Many of the newer, slimmer laptops of the past several years have done away with old-style USB-A ports. Macs are notorious for it and many models now only have a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port. While that’s good for sleek looks and minimizing bulk, it’s not good when you need to connect to something without a wireless signal.
So you’ll need a hub that can take that single USB-C port to use whatever other inputs or outputs you need. The market for these has grown enormously as more and more laptop manufacturers phase out older ports and consolidate them into one or two USB-C ports.
There are many choices now. I’ve been trying out the HooToo 8-in-1 USB-C Hub (Model No. HT-UC009). Styled in a brushed aluminum casing that blends in nicely next to your MacBook, it has an assortment of ports to bring some versatility to your laptop’s connections. It’s a bit like a Swiss-Army-Knife of USB-C hubs, with several useful ports. And it’s more attractively priced than some of its competitors.
Specifically, it has:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- USB 2.0 port
- SD memory card slot
- microSD memory card slot
- 4K HDMI port
- PD port
- Ethernet port
I confess I hadn’t heard of HooToo before, but it turns out it’s a sister brand of RAVPower, a brand I’m much more familiar with. Where RAVPower products focus on, well, power, HooToo devices concentrate on networking. They have a few different USB-C hubs. The one they sent me to try out is the 8-in-1 model, and I’ve been using it on my MacBook.
Memory Card Slots
As a photographer, one of the things that most appeals to me about this particular USB-C hub is that it has memory card slots.
It has two SD card slots. One is for a full-size SD card. That’s the most common size for most consumer cameras these days, and if laptops have a memory card slot built-in, it’s usually an SD card slot.
The other is a MicroSD card. That’s the size used by action cameras, smartphones, and other mobile devices. You can put a microSD card into an adapter cartridge that will then go in a regular SD slot. But having a dedicated microSD card slot means one less small accessory to drop or leave behind in a hotel room. And it also means you can use both slots simultaneously.1
Both memory card slots have UHS-I interfaces, so you won’t get the extra speeds that UHS-II cards can offer.
Having the card readers built-in means brings the convenience that I don’t need to carry a separate dedicated card reader (unless I’m shooting with XQD or CompactFlash cameras, obviously).
There are two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0.
In theory, the USB 3.0 ports can give you speeds of up to 5 Gbps. In practice, there are a number of choke points in real-world use that will limit the rates you’re likely to get to well below that. That’s true with any USB device.
It’s worth noting that the USB ports on the hub are designed for data transfer, and it’s not recommended to use them for charging other devices like phones.
If your laptop has only one USB-C port that’s also used to power and charge the laptop, you might wonder how to use this hub without relying on the laptop’s battery.
The hub has power pass-through, which means you can plug a USB-C power source into the hub, and then the power will then flow through to the laptop. It uses the USB-C port labeled DC In.
There are some limitations depending on the output of the power source you’re trying to use. As the manual (p.2) explains it:
This hub supports pass-through charging of up to 100W; however when connected to a standard 60W power adapter, the hub and the peripheral devices will use about 11W of power, thus the final charge supplied will be 49W which may not be enough for some laptops.
Anyone who has ever stayed in a hotel knows that you never quite know how reliable or fast the hotel wifi can be patchy at best. And if it’s not downright unusable, there’s a good chance that it’s expensive. And then there are the security concerns.
Quite a few hotels include an ethernet connection in the room. Those wired connections can often be faster and more reliable. With an ethernet plug on the end of the HooToo hub, you can take advantage of those benefits. Running the ethernet through USB isn’t ideal, but it’s often a good deal better than the wifi connection you can pick up.
The ethernet port is plug-and-play with newer operating systems (Windows 8.1 or higher, Mac OS 10.9 or higher, or UNIX). For older systems, you can download drivers here.
It’s a full-size HDMI port that can output at 1080p60 or 4K30.
The warranty situation is a bit confusing. The instruction manual says it has an 18-month warranty with lifetime customer service. The product listing says “12 months’ warranty support for HooToo Product and please contact us to get extra 18 months’ warranty.” And a warranty card in the box says that by registering your product you get 12 months warranty extension, 180 days free return shipping, and priority customer support. So make of that what you will. To be safe, I’d go ahead and contact them.
