Why the Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub Is the Perfect iPad Travel Companion

Insert Swiss Army knife cliché here

Key Takeaways

  • A good USB-C hub can power your iPad and add many extra ports.
  • For travel, these little hubs are perfect.
  • Pick the brand and port selection that suits you.
Kingston Nucleum USB hub resting on top of a MacBook

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

If you take your iPad on vacation without a Kingston Nucleum USB-C hub, you’re missing out. 

The iPad Air and iPad Pro are many things, but what they most definitely are not is expandable. The solution is a dongle, but you have to pick the right one. If you’re traveling, this is even more important. 

The Kingston Nucleum is an almost perfect travel hub for your iPad (or MacBook, or PC laptop). It has almost everything you need, almost nothing you don’t, and it’s well-built, reliable, and pretty good looking. 

Travel Hub

The iPad is the perfect travel computer. You can use it just for reading and maps, or add a Magic Keyboard and use it for work. You can watch movies, edit your vacation photos, anything. But the iPad’s limitations soon present themselves. What if you want to watch those episodes of Ted Lasso you downloaded on the big TV in your AirBnB apartment? How do you import photos from your camera? How do you get that huge folder of scanned recipes from your father’s old recipe book off your parents’ PC and onto your iPad?

"Kingston chose an excellent selection of expansion ports for general use."

The answer, you will not be surprised to hear, is the Kingston Nucleum, a $50-$65 aluminum USB-C hub that is rock-solid reliable, and small and light enough to keep in your accessory bag. 

The Nucleum isn’t the only option. There are plenty of similar devices, some of which are designed specifically for the iPad, and clip onto its edge, and you should also shop around to find one you like. As we shall see, there are some ports that Nucleum lacks (a headphone jack, for example), which other hubs have. 

Port Authority

The Nucleum plugs into the USB-C port of the iPad Pro and iPad Air. It then offers the following expansion ports and slots:

  • 2x USB-A 3.1 gen.1
  • 1x USB-C
  • 1x USB-C PD power input
  • SD card
  • MicroSD card
  • HDMI

Most of those are self-explanatory, but the USB-C PD (power delivery) input is worth a mention. This lets you plug in a USB-C power source, and that power is passed through to the connected iPad (or laptop). This provides up to 60 Watts of juice, and lets you plug in all kinds of accessories whilst simultaneously powering the iPad, all through its single USB-C port.

a view of the kingston nucleum USB hub's PD port and USB

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

The PD port also powers other connected devices, even when the iPad itself isn’t connected, which is a nice bonus. 

Kingston chose an excellent selection of expansion ports for general use. HDMI is perfect for connecting the iPad to monitors and TVs, and the mix of old-school USB-A and new(ish) USB-C is practical.

What’s missing? A headphone jack, for one. I prefer it this way, because headphone jacks confuse the iPad when you also plug in another USB audio device, but there is a workaround. Just plug Apple’s USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter into one of the Nucleum’s USB-C ports. It works fine. 

Use Examples

So how might the Nucleum help out while you travel? How about plugging in an external drive full of movies, playing them in an app like Infuse on the iPad, and outputting to an HDMI TV?

Or copying files between two connected SSDs? Perhaps those recipes from your dad we mentioned earlier? Or importing the photos from your camera’s SD card? Or—and this is a good one—leaving a 128 GB microSD card in the slot (the card sits flush) so you can always have some extra storage on hand. 

side view of the Kingston Nucleum USB hub on a gray table

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

To finish, let me detail a setup I use quite often. I plug the Nucleum into my iPad, then hook up my OP-Z synth/sampler via USB-C. I connect to a power adapter to power everything, and I also can connect a USB MIDI keyboard if I like. All the MIDI and audio just works, and all the batteries get charged. 

The Nucleum may not be the only hub option, but it is, as I said, almost perfect.

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