Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


This $30 USB hub finally ended my MacBook port struggle

The Plugable 5-in-1 adapter gives the latest MacBooks extra ports without blocking the one that matters the most.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
The Plugable 5-in-1 USB port attached to a MacBook.
June Wan/ZDNET

If you've shopped for a MacBook over the past eight years, then you know full well how stingy Apple has been with ports. (Or, should I say, "port" if you bought the 12-inch MacBook as I did.) 

I was still getting through high school and college when I splurged on the paper-thin, 12-inch MacBook, and paid a little more when I eventually upgraded to the 13-inch MacBook Pro a few years later. Through it all, dongles, adapters, and hubs were my best friend. An expensive one at that.

Also: The best laptops, tested and reviewed by experts

Even today with Apple finally bringing back legacy ports like HDMI, MagSafe, and an SD card slot, there's still a functional void left to be filled that third-party accessory makers seem to be doing a better job at than Apple itself. Fortunately, they're not as pricey as they once were, and I may have just found the perfect one for my 16-inch MacBook Pro.

View at Amazon

For how small the Plugable adapter is, there's a lot to dig into as far as design and functionality go. 

To start, the hub has five ports in total: A USB-C Thunderbolt 4 that's capable of up to 100W passthrough charging, two USB-A 3.0, a combination audio port, and a Gigabit Ethernet slot for wired internet connection. The latter of which is crucial for users who prefer (and require) the stability and speeds of a local connection versus wireless. 

Also: How to convert your home's old TV cable into powerful Ethernet lines

Apple sells its own USB-C to Ethernet dongle, but that alone will set you back $28. This multi-port adapter can be had for $33 (or $31 if you use the Amazon discount coupon that's active at the time of writing).

Plugable has designed the adapter to work specifically with MacBooks that operate on Apple's own silicon, meaning anything with an M1 or M2 chip inside, or was released within the past two years. But given the even spacing of its dual USB-C input, I also tested the hub with my older, Intel-powered MacBook Pro, and it still worked. 

Also: My favorite USB-C accessory of all time scores a magnetic upgrade

In fact, the hub leveled just enough to rest on a surface when attached to the thinner MacBook (see below), preventing any tension issues that you'd otherwise face with dangling adapters. You'll just have to ignore the odd indent on the left side that leads to nothing.

Plugable USB-C hub on a MacBook Pro 13-inch

The uniquely designed, left-side indent is for you to charge via MagSafe without removing the adapter.

June Wan/ZDNET

The rest of the specs include 40Gbps data transfer and support for up to a 6K, 60Hz display. I've been comfortably using the adapter to connect my MacBook Pro to a 32-inch, 1440p, 144Hz display, for what it's worth. No dropped frames or anything. The only caveat to the adapter really is that you're sacrificing two of the laptop's existing USB-C ports, though it makes up for one of them with the USB4 that's attached. 

Also: The best curved monitors you can buy

Call me old school but I've always had an affinity for wired peripherals, whether it's a mechanical keyboard or a mouse. Nothing beats technology that you don't have to constantly recharge. That's why the two USB-A ports on the hub are crucial for my workflow. In fact, even when I opt for a wireless option, the slots come in handy for unifying receivers and dongles.

All this is to say that the Plugable 5-in-1 USB hub has become a mainstay in my everyday carry. The accessory is thought out, practical to use, and complements the new MacBook Pros and M2 MacBook Air's existing lineup of ports. The $30 price range is the cherry on top.

Editorial standards