Things Worth Knowing
- It won’t work with laptops with a USB-A port even if you use an adapter.
- It’s not recommended to use the hub’s ports for charging other devices–only data transfer.
Compatibility is obviously a big issue. In general, with newer computers, the HooToo 8-in-1 USB-C Hub is plug-and-play.
I’ve been using it on an early 2015 MacBook. They claim that it works on Windows, Mac, Unix, and Chromebook. With newer operating systems, it should work out of the box without needing to install separate drivers. With older operating systems such as Windows 7, you’ll probably need to install drivers.
Beyond that, it gets quite technical. Because there’s no way I can independently test all of these, and rather than risk injecting some misinformation on the tech specs, I’ll quote what the manual says:
Compatible Devices (USB 3.1 / PD 3.0 / DP 1.2 Supported)
Supports most of the USB C devices based on standard protocol (USB 3.1 / PD 3.0 / DP 1.2):
- Google Pixelbook or other Chromebooks with USB C port
- Apple MacBook / Pro (2016 / 2017 / 2018)
- Apple iMac / iMac Pro (21.5″ / 27″)
- Apple MacBook Air 2018
Only PD 3.0 Supported Devices
– iPad Pro 2018 (DP 1.2 supported)
– Asus ZenPad 3S
Only USB 3.1 Supported Devices
– Asus ZenBook3 / Transformer3 Pro
– Samsung TabPro
– Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16
– Asus ZenBook3
– Other USB C devices that support DP 1.2 or run under enough battery
1. The USB-C hub supports pass-through charging of up to 100W. However, a 45W adapter may be too low for both the hub and laptop / computer. If charging is not started, please change to an adapter with higher output.
2. The USB 3.0 ports transfer data at a rate up to 5Gbps, however the actual rate is limited by the USB transfer rate of the connected devices.
These are the specifications as per the included instruction manual. The specific model number is HT-UC009.
|USB-C Cable||Power Delivery (PD) V3.0, 9V / 12V / 15V / 20V, 5A 100W Max (No charging if the computer’s Type-C port does not support PD connection)|
|DisplayPort (DP) V1.2a (Video play is not available if the computer’s type-C port does not support DP connection)|
|5Gbps max. data transfer speed for USB 3.1 Gen1|
|SD / microSD 3.0 slot||Support Secure Digital V1.0 / V1.1 / V2.0 / SDHC / SDXC (Capacity up to 2TB); V3.01 UHS-I (Ultra High Speed Bus); SDR12 / SDR25 / SDR50 / DDR50 / DR104|
|USB PD Port||Power Delivery (PD) V3.0, 9V / 12V / 15V / 20V, 5A 100W Max|
|USB 2.0 Port||480Mbps max (USB 2.0) / 12 Mbps max (USB 1.1)|
|USB 3.0 Ports||5Gbps max (USB 3.0) / Max 5V / 1.36A for 2 USB 3.0 ports and SD port; when connecting power adapter: max 5V / 1.5A for < 30W adapter; max 5V / 1.8A for ≥ 30W adapter|
|4K HDMI Port||Support connecting to monitor, TV and projector via HDMI port, up to 1080p at 60Hz or UHD 3840×2160 at 30Hz.|
|RJ45 Ethernet Port||10 / 100 / 1000Mbps; plug and play for Windows 8.1 / Mac OS 10.9 and higher versions|
|Cable Length||18 cm / 7.1 inches|
|Surface Temperature||< 55°C (full load)|
|Weight||84 grams / 3 ounces|
It has been working well for me. The package is small and lightweight, so easy to pack even with a minimalist travel pack, and with the case made of machined aluminum it can stand up to the kinds of bumps and knocks that you inevitably get on the road.
But most of all I like the convenience it brings by combining several of the ports that I most commonly use. It’s saving me from packing separate hubs for each kind or port. And the pass-through power has come in very handy–the previous hub I was using–an older generation and much simpler–lacked that, so I was only able to use it while running my MacBook on battery power, which became a pain.
Where to Find Them
You can find the HooToo 8-in-1 USB-C Hub at Amazon.
- The data transfer speeds will slow down when using both at once. You’ll get faster speeds using them separately. ↩
Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-09-28 at 18:09. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.