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Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub review: Pocket rocket

Plugable delivers extra Thunderbolt power in a sleek, pocketable hub

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub has all the ports a power user needs for next-gen connectivity and zippy charging, but don’t expect anything other than USB-C links.

Pros

  • +

    Three Thunderbolt 4 ports

  • +

    60W Power Delivery

  • +

    Includes USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter

  • +

    Sharp, compact design

  • +

    15W charging ports

Cons

  • -

    USB-C systems only

  • -

    No USB-A or SD card reader

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 Hub Specs

Price: $199/£209
Ports: 3 x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 1 x Thunderbolt host port w/ 60W PD, 1 x USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter
Supports: Thunderbolt 4 Windows systems (Windows 10 and above), Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 Mac systems (macOS 11 and above)

As the latest and greatest laptops continue to evolve each year, so do their connectivity. The days of needing a power supply input are dwindling; the latest slew of MacBook Pros and Dell XPS notebooks are case in point. Thunderbolt 4 and physical USB-C connectors are slowly taking over, and Plugable is embracing the change with its Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub.

Without any hint of a USB-A port, DisplayPort inputs or even the adored 3.5mm audio jack, Plugable has thrown port variety out the window and went all-in on USB-C connections. That may not sound appealing to many who need a simple USB-A slot to plug in a mouse, keyboard or extra peripherals, but to those with the means to use Thunderbolt 4’s 40Gbps transfer rates and dual 4K resolution monitors at a 60Hz refresh rate, you’re in for a treat.

Plugable’s TBT4-HUB3C hub delivers an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports that can charge devices, transfer data, and link up to fancy external monitors all at the same time. You don’t necessarily need Thunderbolt 4 either, seeing as it’s backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3, along with other USB-C type connections, and connects via USB-C. Is it a hub that can make its way on our best USB Type-C hubs page, though? Read on to find out. 

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub price

The Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub doesn’t come cheap, despite its small selection of ports and compact size. While $199/£209 is nothing to sneeze at, it’s still considerably cheaper than bigger Thunderbolt 4 docking stations on the market, including the $289.99 Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station and $299.99 Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station. However, not having any other ports, apart from a USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter, is a bit of a raw deal. 

(Image credit: Future)

Still, this all depends on what you really need. Owners of Thunderbolt 4-friendly laptops, such as the MacBook Pro 14 and Dell XPS 13, may not be keen on getting PC peripherals, as their keyboards, touchpads and storage are already high quality. This just leaves room for a way to hook up external displays and transfer data from one device to another. That’s exactly what Thunderbolt excels at. If that’s the only form of connectivity you need, and want the best there is right now, Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub is a good option.

Last year, I reviewed the $199 Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock, which is equipped with three Thunderbolt 4 ports and a USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port. At the time, not many devices had Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, making it a less desirable purchase. Now, compared to Plugable’s identically priced hub, Anker’s mini dock has a lot more value with its extra Thunderbolt 4 port and USB-A input. 

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub design

Plugable has taken a few design cues from slim ultrabooks and Macbooks by capturing mighty power and squeezing it into a pocketable, compact device. At the end of the day, it is only a few slots in a grey metallic block, but it's a small, sleek device that will easily slip into any desk setup. 

(Image credit: Future)

Docking stations and hubs should be more about size than design, but I appreciate the dark-grey aluminium finish that offers a professional-type appeal. Sure, the white “plugable” and “Thunderbolt” logo emblazoned on the front are far from the definition of subtle, but the hub’s smaller size means it can be tucked away on your desk without ever being looked at. Plus, its four rubberized feet mean it will stick to its spot without being pushed around by other connections.

The dock can easily slip into a laptop bag if you’re on the move, but it won’t work unless it's plugged up to its 110W power adapter. This makes it more of a stationary docking station rather than a portable USB-C hub, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t easily transported. Its size doesn’t take up much desk real estate, and considering many work-from-home setups can be a crowded jumble of wires and devices, it’s handy to have a hub that cleans up a riddle of wires without taking up a noticeable portion of space, too.

(Image credit: Future)

The Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub places its Thunderbolt host port at the front, making it easy to connect to a host laptop. The rest of the Thunderbolt 4 ports are placed at the rear, making it easy to have wires trail off behind a desk or monitor seeing as they would be used for more permanent connections. That said, it would have been nice to see an extra port at the front. 

