Hardware

Computer | Peripherie

Long-term practical test: 06.06.–24.10.2020


AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Hub

The Purpose of a USB Hub

Such a USB distributor as the AmazonBasics USB hub type USB-A 3.1 with 10 ports and power adapter is actually ideal for charging and synchronising smartphones and tablets.

This USB hub was to replace my good old D-Link DUB-H7 USB-Hub (USB-A 2.0) with 7 ports and connected my external hard drives via an adapter cable from Apple (USB-C to USB-A) to my new Apple MacBook Air (long-term practical test report in progress).

Compatibility

The versatile hub from AmazonBasics is suitable for USB 3.1, 3.0 and 2.0 and is compatible with macOS and Windows 10.

Warning

When the USB chip in the hub died of heat after just over four months of operation, the file system of my Time Machine backup hard drive also died. The USB hard drive Western Digital Elements Portable, which was configured as a Time Machine hard drive, could no longer be accessed with the on-board macOS tools (hard drive utility). There was no other choice than reformatting with encryption as a Time Machine medium.

If this review had not been almost finished, I would have simply deleted it. But I decided to finish it and leave it as a warning to choose a USB hub very carefully. …

Ordering Process

04.06.2020: Ordered online at Amazon on Thursday evening. Delivery allegedly on Monday, 08.06. by evening at the latest.
05.06.2020: At noon on Friday I receive the shipping confirmation that my shipment is on its way and will arrive on Monday.
06.06.2020: On Saturday morning I receive an e-mail that the shipment will be delivered today. In the early afternoon, the Amazon delivery person hands over the shipment to a neighbour, about which I am also informed by e-mail.

Why purchase a new USB Hub?

Because the MacBook Air has only two USB-C ports for devices with USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3, I won't get far without a USB hub.
My existing external storage devices (6x HDD, 1x SSD) all support the USB standard 3.0 and couldn't show their performance at all on the old USB hub, but the old notebook can only support USB 2.0 anyway.
So the new MacBook Air was the reason for replacing the USB hub. Now I can finally take advantage of the full transfer rate.

Why this USB Hub?

I compared the offers and this device has a very good price-performance ratio and got quite good reviews from customers.
Most other devices only offer USB 3.0 and have a weak power supply.
This 10x USB hub is available in black and silver. I chose the silver one because it fits better to the other devices and the white desk.

The price: 53.99 EUR. Fair for an active hub.

Box Contents

  • AmazonBasic's USB 3.1 hub with 10 USB A ports: 7x USB 3.1 + 3x USB 2.0 as fast charging ports 
    (max. 2.4 A with BC-1.2 compatible devices), which can also be used for data transmission
  • Chicony mains adapter with 65 W (20 V/3.25 A)
  • USB connection cable with USB-A plug for connection with Computer (also available with USB-C)

Now I unpack!

Photo 1: Amazon's shipping box just opened

Photo 1: Amazon's shipping box just opened, the first thing to appear is the USB distributor box (hub).

Photo 2: After lifting off the USB distributor box with the cardboard

Photo 2: After lifting off the USB distributor box with the cardboard, the important rest is visible: Cable and power supply unit

Photo 3: USB cable

Photo 3: In detail, these are a USB cable for connecting the computer and hub, power cable and power supply unit.

Photo 4: The Chicony power supply

Photo 4: without foil. The Chicony power supply is solid and powerful. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the electronics in the hub

Photo 5: Device zoo wired up

Photo 5: Device zoo wired up. Not beautyful, but hardly feasible otherwise because of the rigid short connection cables of the Porsche Design hard drives

Photo 6: a view from the frog's perspective

Photo 6: now a view from the frog's perspective

Tech Specs

Dimensions of the USB hub case:
145 x 44 x 23 mm

Material:
Plastic housing, silver-coloured (top side black, also available completely black)

Connections:
7x USB-A 3.1 with up to 5 GBit/s
3x USB-A 2.0 as fast charging connection each up to 2.4 A with BC-1.2 compatible devices, data transfer also possible

Power adapter:
Manufacturer: Chicony
65 W, 20 V, 3.25 A

Installation/Setup/Configuration

Actually, you can't go wrong with this, you might think …
That's true, as long as you only want to connect one or two external hard drives or other power-hungry devices.
Because each of the seven ports for USB 3.1 delivers a maximum of 900 mW and some external USB hard drives without their own power supply want that as a minimum.

