This $80 Hub Can (Almost) Turn a MacBook Air Into a MacBook Pro

It’s all about the extra ports

  • Satechi’s new hubs fit the MacBook Air perfectly.
  • Adding a matched hub gets you a lot closer to the MacBook Pro.
  • Hubs may not be as reliable or convenient as built-in ports.
A MacBook with the Satechi hub attached to it.


Wait! Before you buy that speedy new M2 MacBook Pro, you might be able to save yourself a thousand bucks or so. 

The number of people who need the power of Apple's latest MacBook Pros is pretty small. But there are other reasons to choose the pro machine over the M2 MacBook Air. One is the big, beautiful screen on the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. The other is the range of built-in ports. If on-the-go expansion is your biggest need, you might instead grab a purpose-built MacBook Air hub, like this Pro Hub Slim from Satechi, which also adds back all of us still need. 

"I believe that nearly every computer, shy of Macs and the Dell XPS line, still ships with USB-A. Every peripheral I've purchased over the past few years [has] had a USB-A cable," Mac user and enthusiast v0lume4 said in a MacRumors forum thread

Port Authority

The MacBook Pros have three Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot. Air users, meanwhile, have to get by with a couple of Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, although at least in the new M2 model, they get a nice MagSafe power connection that frees up one of those USB-C ports for other uses.

The Satechi Pro Hub Slim attached to a MacBook computer.


Satechi's Pro Hub Slim is built specifically for the new M2 MacBook Air. It's the same thickness and uses the same color of aluminum as the computer, so it really does look like an extension of the machine itself. It's flush-mounting, and the device plugs itself into both USB-C ports on the Mac for maximum expandability and throughput. 

What you get is a lot of useful hookups. SD and microSD, HDMI, two USB A ports, a USB-C 4 port, and a USB-C data port. Of these, the USB-C 4 pass-through port is the most flexible. It's an extension of the port on the computer itself, allowing 40Gbps data transfer (Thunderbolt speeds), 100W power delivery, and video output up to 6K/60Hz. 

In short, it gives you everything the MacBook Pro offers, plus a little bit more (those legacy USB A ports are very tempting). And unlike the MacBook Pro, you can remove it when you don't need it. The MacBook Air's one big advantage over the Pro (apart from being cheaper) is the size. The Pros are pretty old-school in their chunky, powerful thickness, whereas the Air can go almost unnoticed in a backpack. 

The common failure I have found in almost all [third] party hubs is the incompatibility [when] connecting high-resolution displays...

The Satechi isn't the only MacBook matching hub available. You'll find plenty of alternatives on Amazon, but this one offers a great selection of ports, and I've always found Satechi gear to be well-built and reliable. 

All Aboard

There are good reasons to prefer built-in ports over adding them via a hub, although they may not be worth the roughly $1,000 price difference between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

One is that you cannot lose or leave behind built-in ports. Not unless you also lose the computer itself. Another is that built-in ports can be more reliable. I rarely have problems with built-in ports on any Mac, but I have often had connection glitches with hubs and docks. 

"I have tried several hubs in the past, including the higher-end Anker USB-C hubs. The common failure I have found in almost all [third] party hubs is the incompatibility [when] connecting high-resolution displays (5k LG, Studio Displays). I have found I have to use the built-in ports for reliable connectivity," technology marketer and MacBook hub aficionado Jeff Byer told Lifewire via email. 

An overhead view of two MacBooks sitting on a table with cappuccinos, and iPhone and AirPods nearby. Both computers are connected to Satechi hubs.


And don't forget, you can also add a hub or dock to the MacBook Pro—like Satechi's equally sleek Pro Hub Max

In the end, the decision between computers might come down to the screens. If you need a 16-inch Mac laptop, then you're getting the Pro. And while the size difference between the Air and the 14-inch Pro screens is not much, the quality of the MacBook Pro screen is way higher. Its bright, colorful, beautiful HDR screen uses miniLED tech for better contrast, and it just looks better.

But if your MacBook Pro spends a lot of time hooked up to an external monitor, you lose the benefit of this screen and might appreciate the portability (and some leftover change in your pocket) of the MacBook Air. It's a tricky decision, but one made a little easier by adding a relatively inexpensive dongle like the Satechi dock.

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