HyperDrive USB-C Hub Has the Right Idea, but the Wrong Ports

It's so, so close

Key Takeaways

  • Hyper's body-hugging dock is a great design but offers a weirdly-redundant port selection.
  • It's available in space gray or silver aluminum.
  • It doesn't dangle like a dongle, which means your laptop remains portable.
HyperDrive USB-C Hub for MacBook Pro

HyperDrive

USB-C and Thunderbolt are amazing—until you want to plug something into them. Then you (still) need dongles. 

But is a dongle still a dongle if it doesn’t dangle? That’s the question asked by Hyper’s new HyperDrive USB-C Hub for the MacBook Pro, a double-dipping dock that turns the left side of your new super-duper-computer into an array of mostly-useful legacy ports. In principle, it’s a fantastic idea. But in practice, the port choice seems a little odd, even redundant. 

One of the best features of the new 2021 MacBook Pro is its array of expansion ports. It gives up a single Thunderbolt port compared to the previous-gen MacBook Pro but gains a MagSafe charger, SD card slot, and an HDMI port. Yet, it still lacks a bunch of legacy ports, which is where a dock comes in. 

Port Authority

The Hyperdrive Duo 7-in-2 USB-C Hub is so named because it occupies two of the MacBook’s ports, turning them into seven differently-useful ports. You get one Thunderbolt passthrough port for hooking up anything you like, plus HDMI, USB-C, USB-A (both 5 Gbps), Ethernet, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card slot. 

While those ports are an excellent choice for the older MacBook Pro models (which had nothing but Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack), they’re redundant on the current models. It seems that Hyper has repurposed an older model and relaunched it for the new computers. It even has an IndieGogo campaign, although the crowd-funding aspect is more likely a hip way to gather pre-orders. 

HyperDrive USB-C Hub port breakdown

HyperDrive

So, unless you have very specific needs, you might want to avoid this particular dock. After all, it doubles up on the HDMI port and the SD card slot, although you could say that keeping a microSD card in the dock offers some useful (if slow) semi-permanent storage. 

"Doesn't seem like you're getting a lot out of this; extra HDMI and Ethernet is all you're really getting. Unless you need two headphone jacks," writes Mac user Gaximus on the MacRumors forums

But that's not to say we should give up on the idea altogether. 

Dock vs Hub

The HyperDrive is good if all you need is a small, mobile hub, but another option is to go for a more permanent dock installation–probably a Thunderbolt dock. These are typically larger units that stay connected to monitors, external drives, audio interfaces, and other peripherals and provide power to your computer when connected. They’re fantastic—I use a CalDigit Thunderbolt dock for a Mac Mini, and it’s rock-solid and reliable. However, docks are useless on-the-go, because they’re big, heavy, and require a power outlet. 

CalDigit TS3+ connected to a Mac Mini and resting on a gray table

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Typically, portable hubs come with a little USB-C tail to plug in. That makes it easy to plug and unplug, but it’s unwieldy whenever you pick the computer up, which one tends to do quite a bit with a laptop. 

Then there’s Hyper’s approach, which attaches a solid block of expansion onto one side of the machine. This works great with Hyper’s iPad 6-in-1 hub and could work great with the MacBook, but not with the current selection of ports. 

Perfect Selection

So, what ports would be more appropriate for the current MacBook Pro lineup? We’ve established we don’t need HDMI, a headphone/microphone jack, or an SD card slot, so how could we best replace them?

Ethernet is always a solid choice for this kind of thing, as is the little microSD card slot, because why not? It takes up so little space. And as mentioned, it can be handy to add a little extra storage, perhaps for backups. 

HyperDrive USB-C Hub with 5GBPS USB-A and C ports

HyperDrive

Personally, I’d prefer a few USB-A ports for older hardware and/or some USB-C ports for more modern devices. I like to connect audio peripherals, so more ports is always a plus. And as Thunderbolt gives an absurd amount of bandwidth, you can stack up USB-C 2.0-speed devices (that is, almost all audio devices) all day without ever exceeding the bandwidth limit. 

And because the unit occupies both the left-side Thunderbolt ports, it should offer a Thunderbolt pass-through because unless you’re hooking up a brace of USB-C SSDs, you’ll only need the bandwidth of one of those Thunderbolt busses. 

Which brings us to power. To charge the computer and avoid draining its battery while it juices all those connected peripherals, the unit should have USB PD (Power Delivery), which can charge the connected computer and power those peripherals.

I’m excited to see what Hyper will come up with next. This unit has the feel of a product rushed out to meet demand, but this style of semi-permanent expansion hub is still a winner. It just needs a more considered set of ports and jack to suit the new MacBook Pro, and it could be a real hit.

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