When choosing my external USB hard drives, I have always paid attention to power consumption/heat generation and prefer not to choose the fastest hard drive, but the one that is quiet and stays cool. For that I read the tests in the German computer magazine c‛t.

Practical Experience since 06.06.2020 until 24.10.2020

At first everything worked very well and I was very happy with this new USB distribution box.
But because this box is made of plastic and does not dissipate heat well, the electronics in such a USB hub occasionally get too warm.
This then leads to gradual or sudden heat death. So perhaps it was a design error not to offer this in a metal housing?

In any case, among the many reviews on Amazon, I also found some that reported a defect after three months of operation.
As a precaution, I only used my USB hub with the three most important hard drives and looked around for a better USB hub. But the others were no better!

Even apparently solid USB distributors in metal housings broke after a short time, according to customer reviews, because their designers were not careful enough with the technical construction.

And then what had to happen – also my device done it. After all, it was almost two months later than all the other customers.

Advantages

  • turns one USB port into many
  • ideal for charging and synchronizing smartphones and tablets
  • three USB ports are sufficient to charge Apple devices
  • Charge supply with sufficient power
  • no software or installation necessary
  • compact design
  • suitable for USB 3.1, 3.0 and 2.0
  • compatible with macOS and Windows 10

Disadvantages

  • plastic housing bad for heat dissipation
  • not suitable for several power-hungry devices at the same time
  • Version with USB-A plug 14 EUR more expensive than the one with USB-C plug (why?)

Conclusion

The USB hub has been in continuous operation for four months (on the power supply, not unplugged).

Its case is warm, but not alarmingly warm.
Normal for a plastic case.
An aluminium case would stay cool, as it could easily dissipate the heat caused by the chips.

According to some customer reviews, the hub only lasted three months and then it was defective.
Same here, but only about one month longer.

No recommendation!

Alternatives to this Device

In my research, I had noticed only a few other USB hubs that were positive.
Some seem to be more solidly built, but break more quickly or do not supply enough power, so that external hard drives and USB sticks work unreliably or not at all.
I can't judge the reviewers' test circumstances, but any negative assessment must be taken seriously.

Have now re-checked the offer on Amazon and read reviews – it makes you want to buy it. Lots of junk!
Unfortunately, this AmazonBasics USB hub is no more reliable than the rest.
Now my only option is the Apple Store, let's see what Apple considers suitable and offers in their own shops …

Addendum 28.01.2021: I had another look at Amazon and found an interesting device from Anker: PowerExpand Elite.
This is not an ordinary USB or Thunderbolt hub, but a professional docking station for around 300 EUR:

Anker PowerExpand Elite 13-in-1 Thunderbolt 3

Docking station for USB-C laptops, charging at 85 W for laptop, at 18 W for smartphone, 4K HDMI, 1 Gbps Ethernet, audio, USB-A Gen 1, USB-C Gen 2, SD 4.0.

I have now ordered these and will be testing them. I will share my experiences with them with my readers here in the hardware section very soon.

Preliminary information 13.04.2021: I have been using the Anker docking station for almost 2.5 months! The headphone jack doesn't work (defective or only for direct listening to inserted SD cards? – I haven't tried it yet), but everything else is OK and it doesn't really get hot. The aluminium housing with black cooling fins is effective. I am confident that this device will last much longer than four months (the long-term practical test will document this) …

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