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Expanding USB3 Ports: TRIPP LITE 7+1 USB3 with iPad Charging
Consider how to attach the following assortment of USB devices (some are USB3 and some are USB2):
- Keyboard (with mouse attached to keyboard, saving 1 port).
- Color calibration puck for display calibration.
- Lexar USB3 card reader (up to 300 MB/sec for full speed with dual cards).
- Digital cameras that charge by USB cable (Ricoh GR, Sony RX100, Sony RX1R, etc).
- iPad (high current draw).
- Two iPhones.
- Two bike computers for downloading and charging: SRM PC7, Garmin Edge 500).
- Two USB3 SSDs.
- At least one unused port for other transient uses (e.g., USB stick or whatever).
- Printer(s), though MPG uses ethernet, some users use USB3 for printing.
That makes 12 or more devices, a list that could expand over time, yet no Mac has more than four USB ports.
- Some of those devices need USB3 to function at full speed; a USB2 hub would severely degrade performance.
- A few require high current draw (iPad in particular).
- Drives (storage) should ideally be plugged directly into the Mac, so that means that two of four ports are essentially reserved (meaning as the MPG system is used), leaving only two ports.
MPG wanted a unit that could support a variety of devices with reasonable charging power as well as supporting high speed devices like card readers.
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station offers three (3) ports via its Thunderbolt to the Mac Pro, but three ports isn’t enough and none of them can charge an iPad.
A search turned up a wide variety of products, all problematic in various ways:
- Many USB expansion hubs are USB 2.0, or a confusing mix of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. MPG wanted a hub that could support USB 3.0 on all ports so that confusing “juggling” between ports need not be done.
- Many USB expansion hubs have too few ports (e.g. four or five ports).
- Many USB expansion hubs cannot deliver 900 mA to regular ports (let alone the 2 amps or so needed for an iPad), making their safety and efficacy dubious if/when too many devices are drawing too much power.
- Cheap USB expansion hubs look to have garbage-bin power supplies. Reliability counts, and that starts with a decent power supply.
- Many hubs have an godawful assortment of blinking lights or ungainly form factor or other annoying visual issues.
Solution: TRIPP LITE 7-Port USB 3.0 charging hub
A huge proliferation of USB expansion hubs all failed to rise above the issues noted above. But the TRIPP LITE unit detailed here brought all the required features together. Comments based on usage with a 2013 Mac Pro:
- The unit is clean visually; while it is plastic, it is sturdy plastic.
- The included power supply is indeed rated for 4 amps.
- There is only one green LED light—perfect since MPG really dislikes glowing LEDs at night. This one is easy to tape over for no light pollution.
- The connecting end (back to Mac) uses the robust square-type USB connector and the cable is nicely sturdy.
- Tested by plugging the TRIPP LITE unit into a USB3 port on the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station, thus netting the 7 ports of the TRIPP LITE + 2 remaining of the Caldigit for a total of 9 USB3 ports (plus the 1 high power power for charging on the TRIPP LITE)>
- Apple iPad 2 charges on the 2A charger port. One disappointment is that this high current port is a “dumb” (non data) port; it charges but that’s all it does; no connectivity to Mac. To sync the iPad requires plugging it into any of the other ports.
- iPhones charge and sync perfectly on regular ports.
- Keyboard (wired) and mouse (wired) work perfectly.
- High speed card readers hit the maximum speed possible (150 MB/sec for a fast Toshiba CompactFlash card), showing that data is passed through at full speed.
As per manufacturer.
- USB 3.0 ports support 5Gbps transfer speeds when plugged into a USB 3.0 computer and peripheral
- Charging port provides 5V,2A for tablet ( iPad ) full battery charging
- USB 3.0 ports support up to 900mA per port
- The included external power supply provides 4A of power, to be shared between the hub ports (up to 2A for iPad charging port )
- No software or drivers required
- Overcurrent protection
- Windows (compatible with Windows 8) and Mac compatible