Confronting the growing lack of laptop I/O
A multi-port hub that brings back missing laptop I/O
The trend with laptops in the past couple of years has been to drop many of the inputs that were once standard. Ethernet was an early casualty of the Ultrabook design, and now even standard USB ports are missing from the thinnest designs. USB Type-C does offer an all-in-one solution, but laptops with no other connectivity require dongles and adapters to be practical. AUKEY’s USB C Hub is one option to add I/O back to your machine in a single package, and they sent one over so we could check it out.
In case you haven’t heard of them, AUKEY is a common sight when browsing Amazon, offering a wide range of adapters and accessories. This CB-C55 has now been superceded by the "improved" version which offers media card slots on the side as well, but we are looking at the standard version today.
- Model Number: CB-C55
- Interface: Two USB 3.0 ports, USB-C Power Delivery port, HDMI port, VGA port, Ethernet port
- Connector: USB-C
- Input: 5-20V 3A
- USB Outputs: 5V 500mA; 5V 900mA (Max)
- Maximum Data Speed: 5Gbps
- Maximum Resolution: 1080p
- Rated Voltage: 5V
- Maximum Current: 900mA
- Cable Length: 130mm / 5.1”
- Weight: 120g / 4.2oz
Note: The original version of the CB-C55 is now unavailable and has been replaced with a version that adds SD and microSD card reader slots.
- AUKEY CB-C55 Multiport USB-C Hub – New Version: $64.99 – Amazon.com
As I began using the hub I had mixed feelings about the location of the USB ports vs. video output, as the video is on the opposite side of the hub's Type-C cable, and easier to access as a result. Really, it makes more sense to set it up this way as an HDMI cable or VGA cable is going to need more clearance than USB and Ethernet cables. The cable connecting the hub to your machine is about 5 inches long, which I found sufficent – though at times it was just easier to plug in USB cables before I connected the hub.
I started out testing HDMI output, and this worked without issue. It is intended for use with displays up to 2560×1440 at 60 Hz (up to 1920×1080 via VGA). If you’re planning to use it with a UHD TV it will work, but be aware that 4K resolution is limited to 30 Hz (HDMI 1.4).
USB 3.0 performance was excellent, offering similar performance to the onboard Intel USB 3.0 controller when tested with my Samsung T3 external SSD. When reading from the drive the AUKEY hub provided 382 MB/s vs. 385 MB/s from the Intel controller, and writing to the drive the hub provided 285 MB/s vs. 297 MB/s from the Intel controller.
The Type-C passthrough charging functionality worked as expected, as I was able to use all functions of the adapter while also charging the ASUS ZenBook 3 I tested this with, using the laptop’s USB Type-C charger. I didn't extensively test the network performance from the integrated LAN controller, but I will say it seemed…like any onboard Realtek controller. It worked as expected.
In all, if you don't need 4K/60 from your USB Type-C hub (which would require HDMI 2.0), the performance and reliability I experienced using the AUKEY CB-C55 makes it a solid option for restoring vital I/O on modern thin-and-light laptops, and at $59.99 it is a good value, too – which of course makes it an even better solution to this Apple-inspired I/O problem.