I Tried That
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I Tried That

Low-Cost, High-speed USB-C Hubs with Power Delivery (PD) are the new “Docking Station”

USB-C with PD is a strange new world. Modern USB-C hubs can run off power from the laptop battery, but if you plug a charging cable into the hub, it does a 180 and starts charging up the same laptop battery it was just running off! You need a new-ish power adapter for this to work, mind. One that specifies Power Delivery, or “PD”. PD power supplies usually have either a USB-C socket or a USB-C cord permanently attached. PD seems like a good idea, but with power going so many ways I was initially afraid something might catch fire. Nothing did.

In fact, a fully modern hub will support PD, data transfer and video all over a single cable. Great if you have only one or two USB sockets on a laptop! And, it becomes the new “docking station”, replacing ancient cumbersome docks with a tiny form factor: just one USB cable to both power your laptop and add a swathe of peripherals. Since USB lets you plug a hub into another hub, there’s an almost unlimited number of peripherals available — I have one hub with USB-to-RS232 converters just for serial ports to some tiny monitor-free devices.

I got into this study in preparation for the Framework laptop I have on order, which supports such hubs. My current main laptop does not support PD (that laptop is so old its docking station has a parallel printer port!). However, I have other equipment, including a modern Chromebook that supports PD. So I used that for testing, as a stand-in for the Framework.

For testing, I bought two of Amazon’s cheapest 9- or 10-port USB-C PD hubs with wired Gigabit Ethernet, since the FW laptop doesn’t have wired networking yet, even as an “extension card”. “Soon.” I didn’t set out to buy two of these, but the first one failed an important test so I returned it and bought the second. The two low-cost units are the Qazok 10-port and the QGeeM 9-port. Both units provided Power Delivery to successfully charge and run a Chromebook and a mobile phone while concurrently running an external monitor and an Ethernet connection.

Qazok 10-port USB-C Hub

This unit performed adequately in our tests with one big exception: its wired Ethernet is advertised as 10/100/1000 Mb/s, but the reality is that it’s only 10/100. I mentioned this is in my review on Amazon, and flagged it when returning the item, but nothing has changed; when I last checked it was still listed as 10/100/1000.

I use OpenBSD as my device-discovery operating system due to its clear and concise display of what chips the devices actually contain. Here is the OpenBSD usbdevs output from the Qazok network connection:

addr 07: 0bda:8152 Realtek, USB 10/100 LAN

The obda part is the USB code for Realtek, and the 8152 is a number that Realtek assigned to this chip. A web search on 0bda:8152 reveals that it is (unsurprisingly) the Realtek RTL8152, which is a 10/100 chipset. I rest my case. An OK buy if you want slow ethernet. Otherwise, let’s move on to the QGeem.

QGeeM CR0901 nine-in-one USB- Hub

QGeeM’s Connections (advertising photo)

The QGeem 9-in-one hub claims the following:

  • one USB-3 type A connector
  • two USB-2 Type A connectors
  • One SD-card slot
  • One microSD card slot
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI video up to 4K
  • USB-C/PD inlet
  • USB-C connector to laptop
  • audio headphone jack (only for HDMI output stream)

Here is the OpenBSD kernel log from detecting the QGeeM. It’s full of geeky-looking information but it accurately describes everything.

hub7 at uhub1 port 4 configuration 1 interface 0 "GenesysLogic USB2.1 Hub" rev 2.10/6.55 addr 6
uhub8 at uhub7 port 4 configuration 1 interface 0 "Genesys Logic USB2.0 Hub" rev 2.00/60.70 addr 7
uhub9 at uhub1 port 2 configuration 1 interface 0 "GenesysLogic USB3.1 Hub" rev 3.20/6.55 addr 8
ure0 at uhub9 port 1 configuration 1 interface 0 "Realtek USB 10/100/1000 LAN" rev 3.00/31.00 addr 9
ure0: RTL8153B (0x6010), address 00:e0:4c:xx:xx:xx
rgephy0 at ure0 phy 0: RTL8251 PHY, rev. 0
umass0 at uhub9 port 2 configuration 1 interface 0 "Generic USB Storage" rev 3.00/12.06 addr 10
umass0: using SCSI over Bulk-Only
scsibus4 at umass0: 2 targets, initiator 0
sd2 at scsibus4 targ 1 lun 0: <Generic, STORAGE DEVICE, 1206> removable

This gig ether has an RTL8251, not an RTL8512. Same digits, different order, different result! Actually has gig ether, and actually has one USB-3 speed hub.

Then I put the QGeem on the Chromebook and started plugging stuff in.

Some of the things plugged in

Here is have the laptop’s power adapter connected to the USB-C inlet, an external monitor (blue VGA cable on an HDMI-to-VGA adapter, as my HDMI monitor was in use on another project), Ethernet cable (red), a smartphone being charged up, and the hub’s USB-C/PD connector plugged into a USB port on the laptop, which is also charging. It all works! The external monitor can mirror the LCD panel or be a second display, as it is here.

Close-up of the ports

Here is a close-up of the hub and the various cables connected to it.

It’s not shown in the photo but I did test an SD card working concurrently with everything else.

Incidentally, if you are worried about low-cost things catching fire, I can’t take any responsibility if it does, but the QGeem does carry FCC, CE and RoHS certifications.

So the QGeem is a winner in the budget-friendly USB-C/PD hub category! And PD is a winner on technology for getting all the things to work over a single USB-C connector.

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Ian F. Darwin

Thoughts on everything: art, politics, tech, ... IT Guy: Java, Android, Flutter. Parent of 3 (2 living). Humanist. EV guy. Photog. Nice guy.