No 12-inch MacBook is an island; every portable of this line requires some kind of main connection. That’s at least a USB-C power adapter supplied by Apple, but more options have started to appear in the form of mini-hubs and full-fledged ones. I’ve been particularly waiting for affordable, portable alternatives to Apple’s $80 Digital AV Multiport Adapter. The $60 Anker Premium USB-C Hub with HDMI and Power Delivery fits the bill nicely with more ports, better flexibility, and a lower price.
The Anker hub has built in pass-through power over USB-C, HDMI support up to the 4K resolution supported by a 12-inch MacBook (via DisplayPort 1.2/HDMI 1.4b), and two USB 3.0 Type-A ports. With a longer cord than Apple’s similar adapter, a brushed aluminum styling, and a better placement of ports, the Anker is my top choice for a portable hub to support an external monitor. (If you’re also or instead looking to use external drives routinely, pay special attention to the end of this review.)
These compact hubs have full-fledged computers in them to handle all this conversion, but their job should be to not get in the way of data transfer. In testing, the Anker hub did just fine. With an external USB 3.0 drive (a bus-powered WD My Passport Ultra HDD 2TB), I got 90 MBps read and write rates through the hub’s USB 3.0 Type-A ports, just as fast as using Apple’s USB-C to Type-A adapter for a more direct connection. HDMI output worked as expected as well, providing a solid, stable signal.
One odd note, however. I wasn’t able to get the MacBook to recognize drives plugged into the Type-A ports initially; I had to reboot the Mac, at which point I had no further problems. That makes it seem like more of an OS X oddity than related to the dock, which requires no hardware drivers to work correctly.
The Anker measures 4.7 x 1.6 x 0.4 inches, and I particularly like that the USB-C port for pass-through power is at the end of the longest dimension. Couple with a 6-inch integral cord to plug into your MacBook, this gives you a lot more flexibility in placement. It’s just 2.4 ounces, making it a slight addition to your satchel or travel bag.
Anker has admirable frankness about limitations, although these appear oddly not on its site, but on the linked Amazon page for the product, nor in the manual. (Anker sells and ships its products via Amazon fulfillment.) These disclosures are far more extensive than any I’ve seen from other pass-through power docks. For instance, the dongles for wireless keyboards that use 2.4GHz unlicensed spectrum (whether Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or proprietary) might not work, and Apple’s SuperDrive can’t be used.
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