USB-C Hub vs Docking Station: Which One is Better for MacBook Pro Users?

USB-C hubs and docking stations can help you expand connectivity requirements out of your computer and are commonly used by MacBook Pro owners.  

A USB-C hub is a smaller piece of equipment that plugs into your computer’s existing ports and is good for travel and portability. A docking station is larger but offers a better solution to connect multiple monitors or expand a more permanent workstation setup.  

In this post, we’ll compare and contrast USB-C hubs and docking stations to give you a better idea of which meets your MacBook Pro needs. 

Key Takeaways

  • USB-C hubs plug directly into the Thunderbolt ports on a MacBook Pro. 
  • Docking stations are stand-alone devices with their own power source. 
  • USB-C hubs are smaller and very portable, making for easy travel. 
  • Docking stations are better for permanent setups and a good solution for connecting multiple monitors. 

While both docking stations and USB-C hubs expand the connectivity possibilities on a MacBook Pro, they each do this in a slightly different way. Knowing the benefits and capabilities of each will help you pick the right solution for your connectivity needs.   

What is a USB-C Hub?

A USB-C hub connects directly to a computer using USB-C ports. These hubs function by increasing the number of inputs and ports you can connect to a computer. They allow you to have more connection ports than what comes standard on your device. 

The increased number of ports created when a USB-C hub is plugged in allows for more connectivity capabilities than what would be possible through your computer without one. 

Hubs usually draw power from your computer’s battery, meaning that it will power on as soon as you plug it into the USB-C ports. 

Pros

USB-C hubs are small in size, making them very convenient to use if you travel often or need extra connectivity when you are on the go. This makes them work well with laptops such as a MacBook Pro. 

Their small size makes hubs easy to throw in a backpack or desk drawer and then take out for use when needed. You don’t need to have the device constantly plugged into the computer and use it when extra connectivity needs arise.

a USB-C hub connected to a MacBook Pro

Cons

Not all USB-C hubs support charging when plugged into the USB-C ports of a computer. This means that you might need to take out the hub when you have a low battery and wait for your computer to charge up before plugging the hub back in. 

That can be an annoying issue if you have a demanding project or use for the hub. Some USB-C hubs allow a charging cable to work through one of the ports, but this can also limit your connectivity options. 

Another downside to USB-C hubs is that they aren’t as powerful or capable as docking stations. Hubs typically have slow file transfer speeds and simply are not as technically capable as larger, more powerful docking stations. 

FAQs

Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions relating to USB-C hubs and MacBook Pro computers. 

Can we use a USB-C hub for MacBook Pro? 

Yes, several USB-C hub options will work with a MacBook Pro. A hub will plug into one or more of the Thunderbolt inputs found on the side of your MacBook Pro and will give you expanded connectivity. 

Which USB-C hub does Apple recommend? 

Apple lists the Satechi Aluminum USB-C Multiport Pro Adapter in Apple Stores and on its website (so it’s safe to say they recommend it, right?). This is a functional USB-C hub that plugs into a USB-C port on your MacBook Pro. It has a small design and offers USB 3, HDMI, and SD card ports.

What is a Docking Station?

Docking stations are also devices that expand the connectivity capabilities of a computer. These are often more powerful and capable than USB-C hubs, so they can meet the needs of a resource-intensive situation, such as connecting multiple monitors. 

Docking stations provide an effective way to connect a computer to various other devices and come with a number of different connection ports to meet most modern connectivity needs. They are stand-alone devices that typically come with their own power source. 

Kensington Docking Station connects multiple devices including 2 external monitors. Photo credit: kensington.com

Pros

A docking station offers many different connection ports giving you many options for expanding the capabilities and connectivity of your computer. They can significantly increase what your computer is capable of and are good in many professional situations. 

Docking stations also have increased file transfer speeds and are generally more technically capable than USB-C hubs. They are a good choice when multiple monitors need to be used. 

They also come with their own power source, which can be another advantage for increased connectivity. Since your computer doesn’t need to power a docking station, an extra port is opened for more connectivity options. 

Cons

One of the most significant drawbacks to using a docking station is its physical size. These are larger devices that aren’t easy to pack up and travel with. That makes them challenging to use on the move and limits portability. 

If you want a tidy, organized desk space or simply don’t have the room for a larger device, docking stations are probably not the best choice for increased connectivity.

Docking stations are typically more expensive because of their higher specs and capabilities. 

FAQs

Here are a few quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to docking stations. 

Why are docking stations so expensive? 

Docking stations are costly because they offer increased capabilities and technical specs compared to cheaper USB-C hubs. They are powerful connectivity expanding devices, and this increased their overall price. 

Does docking station reduce performance? 

Typically a docking station will not reduce computer performance. You might experience latency and other speed issues if using a wired connection instead of a wireless connection, which is possible when using a docking station.

Can you connect two docking stations together? 

Yes, you can connect two docking stations together. This is often called daisy-chaining or linking and can provide you with even greater connectivity options than using a single docking station. 

USB-C Hub vs Docking Station: Differences Explained

SizeSpecsConnectivityCost
USB-C HubSmall/PortableSlower Transfer SpeedsMultiple Ports/Screen Mirroring Cheaper
Docking Station Large/Not PortableFaster Transfer SpeedsMany Ports/Multiple Screen ConnectionsMore Expensive

Size

There is a pretty significant size difference between USB-C hubs and docking stations. USB-C hubs are smaller and more portable, while docking stations are larger and better suited for a stationary workstation. 

Specs

Docking stations are more technically capable and have better specs than USB-C hubs. This makes docking stations more powerful and ideal for resource-heavy situations. Docking stations can have considerably faster file transfer speeds. 

Connectivity

Due to their larger size and enhanced capabilities, docking stations offer better connectivity than USB-C hubs. Docking stations will provide more overall connection ports and can also connect multiple screens/monitors at the same time.

Cost

USB-C hubs are more affordable than docking stations. Docking stations offer increased performance and technical specs, but this comes with a higher price tag. USB-C hubs are a cheaper connectivity solution.  

USB-C Hub vs Docking Station: Which One Is Right for You

MacBook Pro users who like to travel a lot or don’t have as intensive of connectivity needs will probably benefit from using a USB-C hub over a docking station. Hubs are much smaller, making them highly portable and easy to take with you anywhere you set up. 

USB-C hubs are also more affordable than docking stations, making them a good choice for anyone on a budget who still wants increased connectivity for whatever reason.

Read our review of the best USB-C hubs for MacBook Pro to learn more.

Docking stations are ideal for more intensive connectivity needs and offer higher technical specs and faster transfer speeds than USB-C hubs. If you require resource-intensive connections, a docking station is a better choice.

Docking stations are also a good solution for a more permanent office or work setup because of their larger size and increased capabilities. If you have an office or work-from-home situation and don’t need to move your equipment often, a docking station will work well. 

Read our review of the best docking stations for MacBook Pro for recommendations.

Final Thoughts

If you want to expand the connectivity of your MacBook Pro or any other computer, you need to either get a USB-C hub or docking station. These devices will both give you extra connection ports, allowing you to extend what you can connect to your computer. 

USB-C hubs are relatively affordable and make a good solution for anyone who travels often or wants a more portable connectivity solution. Hubs will work well for many people who don’t have super demanding tech specs. 

Docking stations are a more powerful solution, but this also comes with a larger physical size and higher price. But a docking station is ideal for a permanent setup with more demanding connectivity needs.

About Eric
Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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