Review: NewerTech and Targus USB Hubs For Gifts

USB hubs make your life easier. (December 1st, 2011)

USB hubs make your life easier because you no longer have to plug and unplug devices. You can leave external hard drives and memory sticks plugged in and daisy chain up to 128 devices.

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Newer Technology & Targus Group

Price: $27.95 - $59.99 US

The Good

  • See each product below.

The Bad

  • See each product below.

A useful holiday present to resolve an ongoing frustration is a multi-port hub. Whether as a stocking stuffer, Chanukah present, or another holiday gift, these useful devices make your life easier. They can be used daily or when traveling, to expand available storage and ease desktop frustration.

If you know someone who makes regular backups on an external drive, or keeps their music, photos, or movies on an external drive, then you know someone who, like me, feels like a 1940s telephone operator. I play the plug and unplug game with peripheral devices on a daily basis, because the Mac does not come with enough USB ports. (My mid 2007 iMac has only three.)

I tested three contenders that are perfectly suited for the task at hand. Two are 7-port hubs from Targus and Newer Technology, and the third is a 4-port hub from Targus. My first pick for price and feature set is the 7-port NewerTech hub, with the Targus 7-port hub coming in at a close, but expensive second.

Targus Desktop USB 2.0 7-Port Hub

The Targus Desktop USB 2.0 7-Port Hub with Audio Pass-Through comes in that horrid inflexible plastic packaging whose only redeeming value in this product is a 1/2-circle pull-tab. It lets you wrestle the plastic off with only marginally endangering the skin on your hands.

I had high hopes for this multi-port hub with audio and two high-powered ports because it comes in a stand, and looks robust. My first impression is that its build quality is flimsy. The stand is little better than the plastic used in a coffee cup lid and the unit slipped off my desk from the weight of plugging in the power supply. Yet, it's how the hub stands up to its intended use that is of more importance and the Targus performed flawlessly.

The power supply has enough amperage to deliver 500mA to each of five USB ports, plus 1000mA to the two high-powered ports. Alas, this hub predates the iPad and will not charge one at normal speed. The 1000mA high-powered ports continue to power devices when your Mac is shut down. This means you can charge an iPod or iPhone, but not an iPad after shut down.

Front of Hub

Front of of 7-Port Hub


The Targus USB 2.0 7-Port Hub is more convenient to use than the others because the ports are spaced wider apart. I can plug in my wide portable SD card reader without the need to unplug a device from the port next to it. With two ports on the top, two on the front, and four on the back, it makes leaving some cords plugged in all the time and switching other cords easier. I wish they'd put that much thought into the power supply though. The blades on the power supply are oriented in such a way that it eats up two outlets in a normal surge protection power strip.

Back of Hub

Back of 7-Port Hub


This black and silver hub also includes audio ports, which makes it easier to plug in a headphone or microphone-no more fumbling with the back of the machine. I could use my Dragon Dictate USB microphone headset while plugged into this hub, but it didn't work when plugged into the NewerTech hub.

The Targus 7-port hub also has green LED lights to let you know which ports are active, but they are dim so they don't shine in your eyes. Targus claims the hub can be used vertically or horizontally, but it does not sit flat when in a horizontal position. The rounded sides make the hub rock back and forth and prevent it from sitting flat.

 My Desk with Hub

My Desk with 7-Port Hub


I used this hub filled to capacity and even daisy chained a second hub with no performance problems. It weighs only 3.8 oz, and is compatible with Windows and Mac OS X 10.4 and up. All these features come at a premium price of $52.99, which makes it a 4-star product.

Pros

- Works well.
- Active ports light up.
- Small footprint.
- Audio pass-through ports.

Cons

- Stand is too light.
- Expensive.
- Power supply blades block other plugs.

NewerTech Seven Port USB 2.0 Powered Hub

The second contender is the NewerTech Seven Port USB 2.0 Powered Hub. It is more robust than the Targus 7-port hub, and much smaller, so that it fits under your iMac. It has an aluminum band around it, which makes it heavier and looks like it may suffer through more abuse then the Targus 7-port hub. As it happens, I received this hub first and have used it a bit longer and it works flawlessly. I have only a couple of minor complaints.

7porthub box

The Newer Technology 7 port hub is light and therefore moves around a lot when plugging and unplugging cords. I accidentally disconnected a mounted hard drive more than once while trying to put an SD card reader into a port on the opposite end. The solution is to make sure that everything you want to use is plugged in before you turn anything on or to hold the hub steady so it doesn't move. Double-sided tape or a piece of Velcro with adhesive on the back on each side solves that problem easily, but that may leave marks on your desk.

Back of Hub

Back of Hub


There are two horizontal ports on the back and four vertically oriented ports on the front, so that any device, including a thick USB stick can find a comfortable port. Even though it's a powered hub, each port delivers 500mA and therefore it does not deliver enough power to charge an iPad. The included 3.5amp power supply delivers enough power to each port, so that you can use it with any bus-powered or plugged in hard drive. The hub is 3.125" x 1.8125" x 0.8125" and weighs 11.3 oz, which makes it a little heavy to carry around, but perfect as a desktop companion. It comes with a double-shielded USB 2.0/1.1 A-B connecting cable and a power supply about the same size as the hub.

Front of Hub

Front of Hub


I often keep two desktop hard drives and two portable drives plugged in and mounted at the same time without a hitch. This hub is compatible with OS 9 and Mac OS X and Windows. The Newer Technology 7 port hub only costs $27.95, so is a good deal for price and functionality. I give this robust small device 4.5 stars.

Pros

- Works flawlessly.
- Ports oriented so you can plug in any device.
- Reasonable price.
- Small.
- Power supply blades don't block other plugs.

Cons

- Not compatible with the Mac Pro.

Targus 4-Port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Hub

The newest offering in the hub universe is the sleek Targus 4-Port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Hub. While the Mac does not yet support USB 3, this hub drops down to USB 2 without any problems. The included cable connects to the hub with a USB 3 plug on one end and a convertible USB 3 to 2 on the other end. The included USB cable is nice and long so you don't have to wrestle with short cords. If your computer supports USB 3, this hub is capable of transfer speeds up to 615MB/sec.

Front of Hub

Front of Hub With Lights


This 4-port hub is small and sturdy with all four ports on the front. As with the Targus 7-port hub, it includes small, unobtrusive lights to show which ports are active. Even though it has rubber feet, its lightweight doesn't prevent it from sliding around if you hit the cord or try to plug in another device. It is also flat, so thicker USB sticks my not plug easily into it. I cannot use it with my SD card reader without unplugging whatever is in the two adjacent ports.

The nice bit is that of the three hubs, this one is easiest to pack and tote around. The power supply is much heavier than the 0.18 lb hub, but you don't have to carry it around. The hub works fine without the power supply, but it will not power devices that need the power boost, such as a powered hard drive.

 Whole Package

Whole Package


The shiny black 1.3" x 3.3" x 0.5" Targus 4-Port USB 3.0 is the most aesthetically pleasing of this set of hubs, but it's feature set comes at a premium $59.99 price. Unless your machine can support USB 3, I think this hub is too expensive for most Mac users and therefore give it a 3.5 star rating.

Pros

- Small and portable.
- Active ports light up.
- Long USB cable included.
- Works without power supply.

Cons

- Expensive.
- Ports are too close together.
- Power supply blades block other plugs.


by ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor


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