Review: Anker’s PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 hub is a must-have for Mac owners
A solid hub with plenty of ports for only $60.
Once upon a time, laptops came with ports. A lot of them. But then USB-C burst onto the scene, replacing specialized inputs like HDMI with a one-size-fits-all approach that does everything. Suddenly, if you wanted to connect your pricey workstation to an external monitor, or attach some wired peripherals like a keyboard, you had to get a dongle.
Most dongles are inconvenient. They hang loosely to the side of your laptop, getting in the way, and adding to the already-burdensome amount of clutter on your desk. But Anker’s snappily-named PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB-C PD Media Hub is different.
This hub is compatible with pretty much every MacBook Pro released after 2016, as well as every MacBook Air released after 2018. Ultimately, these are devices with their own differing dimensions and thicknesses — although, across the board, the Thunderbolt 3 ports are spaced evenly.
The hub plugs into the two Thunderbolt-3 ports on the side of your Mac laptop
Included are two USB-A ports, along with HDMI-out, SD and MicroSD slots, and two additional USB-C slots — one for charging at up to 100W, and another for everything else.
In short, it’s everything you’d want from a USB-C hub, allowing you to connect your day-to-day accessories, as well as two external monitors (with one 4K display at 30Hz, with another 5K at 60Hz.)
Obviously, there are plenty of USB-C hubs that replicate this functionality. This is a segment of the market that has become ridiculously commoditized in recent years. The shifting sands of the laptop market have meant that USB-C-only laptops are no longer rare and exotic, but rather endemic.
But this one is different. In fact, I’d argue that the problem it solves isn’t technical, but rather one of aesthetics. Anker’s tried to make this effort blend in as much as possible. The PowerExpand Direct is unobtrusive. And given that Mac laptops are as much workhorses as they are luxury, style-driven objects, that’s important. At least, to some.
Of course, there are times I wished Anker was a bit more profligate with the ports on offer
Given it’s connecting to two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, I’d have loved to see a few more USB-A ports. And maybe another HDMI-out port. There certainly isn’t a shortage of I/O capacity.
The PowerExpand Direct 7-in-1 doesn’t sit atop your desk, but rather hovers a few millimeters above it. And while I can’t fault the build quality (it’s heavy, metallic, and wonderfully rugged), I do wish it was a bit thicker. This would reduce the distance between the bottom of the device and the surface, and make it harder to accidentally bend the plugs by leaning on it.
Anker’s priced the PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 at $59.99, which is reasonable. There are less capable offerings that are priced almost identically. The Apple Store, for example, sells a Belkin 4-port hub for $69.95 — and that lacks things like video-out or an SD-card reader. The cheapest multi-function hub sold by Cupertino costs $129.95. That’s more than double Anker’s offering.
And the PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 is arguably better. It has a cohesive aesthetic, and it’s wonderfully portable. It also has a sufficient amount of connectivity for most people.
Try as I might, I can’t really fault it. If you have a Mac laptop, you really ought to get it.
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