Your laptop can never have enough ports, especially if it’s the Macbook Air this guide is written on. That forces you to carry a set of dongles with you so you can plug everything in. Fortunately, there is a better way. USB hubs allow you to expand the number and type of ports available, and USB docks allow you to turn a laptop into a full-fledged workstation with a single plug. After testing several USB hubs and docks, these are the best we’ve found for different needs.
Looking for other home office gadgets and gadgets? We have a number of guides that can help, such as our Best Work From Home Gear, Best USB Flash Drive, and Best Portable External Storage Drives collections.
Update June 2022: We’ve added the Plugable USB-C Triple Display dock, with updated pricing throughout.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you want). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
Do you need a hub or a dock?
There’s a gray area between USB hubs and docks, because they technically (mostly) do the same thing: add more ports and connectors to your computer. However, there are some minor differences and it is worth understanding them before purchasing one.
USB hubs are smaller, cheaper dongles that can add additional USB ports, SD card readers, display outputs, or a headphone jack. These often do not provide extra power, so you may not be able to charge the gadgets connected to them. They’re also portable enough to slip into your laptop bag for use at home and on the go.
USB docks tend to be larger, more expensive and designed to spend most of their time at your desk. They often have their own power supply so they can charge other devices, and have multiple monitor outputs and Ethernet connections. If you often use your laptop at a desk, a dock allows you to quickly connect it to the keyboard, mouse, monitors and other peripherals you need all at once.