USB hubs and docks are gaining in popularity as many modern laptops cut back on the number of ports available. If you need to add more ports to your laptop or PC setup, you can use a USB hub or dock. Although the two appear to be identical, there is a difference between a USB hub and a dock.
Let’s look at both to help you understand how they differ and, ultimately, to help you decide which is better than the other.
USB Hub vs Docking Station: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between USB hubs and docks is in their capabilities. The USB hub draws power from your computer and then powers the connected peripherals. USB hubs are smaller and lighter, so more portable, and they mainly function as port duplicators.
While USB hubs can’t charge your laptop, the best hubs come with a USB-C Power Delivery (PD) input port. You can connect your laptop’s charger to this port, which then connects to a wall outlet, allowing you to charge your laptop in what’s known as pass-through charging.
The docking stations, on the other hand, are more flexible, more powerful, and slightly heavier. For docking stations, some may be mobile while others are fixed. Portable docks draw power from your laptop. You must hook the fixed ones to the wall outlet via the AC/DC power adapter. The advantage of stationary ones is that they can be used to charge your laptop at high speeds.
One big downside of charging a laptop over a USB port is that you won’t get all of the power as some of it is used to power peripherals. And the amount of power used to power the peripherals will depend on how many devices are connected. Take the Yeolibo 9-in-1 USB C Hub as an example. It has a 100W USB-C PD port but will only charge your laptop at 85W. 15W is used to power peripherals.
Mobile devices strive to offer the best of both worlds, giving you more functionality than a typical USB hub without sacrificing portability. All in all, docks help you add more ports to your setup and help you get the full desktop experience from your laptop. However, they are usually more expensive due to their strength and capabilities.
USB Hub vs. Docking Station: Which Should You Buy?
Now that you know the difference between the two, which should you buy? Yes, it depends.
Sometimes your budget can be a limiting factor, and if that’s the case, a USB hub is a good starting point. But despite being just a cheaper alternative, USB hubs come in handy when you’re working on the go. With their small footprint and lightweight nature, you can slip your hub in your pocket and be ready to go. Besides, you don’t need a wall outlet to connect peripherals to your laptop.
Docking stations are mainly suitable if you need more than a wide range of ports. For example, get a docking station if you need a completely desktop-like experience and work from a stationary station. If your job requires more than a simple setup, then you should buy a dock. Some docks can output up to 8K resolution for one monitor, or 4K @ 60Hz on dual monitors.
If you need three or four monitors for your particular type of work, don’t buy a USB hub as they usually only support dual monitors. You should also get a dock if you also need faster file transfers, full-speed charging and more than 1 Gigabit Ethernet port. Here’s our pick of the best laptop docking stations in case that’s the route you want to go.
Should you buy a USB Hub or a Docking Station?
While your needs may vary, a USB hub is a good starting point if you’re on a tight budget. Once you have more cash to spend, consider a docking station. Remember, it doesn’t have to be premium. Mobile docking stations are also good because they are a great middle ground.
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