By November 15, 2011

Plugable Technologies USB 2.0 10 Port Powered Hub Review

“Hello? Hello? Damn Skype.”

This was approximately 84% of my phone conversations on Skype at one point or another. I have a USB headset with a microphone that I use to chat with my friends while we play games. Unfortunately, the service cut out a lot and was quirky in general. Sometimes Skype wouldn’t recognize my headset; sometimes I could hear people, but I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was near the end of my patience.

About the same time I picked up an Apple iPad2 for work. I usually charge my mobile devices (Kindle, HTC Droid Incredible, MP3 players, etc) via USB instead of plugging in a ton of wall wart chargers. However, I’d heard that the iPad2 needed more juice than a typical USB hub would offer. I needed more USB ports anyway, and this gave me a chance to review something on Gibberish :).

I knew I needed a USB hub that was “powered,” meaning that it plugged into the wall. I figured if I could plug just the hub in and then forgo all of my device-specific chargers I’d be coming out ahead. After reading about what powered hubs didn’t have enough power to recharge an iPad, I bought the Plugable Technologies USB 2.0 10 port hub.

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Overview

At 6″ long by 3″ wide by 1″ thick, the Plugable Technologies hub needs a bit more dedicated room than an average USB hub. I had my old hub up on the top part of my desk; this made it easy to plug in USB devices like my headset or a microSD to USB card reader. The PT hub is too large for that and sits on the lower part of my desk about a yard away. Not a big inconvenience, but less convenient than before. The short power cord is another limitation.

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There are six ports up front. As you can see, they are lit by the blue LED that runs across the top of the hub. The LED is pretty bright, and some folks on Amazon complained about it. This doesn’t bother me, but if you keep your computer in your bedroom or hook it up to an HTPC this may be an issue for you.

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There are four ports on the back. Two are nifty; they flip up to make access easier. I normally plug my microSD to USB card reader in the left-hand port.

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Performance

Well, the good news and the bad news. The good news is that my Skype problems disappeared. Turns out it wasn’t the software at all, but the insufficient power running through my old hub. Calls are more consistent than before.

The bad news is that the Plugable Technologies doesn’t have enough power to charge an iPad2. It can trickle charge it — essentially, it will charge if the screen is off — but this doesn’t really help me while I’m using it. Nice job, Apple!

Conclusion

At about $25 via Amazon Prime, the Plugable Technologies hub isn’t super expensive. However, it failed to do what I bought it for. The Skype performance is a nice consolation prize, but if you’re trying to charge your iPad2 without sacrificing ports on your computer you will have to keep looking.

Not Recommended … unless you just want a good port replicator, and then: recommended!

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