Accessory maker Plugable began selling on Thursday a compact USB-C hub that will address a problem many PC users have experienced: more peripherals than ports. The TBT4-HUB3C hub, which sells for $189, includes three connections for storage systems, external monitors and other peripherals and a fourth connection to link to your computer.
The hub supports USB 4 and Thunderbolt 4, which are the speediest new connection standards. It also comes with an HDMI adapter for connecting 4K monitors and a 2.6-foot (80cm) cable that supports Thunderbolt 4 speeds of 40Gbps and 100 watts of power. It skips rectangular ports for USB-A, an old-timey tech by today’s standards, an SD Card slot and other options found on some competing products.
USB, short for Universal Serial Bus, refers to a collection of related standards. USB 4 governs how devices link up and transfer data. USB-C is the physical design for the oval, reversible connector and is required for USB 4.
Plugable’s new USB-C hub supplies 60W of power to your laptop and 15W for each of the three peripheral ports. It’ll support data for two 4K monitors if your laptop can.
The hub showcases the flexibility and power of the newest connection technology. USB began as a slow but stable connection for hitching keyboards, mice and printers to a computer. It has since matured to handle the higher speeds that have been needed over the past quarter century. It has also expanded to support a vast array of products, as well as high-power electrical charging.
USB-C is catching on widely, though older versions of the technology remain in widespread use. The European Union is pushing for USB-C as a standard port for phones — a move Apple rejects. Apple’s phones use its proprietary Lightning port today.
USB and Thunderbolt accomplish similar jobs and have been converging for years. USB’s latest advance — USB 4 data transfer technology — incorporates Intel’s Thunderbolt technology for a speed boost. The sharing goes both ways: Thunderbolt now uses the oval connectors developed for USB-C.
USB’s progress has brought some compatibility problems, too. It’s not always clear that a particular cable can handle top speeds or electrical power, for example. Plugable labels its cables with a tag showing its specifications, and its hub uses Intel’s Goshen Ridge chip to try to ease compatibility issues.
Connection standards move slowly. Only now, six years into USB-C’s history, is a hub without old-style USB-A ports a viable product, Plugable Chief Executive Bernie Thompson said.
“For the portion of the market that’s excited about the promise of USB-C — one connector to rule them all — finally they’ve got one hub to do all that,” he said.
Plugable also announced two new Thunderbolt 4 cables with names as euphonious as the hub’s: the 3.2ft (1m) TBT4-40G2M at $33.95 and 6.4-foot (2m) TBT4-40G1M at $59.