your laptop will never There are plenty of ports – especially if it’s the Macbook Air on which this guide was written. This forces you to carry a series of dongles so you can plug everything in. Fortunately, there is a better way. USB hubs expand the number and variety of ports available, while USB docking stations allow you to turn your laptop into a full-fledged workstation with a single plug. After testing several different USB hubs and docks, these are the best we’ve found for different needs.
Update June 2022: We’ve added a pluggable USB-C Triple Display Dock and updated pricing along the way.
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Do you need a hub or a dock?
There’s a gray area between USB hubs and docking stations because they technically do (mostly) the same thing: add more ports and connectors to your computer. However, there are some subtle differences that are worth knowing about before buying.
USB hub Smaller, cheaper dongles that can add extra USB ports, SD card reader, display output or headphone jack. These typically don’t provide extra power, which means you may not be able to charge gadgets plugged into them. They’re also very portable and can fit in your laptop bag, so you can use them at home and on the go.
USB Dock Often larger, more expensive, and designed to spend most of your time at your desk. They usually 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 your desk, a docking station allows you to quickly connect it to a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and any other peripherals you need.