The Arc Hub is the best USB-C hub for right now
20 May 2017 12:18:34
Late last year, we showed you the Arc Hub, a circular USB-C hub we hoped would help improve the pitiful plight of third-party USB-C hubs currently on the market. After owning a 12-inch MacBook for two years now, I can tell you the only reliable option for a USB-C hub has been Apple’s $69 USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter, which only comes with a HDMI and USB-A port, alongside the pass through USB-C port for charging. It’s not ideal.
Thankfully, the Arc Hub looks to be the answer — at least in the short term — to the USB-C hub problem.
The Arc Hub, designed by Bourge Design, is the best USB-C hub available right now, although it’s not perfect. It’s difficult to use on the go, and with only one usable USB-C port (and only for charging) it will probably be outdated in a couple years. But if you need a USB-C hub today, this is your best bet.
What is it?
The Arc Hub features two USB-C ports (one to connect to your device, one for pass-through charging), two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, MiniDisplayPort, and an SD card reader all contained in a circular aluminum enclosure.
Now, at first glance, the circular design seems like it would be an annoying hassle with cords sprayed around everywhere, but in use it actually hasn’t been an issue at all, thanks to the fact that all of the ports are housed on the left side of the Hub.
My daily setup is a 34-inch ultra-wide monitor at 1440p, an external hard drive, an iPhone charger, and my MacBook charger. With Apple’s adapter, I couldn’t have the external drive and the iPhone charger plugged in at the same time, but the Arc Hub makes it easier. And thanks to the circular design, the Macbook cable points to the back of my desk, the iPhone charger to the front, and everything else to the left side keeping the cord clutter away from my work space.
Data transfer speeds are great, the SD card reader — consistently the biggest flaw in third party USB-C hubs — has worked quickly and flawlessly for me, transferring just over 4GB of photos in under a minute. The HDMI 1.2 port supports 4K monitors at 30hz, while the MiniDisplay Port 1.4 supports 4K displays at 60hz. Dual monitors are supported via the two ports, but only one monitor can run at 4K (the other will be downgraded to 1080p).
My favorite feature of the Arc Hub is that it doesn’t overheat. I’ve had multiple USB-C hubs overheat to obscene temperatures while plugged into my MacBook, and the Arc Hub barely gets warm. Now, that isn’t really a feature at all, but it conveys how truly awful the current crop of third-party USB-C hubs have been for the past two years.
The biggest downside of the Arc Hub is the lack of USB-C ports you can use for anything but charging. USB-C is the future, and if you have a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and you want to charge it while your computer is connected, you’re out of luck (unless you get an adapter). USB-C monitors are also a no go.
At a certain point you just run out of space for ports, and the Arc Hub already has seven, so maybe it wasn’t an oversight. But just one extra USB-C port would make this the perfect desk hub.
The other issue is portability. The Arc Hub is quite small and easy to carry around, but the circular design finally backfires if you don’t have a desk to place it on. Working with the Arc Hub with your laptop sitting on your legs for example, is an extreme challenge. The Hub is too heavy to dangle in the air like Apple’s adapter can, and the port layout is more challenging to use without a flat surface.
Should You Buy It?
Despite those negatives, I would still have to recommend the Arc Hub for anyone who doesn’t have a USB-C monitor or doesn’t spend the majority of their time without access to a desk. The Arc Hub is currently available for pre-order for $119, with orders being delivered by early July. Once pre-orders are completed, the Arc Hub will cost $134 when it’s officially released in late July.