The owners of the 2015 12-inch MacBook have a small problem. There is only one USB-C port and no USB-A ports. The assumption has been that 3rd party hubs would solve that problem, and now, post CES, new ones are shipping. The Satechi USB-C Hub with pass through power and two USB-A ports is small, light, and does a specific job very well.
Shown in space gray
I say "specific job" because there are several ways to think about a USB-C hub. One extreme is a non-hub, USB-C (male) to USB-A (female) converter cable. The opposite extreme is a "do it all" externally powered hub that has, for example, many USB-A ports, HDMI, audio, Ethernet, and so on. In my mind, these fall into two categories: desktop hubs that stay put and mobile hubs that have the mobile essentials.
The Satechi "Type-C Pass Through USB Hub with USB-C Charging Port" is one of the latter. It comes in the three MacBook colors: space gray, silver and gold. The five ports are:
- Pass through power
- SD card
- Micro SD card
- 2 x USB-A 3.0 ports (5 Gb/s)
No drivers are required for the SD card slots, but they cannot both be used at the same time. This restriction is the same as the previous version which is less expensive and does not have pass through power Watch for this distinction when ordering from somewhere other than Satechi.
The warranty is a customary one year.
Shown with power connected and a USB flash drive
What I Liked
For me, a USB-C hub for use on the go has to be small and light. This hub weighs a mere 25.5 grams (0.9 ounce) and is a mere 83 mm (3.25 inches) long. Yet, it's made of sturdy aluminum, not plastic. It simply fits into the USB-C port on a MacBook and rests beside it with ports at desk level. (See my photo below.)
The other thing I liked is that the Satechi logo is easy to find, on the back (so you know who it came from years later), but the top side has a simple blue LED to let you know it has power. This is a nice design that combines pride with operational modesty.
This design has just enough ports to be useful on the go without going overboard. Pass through power and two USB-A ports are likely all the short-duration mobile user needs.
Finally, this hub supports two simultaneous external hard drives (so long as they have their own power). Plus, unlike some other hubs, this one supports the Apple SuperDrive. And you can even use the USB-A port to charge an iPhone. (iPads are still being tested by Satechi.) The SuperDrive support is a real plus.
What I Did Not Like (Minor Stuff)
The only negative is that the strength of the connection to the MacBook is the friction fit of the USB-C port. That's all one can really ask for in practice. But when removing, say, a USB-A device like a Flash drive, one has to hold onto the Satechi hub firmly to makle sure the tug doesn't pull the whole assembly from the MacBook. I don't see how to solve this minor problem, and it doesn't strike me as a "con." It's just something to be aware of during use.
Also, because of the design, the USB-A ports rest very low on a desktop surface—where the hub should be used anyway for good support. So inserting a USB-A plug (or even the charger cable) means that you need some room to insert the plug, low and square to the hub's ports. Again, this is aesthetics and can't be helped, especially with a computer as thin as the MacBook. (See the photo below.)
All ports are close to the desk surface. Expected with the thin MacBook.
There's a lot to like about this hub. Its weight won't even be noticed in a carry bag. The price is very reasonable. It comes in the three colors that match your MacBook. It has only the essential ports for travel. It supports the Apple SuperDrive. And it has that crucial pass through power.