“Active powered” USB hubs have their own power, through an adaptor that one can just plug into a power strip, and a separate data cable that goes into the computer.T
he way I discovered the usefulness of USB hubs—I know I’m late to this small joy—was sort of roundabout. I was looking for a way to ensure that my bus-powered audio interface wouldn’t sap my laptop’s battery.
I needed not only a way to independently power the audio interface with the correct ratings, but also connect it to my laptop for recordings and so on.
That’s how I stumbled upon “active powered” USB hubs that have their own power, through an adaptor that one can just plug into a power strip, and a separate data cable that goes into the computer.
The one I settled on is a brand called QuantumZERO (QZ), and the particular model is the QZ-HB05, which has four USB 3.1 Gen 1 type A input ports, and one USB 3.1 Gen 1 type B output port. It is independently powered via a 12V 2A adaptor. The company claims data transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps.
It runs on the VIA VL813 chipset, which the chipmaker VIA Labs says is a single-chip solution ideal for low-power applications, and also supports high data transfer rates.
In the box, you get the hub, the power adaptor, and a USB cable with type A going into the computer, so if you have a laptop with only type C ports, like then new MacBooks, this one won’t work for you. The hub weighs just over 80 grams and is made in Vietnam.
On Amazon, the QZ-HB05 is priced at `1,799. It’s worth it. For the price, hub feels a bit plasticky but that isn’t a deal breaker. It’s sturdy enough.
Being backward compatible with USB 2.0, the hub works out-of-the-box. However, QZ recommends that Windows users instal the latest manufacturer USB 3.1 GEN1 host-controller drivers and Windows Updates for best results.
And Apple Mac OS X and Linux/Unix systems require latest operating system updates for best compatibility. I’ve only used it with my 2017 MacBook Air so far.
It works well with my Audient EVO 4 interface, giving it all the juice needed to send phantom power to two microphones. I’ve also connected a full-sized basic wired Windows keyboard from Logitech to use with my MacBook—yes, I’m doing that, with the laptop raised atop a Portronics K3 stand, so that I can sit up and look ahead, good for the spine.
Two last points: Not all devices will work with these kinds of hubs, and second, make sure you’re connecting devices that draw less or only as much power as the hub can supply.
On the whole, these hubs allow you to connect a host of peripherals at once, so can you to do more, without running out of USB slots.