Your laptop never has enough ports–especially if it’s the Macbook Air this guide was written on. That forces you to carry an array of dongles so you can plug everything in. Fortunately, there’s a better way. USB hubs can expand the number and kind of ports available, and USB docks let you turn a laptop into a full-blown workstation with one plug. After testing several different USB hubs and docks, these are the best we’ve found for different needs.
Looking for other home office gizmos and gadgets? We’ve got a number of guides that can help, like our Best Work From Home Gear, Best USB Flash Drive, and Best Portable External Storage Drives roundups.
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Do You Need a Hub or Dock?
There’s a grey area between USB hubs and docks, since they technically do (mostly) the same thing: add more ports and connectors to your computer. However, there are some slight differences and it’s worth understanding them before you buy one.
USB hubs are smaller, cheaper dongles that can add extra USB ports, SD card readers, display outputs, or a headphone jack. These often don’t supply extra power, which means you might not be able to charge gadgets plugged into them. They’re also portable enough to throw in your laptop bag so you can use them at home and on the go.
USB docks are often larger, more expensive, and are designed to spend most of their time on your desk. They often come with their own power supply, so they can charge other devices, and have multiple monitor outputs and Ethernet connections. If you frequently use your laptop at a desk, a dock can let you quickly connect it to a keyboard, mouse, monitors, and any other peripherals you need all at once.
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