Congratulations: You just bought a new laptop or smartphone. But then you get a big surprise... it comes equipped with the new USB-C port, which doesn't work with any of the USB cables you already own.
"Another type of USB connector?!" you exclaim with exasperation. "What's wrong with the old kind? It worked just fine!"
Your point is duly noted. But there's no stopping progress, and USB-C is progress. It allows for thinner, lighter computers, (much) faster data transfers, and an end to struggling with the old almost-but-not-quite-symmetric USB port that invariably caused you to insert it the wrong way every single time. USB-C is fully symmetric and goes in either way. (Cue fireworks and balloon drop.)
But here's the rub. All your peripherals have old-style USB connections. You might have the budget for a new computer, but you're not ready to toss out all the important stuff that goes with it just because of a new type of USB. Enter the dongle.
USB-C dongles enable you to connect your USB-C port to literally just about anything. Name the type of connection and there's a dongle for it. The first computer to require dongles is the new MacBook Pro which does away with all other connections in favor of USB-C. While Apple makes its own dongles, there are third-party providers that give you even more options. Here we look at three brands that provide quality dongles.
The first, the Dell Adapter, offers four different ports: HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and USB 3.0, making it possible to connect to the Internet via Ethernet cable, to computer monitors and HDTVs and to anything that requires the (now) older standard USB port. The device measures roughly 2 1/2 inches square and 0.75 inches deep. A rubberized, flexible USB-C connection cable folds neatly into the hub's back for protection while on the move.
Overall, I liked the device, particularly its Ethernet port. One thing to consider is that the Dell Adapter places two ports on either side of the hub. This means that, more than likely, two connecting cables will extend towards your seat. If you like having all your wires behind your computer and out of sight, this is a problem. The Dell Adapter retails for $75.
The Dell Power Companion is a 12,000 mAH battery that delivers extra juice through your USB-C port and is specifically designed for Dell products.
It's powerful enough to charge your laptop and two mobile devices simultaneously. Two onboard USB Type A ports are included for that purpose. The device comes with a power-in cable and power-out cable and two ferrite cores. It charges easily from any Dell power adapter.
The Dell Power Companion is designed to work with select Dell Notebooks and Ultrabooks. It delivers in-bag charging so your devices are ready when you need them. It's also designed specifically to fit in certain Dell backpacks and briefcases. In short, if you have a Dell with a USB-C port, this is a a great battery. The Dell Power Companion retails for $99.
Dell's USB-C to HDMI adapter connects your laptop or desktop to a monitor or TV. It supports resolution up to 4096 x 2160 and retails for $40. If you have a monitor that you need to connect this is a simple, no-fuss solution.
Anker is best known for its portable batteries, but the company has clearly been inspired by the emergence of USB-C, and has produced some of the nicest-looking adapters on the market.
Anker keeps its dongles small and inexpensive. Take its USB-C to Micro USB adapter which comes in a two-pack and retails for $8. You'd barely notice they're attached to your computer and there's no need to take them out when you're on the go.
Anker also sells a single USB-C to USB 3.0 cable for $9. The cable is rubberized, flexible and measures 5-inches. It's long enough so you can snake whatever you connect to it back behind your laptop and out of sight.
Anker's Aluminum 3-Port USB 3.0 and Ethernet Hub is definitely worth a close look. The Ethernet port is at one end and three USB 3.0 data ports are on top. The hub measures 3.8 inches by 0.9 inches by 0.8 inches and supports Windows, Mac and Linux systems. It retails for $27.
Also available from Anker are a series of Premium USB-C Hubs. They come in several iterations. First, I tested the Premium USB-C Hub with Power Delivery. It includes three USB 3.1 ports and a USB-C port for power. It measures 4.8 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.4 inches deep. The hub is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux systems. It's currently on sale for $40 on Amazon, down from its original $80.
I also tested the Premium USB-C Hub with HDMI and Power Delivery. It shares the same look and specifications as the one above only with an HDMI port replacing one of the USB 3.1 ports. This configuration is the way to go if you need to plug in a monitor. It retails for $60, down from $100.
The three devices above come in an attractive aluminum exterior that will go well with a silver or gunmetal gray laptop.
Anker does dongles well. I was impressed with all of them. If you're in the market for one, now is the time to buy as prices are steeply discounted.
Belkin is a long-time Apple partner, which features Belkin's dongles on its website. The company produces several USB-C dongles. I looked at its USB 3.0 4 Port HUB + USB-C Cable and its 4-Port Mini Hub.
The USB 3.0 4 Port Hub + USB-C Cable features 4 powered USB 3.0 ports. You get 900mA power output per port giving you the ability to separately charge connected USB devices without draining your laptop's battery. This charging ability is the standout feature of this dongle.
Included with the aluminum encased 4-port hub are a USB-C to Micro B cable and a power supply with adapter. The only downside to this otherwise solid product is the length of the power supply cable. In my particular setup, it was too short to reach my desk, leaving the hub dangling in mid-air. So measure first before purchasing. Belkin's USB 3.0 4 Port Hub + USB-C Cable retails for $90.
No complaints about the 4-Port Mini Hub. It features two USB-A ports and two USB-C ports. It's compact at 1.86 inches by 3.87 inches by 0.64 inches. It comes in a combination matte and glossy black and the USB-C cable folds neatly into the side of the hub, protecting it during transport. It's unobtrusive and well-made; a good choice if this particular configuration of ports serves your needs. Belkin's 4-Port Mini Hub retails for $50 on Belkin's site, but can be had for $32 on Amazon.