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub ports

Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub has exactly what it says on the tin: Thunderbolt 4 ports and nothing else. This is great for users with devices that can fully utilize these ports, but it would also be nice to see an extra USB-A or SD card slot thrown in.

On the front, there’s a Thunderbolt host port to connect to laptops. It supports 60W Power Delivery, meaning users can connect to monitors and transfer files on the fly while charging their devices. It’s incredibly handy, as it means I didn’t need to use another power outlet to charge my laptop — all you need is one connection.

(Image credit: Future)

At the back, there are three Thunderbolt 4 ports that support up to 40Gbps transfer speeds and each act as a 15W charging port for other devices, including smartphones and tablets. While the Thunderbolt 4 hub allows users to connect dual 4K displays to a host device, the hub can also be used to charge devices like a simple charging hub, albeit an overpriced one.

(Image credit: Future)

Thanks to the USB-C physical connector, the docking station pairs great with the best USB-C monitors. Thunderbolt 4 sends a video signal to two 4K displays, or to one 8K display, so if you have the money, it might be time for a monitor upgrade. Not every monitor has a USB-C input to make use of Thunderbolt 4’s DisplayPort support, so I’m happy to see Plugable include a USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter. 

Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub performance

Since the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub is equipped with the power of next-gen connectivity, it didn’t come as a surprise it could charge, transfer files, and connect to multiple devices without hesitation.

With the 110W power adapter plugged in, the Thunderbolt 4 upstream port supports up to 60W Power Delivery for charging, meaning it could easily power and charge a Dell Latitude laptop and the more power-demanding Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2021). While I didn’t see much difference in charging capabilities, bar the slightly faster charging speed, it’s worth noting that the Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock delivers 85W Power Delivery. 

(Image credit: Future)

In order to test the transfer file speeds of the hub’s Thunderbolt 4 power, I transferred Monster Hunter Rise (around 23GB) in under 30 seconds, which is similar to the speeds offered with Anker’s Mini Dock (around 20 seconds with a 20GB file). I was also able to easily transfer photos from my iPhone and iPad thanks to the USB-C connections. Plus, my smartphone and tablet were charging via the 15W USB-C port at fast speeds.

I usually use a HyperX Alloy Origins 60, HyperX Cloud II Wireless headphones via USB-A stick, and Razer Naga Pro mouse plugged in via USB-A stick.Without a USB-A port in sight, I was still connecting the rest of my peripherals on my laptop. That kind of defeats the purpose of a docking station for some, but there’s ports on a laptop for a reason, too. However, for a pricey docking station, Plugable could have fit a few more ports.

(Image credit: Future)

Also, the Thunderbolt 4 hub doesn’t have an SD card reader included. This is a sorely missed port, especially for professionals when transferring data or storing photos. Laptops such as the Dell XPS 13 don’t have an SD card reader, and owners usually seek one in a docking station.

While there may not be many with dual 4K monitors, or even an 8K monitor, Plugable’s hub can support them. Even better, the included USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter is useful when connecting to displays with no USB-C connections. I could connect to my colleague’s Asus monitor setup and even a 4K Sharp TV.

It’s worth noting that M1 Macs will only support one external display, and Pluggable states users will see “limited functionality with USB-C 3.2 systems” and it is “not recommended for use with Thunderbolt 3 Windows systems.” While my setup can’t take full advantage of Thunderbolt 4, I didn’t see any issues with the USB-C 3.2 on my Asus laptop. 

Bottom line

If you’re in the market for a laptop with seamless connection speeds, but want a few more ports and an easy way to charge multiple devices at the same time, the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Hub has your back. Not only is it a small accessory that will easily fit on anyone’s desk, but it's a pocketable powerhouse that makes the most out of anything with a USB-C port.

The catch? No other ports. USB-C hubs and docking stations may be changing with the rapid evolution of connectivity, but that doesn’t mean the accessories that connect to them are making the same changes. USB-A is still a widely used form of connectivity. Just because Thunderbolt 4 is the latest and greatest doesn’t mean it can easily connect with keyboards, SD cards, headphones, and more.

However, for those who just need extra Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 power, Plugable’s hub will do the job. If you are looking for an extra USB-A port and Thunderbolt port, Anker’s PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is a great option. For an additional seven ports and a much more versatile docking station, check out Anker’s 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 docking station.

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.