My main Mac is a 2016 MacBook Pro, which isn’t ideal. The problem isn’t really the laptop itself, it’s that my needs have changed. You see, in 2016 I was commuting to downtown Chicago every day and I wanted a portable Mac for working in Xcode and other tasks on the go.
Now, I work from home and my MacBook Pro sits in clamshell mode most of the time. It’s handy to have the MacBook to take with me when I need it, but that’s far less frequent than it used to be. Instead, my Mac drives a 27” LG 4K display, is connected to Ethernet, speakers, a Luna Display dongle, my podcasting microphone, and various other peripherals I need from time to time.
The trouble with the setup is that I quickly ran out of USB-C ports even though my MacBook Pro has four. I’ve tried several different configurations to streamline my setup, but none were quite right. Now though, I’ve finally found a solution that comes closest to meeting my needs and has the added benefit of working well with my iPad Pro. With a couple of minor caveats, the HyperDrive Slim 8-in-1 USB-C Hub is the best solution I’ve tried.
The HyperDrive Slim 8-in-1 plugs into one USB-C port on your Mac and features:
- 1 USB-C port with Power Delivery, but that isn’t Thunderbolt compatible
- 2 USB-A 3.1 ports with 5Gbps throughput
- an Ethernet jack
- miniDisplayPort (4K at 30Hz)
- HDMI (4K at 30Hz)
- an SD card slot
- a microSD card slot
The specs compare favorably with the OWC Travel Dock that Federico reviewed in December with the addition of Ethernet, a second USB-A port, miniDisplayPort, and a microSD slot.
I picked the 8-in-1 model because it’s so small. HyperDrive also offers an 11-in-1 model that adds another USB-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and VGA video out, but it’s substantially larger than the 8-in-1, which looks like it’s driven primarily by the VGA port, which I don’t need. I’d love the audio out to drive my speakers and another USB-A port would be nice, but on balance, I’m happy that I picked the slimmer model.
The design of the 8-in-1 is nice but suffers a little aesthetically from the off-center black plastic square you can see in the overhead photos I took. That black square is a little plastic door that pops up on a hinge to provide access to the Ethernet jack. It’s a tight fit, which makes inserting a cable a little tougher than I’d like, and I wonder about the longevity of that little door, but it’s a compromise made to keep the dongle thinner than it would otherwise be, so I can live with it.
Otherwise, the mostly aluminum body of the 8-in-1 feels solid and durable. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, but it’s not the kind of thing I would think twice about throwing in the bottom of a bag with other items. I also appreciate the subtle blue light that shines through one corner of the black plastic side of the 8-in-1 where the USB-C cable emerges from the body of the device. It’s an effective way of seeing that your Mac is supplying power to the 8-in-1, which many similar hubs don’t do.
The Slim 8-in-1’s limitations are worth keeping in mind. Both video ports are limited to 4K at 30Hz and they can not be used to extend your Mac’s display. If you plug two displays into the 8-in-1 the displays mirror each other. In addition, the USB-A ports are version 3.1 Gen 1 ports so they support 5Gbps throughput as opposed to the 10Gbps available with Gen 2. Also, the USB-C port delivers power only and does not support Thunderbolt devices. According to HyperDrive, if you use the 8-in-1 with an 87W Apple charger, it delivers 60W to a MacBook Pro, and a 61W Apple charger delivers 49W to a MacBook Pro.
The 8-in-1’s cord is shorter than I’d like too. I used to keep my MacBook Pro sitting on a Twelve South HiRise. However, even at that modest height, the 8-in-1 dangles mid-air, unable to sit flat on the desk. I ditched the Hi-Rise realizing that I don’t need it because I don’t open my Mac very often when it’s connected to my display, but the length of the cord is limiting. It’s so short that it barely lays flat when connected to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro when it’s in a Smart Keyboard Folio case. When the 8-in-1 is used with an iPad in a stand like the one I use that’s made by Viozon, it simply dangles to the side.
Despite some limitations and quirks though, I’ve been happy with the 8-in-1 in day-to-day usage. The Ethernet port delivers the promised speed, the USB-C port supplies enough power to run everything I attach to it and keep my MacBook Pro fully-charged, and images and video transfer quickly from the SD and microSD slots. The setup also gives me the option to easily unplug from my MacBook and switch to my iPad Pro using it with my large display and fast Ethernet connection while it charges.
Before the HyperDrive 8-in-1, I was using a USB-C dongle by Anker that only included an Ethernet and two USB-A ports. It was inexpensive and worked well, but its functionality was much more limited, it had about the same footprint as the 8-in-1, and it was substantially thicker. I’ve also tried HyperDrive’s combination Qi charger and USB-C hub and didn’t like it. Among other things, it feels less solidly built, is bulky, and the Qi charging power varies depending on what is plugged into the hub resulting in slower 5W charging much of the time.
In contrast, the 8-in-1 fits better with my current setup. About the only port I don’t expect to use much is one of the video ports, but I’ve been able to move charging, Ethernet, video out, and USB-A to a single USB-C port, leaving the others open for USB-C external storage and my Luna Display. My setup is fairly typical, so I expect the 8-in-1 would work for a lot of MacStories readers, but it’s important to consider the peripherals you use before committing to a USB-C hub. If you do a lot of presentations and need a VGA connector now and then, consider the 11-in-1. Alternatively, if you have fewer gadgets hanging off of your Mac than I do, you might be able to get away with an even slimmer hub that costs less.
Whichever combination of connections you need though, if you plan to use a HyperDrive hub with a Mac and an iPad Pro, I recommend one of the hubs that includes a short USB-C cable. It’s not elegant to have it dangling from your iPad, but it’s the easiest way to move between a Mac and iPad Pro, which will make it more useful to you in the long run than a hub that sits flush against the side of your Mac or iPad and either works with only one of those devices or awkwardly with both.