices.
If you don’t want that, then you can try switching to a powered USB hub. It generates power from an electrical socket so no matter how many devices you attach to your laptop, its battery power won’t decrease.
- Can Run Heavy-Duty Components
Regular USB hubs that generate power from your laptop are ideal for small devices such:
- Mouse and keyboard set
- Flash drive
- Video game controller
However, if you want to use larger, more high-powered devices such as external hard drives/disc drives, scanners, or printers, you’ll need a powered USB hub.
Since it has its own source of power, its capacity to run large devices doesn’t depend on your laptop’s battery power. On the other hand, a regular USB hub can only run devices that your laptop can accommodate.
If you choose to run large devices on a regular USB hub, you might shorten the lifespan of your laptop.
- Can Run Multiple Components
Of course, all USB hubs can run multiple devices. However, powered USB hubs have the capacity to take on multiple devices regardless of how much power they consume.
- Let’s say you have to print and scan documents from your external hard drive while charging your mobile phone.
- Do you think your laptop has enough power to run all of those components?
While it’s not impossible, it’s still harmful to both your non-powered USB hub and laptop device. So if you have to simultaneously use multiple components on a regular basis, consider switching to powered USB hubs.
- They’re Ideal for Apple Computers
MacBooks require a lot of power to maintain their fast processing speed. This is why connecting a non-powered USB hub greatly limits their capacity.
If you’re only using one or two flash drives, then it may not affect your speed. But connecting multiple large components can be very stressful to your Macbook’s hardware.
- More Durable
Powered USB hubs are generally more durable than their non-powered counterpart. They were built to handle heavy-duty components that consume a lot of power.
Meanwhile, non-powered USB hubs can only handle small devices. So, if you force multiple components to a single non-powered hub, it definitely won’t last you very long.
- Faster Charging
Have you noticed how your phone charges slower if you add one more device to the USB hub it’s connected to? That’s because non-powered USB hubs force your devices to share the laptop’s battery power.
So, not only will your laptop’s performance decrease, but your devices will also charge at a much slower rate. Additionally, not many laptops really have the capacity to charge multiple cellular devices. This is why it’s not ideal to treat them like power banks.
If you need to charge multiple phones at once, you should use a powered USB hub instead. It’s basically using power from the electric socket so no matter how many you charge, it won’t decrease your laptop’s battery power.
- Less Damaging to Your Laptop
Attaching devices to your laptop might be convenient, but it eats up a lot of energy. Adding more ports from a non-powered USB hub only intensifies the stress.
If you don’t want to shorten your laptop’s lifespan, then you might want to consider getting a powered USB hub. Since it generates its own power, it acts as a second source of energy for your devices to feed on.
You may not notice it, but reducing that much load on your laptop can really improve its speed, performance, and lifespan.
- Faster Data Transfers
One issue with non-powered USB hubs is the slow data transfer. You might notice a delay when transferring files from one drive to another.
If you only transfer files occasionally, then this won’t be an issue, but if you constantly rotate files from one device to another, then it can definitely affect your work speed.
By using a powered USB hub, you can significantly speed up data transfers from a couple of minutes to a few seconds.
Generally, powered USB hubs are ideal for people who need to connect multiple devices to their laptop’s USB ports on a daily basis. Meanwhile, non-powered ones are good for people who prioritize portability over function and speed.
Points to note when using a USB hub
USB hubs are normally plug-and-play and work very easily straight out of the box. They have been developed to a stage where there is normally little to do in setting them up and using them.
However, when using them there are a few useful pointers to note to ensure that the best performance is achieved.
- Use the highest USB version hub where speed is important: Often high-speed connections may be required via the USB hub. For example, in some cases an Ethernet connection to the Internet may be made via the hub, or a large capacity disk drive – these connections should be made via the fastest USB hub available. Use USB 3 instead of USB 2 for these. There may be an instance where a USB 2 hub and a USB 3 hub are available, or there may be a choice of USB 2 and USB 3 ports on a hub. Always use the fastest ports where high speed is needed and use the slower ports for mouse or keyboard connections, etc.
- Higher power peripherals may require a dedicated USB slot: In some instances, peripherals need a reasonable level of power. There may be instances where the peripheral does not work via the USB hub but needs a direct connection or the use of a powered USB hub. When USB devices like CD/DVD drives or disk drives do not work via the hub, then check whether they work using a direct connection.
- Some hubs may become warm: With the level of functionality contained within some of the more complicated USB hubs, large amounts of processing are required. This means that the hubs will consume power and will become quite warm. Be aware that some USB hubs can run quite warm and as such, they should be sufficiently ventilated to prevent them from becoming too hot.
- Connect to the high-speed USB port on the computer: Some computers have Type-A ports – these can be USB 2 or USB 3. It is best to ensure that the USB hub is connected to a high-speed port so that the best performance is obtained. If the hub is connected to a USB 2 port, then this will limit the performance to that of USB 2. Connect it to a USB 3 port then this allows for USB 3 performance.
- USB ports can be chained: As there are often limited ports on many devices, and also some USB hubs have limited ports, they can be chained, i.e. plugging one hub into another. However, be aware of the power limitations because it is very quickly possible to overload any power availability.
When choosing between the two, keep in mind that the best USB hub to buy is the one that best suits your specific needs. So before you pull out your wallet, make sure that the USB hub you plan to get suits your lifestyle.