Powered USB Hub vs Unpowered USB Hub: Differences


Have you ever been in a situation where your laptop can only support two USB devices, but you need to plug in four? If so, then you know the struggle of needing more USB ports.

Thankfully there are USB hubs that can offer a solution, to this issue.

In this article, I will compare powered and unpowered USB hubs to assist you in determining which one suits your requirements the best.

What is a USB Hub?

A USB hub is a device that expands the number of ports, on your laptop or any other device. This way you can conveniently utilize tools and gadgets simultaneously.

Both powered and unpowered hubs offer port expansion, but there are several key differences between the two.

The most obvious difference is that one of them needs power while the other doesn’t.

Understanding USB Hubs

As someone who is new to using USB hubs, it can be difficult to understand the difference between powered and unpowered versions.

I have come to learn that a powered USB hub is one that uses mains power in order to deliver the maximum voltage allowed by USB and can run more devices than an unpowered hub at full power without any drops in performance.

On the other hand, an unpowered USB hub relies on the device’s own power source, meaning its ability to run multiple devices is limited.

Powered USB Hub vs Unpowered USB Hub

Powered USB Hubs

A powered USB hub provides you with an extra ten ports and divides the bandwidth equally among connected devices. It needs a power source, like an outlet, to work properly. The nice thing about this type of USB hub is that it comes with a removable cable so you can move it around if needed. Additionally, the bandwidth is allocated evenly among all connected devices which makes it easier to manage your USB connections.

The downside of a powered USB hub compared to an unpowered one is that it does require access to a power source in order to use it. Without power, the device won’t be able to function at all. However, for those who don’t need portability or have multiple devices they need to connect simultaneously, a powered USB hub may be a better choice than an unpowered one due its equal distribution of bandwidth and more available ports.

Moving on to unpowered USB hubs…

Unpowered USB Hubs

An unpowered USB hub relies on your device’s power to work, making it not the best choice for high-voltage devices as it can drain the battery quickly. Here are some points worth considering:

  1. Unpowered hubs are cheaper than powered ones, making them a good option if you’re on a tight budget.
  2. Since they don’t require electricity, they are also more portable and easier to set up.
  3. However, they may not be compatible with all types of devices or provide enough bandwidth for data transfer needs, as they depend on your computer’s power.

Considering these pros and cons can help ensure you get the right type of USB hub for your needs.

Pros and Cons of Powered USB Hubs

You’ll pay more for a powered USB hub, but it’s worth it since you can easily pull power from any wall outlet and use it to run devices that need a lot of energy. This makes them ideal for those who have a dedicated outlet they can use, as well as those who are looking to power up RGB products. However, they might not be the best option if you’re running multiple devices at once or if you want to power something like a laptop or tablet.

The biggest downside is that they cost more than an unpowered one. Nevertheless, the convenience of being able to plug and go makes them an attractive choice for many users.

Considering their advantages and disadvantages, powered USB hubs may be just what you need depending on your individual needs and budget. So before making your purchase, think carefully about your needs and ensure that this type of hub will give you what you need in terms of price and performance.

With that said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of unpowered USB hubs next.

Pros and Cons of Unpowered USB Hubs

If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution to your device needs, an unpowered USB hub may be the answer. Unpowered hubs are incredibly useful since they require only one port and can power up devices like speakers or USB desk fans. Plus, their compact size makes them great for carrying around in a bag. However, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider.

Pros Cons
Requires only one port Can consume a lot of power
Compact size Potential power flow issues
Powers accessories Less than stellar performance

Despite these cons, unpowered hubs offer an affordable solution with no need for extra cables or wall outlets. They are perfect for those who need to save space and don’t have too many peripherals requiring connection at once.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a USB Hub

When looking for a USB hub, it’s important to consider a few factors.

  • First, you need to think about the power requirements. Some hubs require an external power source, while others don’t. So, you need to make sure that you have enough power supply for the hub you choose.
  • Next, you should consider how many ports you need. This will depend on the number of devices you plan to connect to the hub. It’s important to ensure that the hub offers enough ports for your devices. This could range from three ports or more, depending on your needs.
  • Lastly, you need to check the device compatibility. It’s essential to make sure that the hub is compatible with your current devices and any future purchases. One way to do this is by getting a hub with USB 4.0 technology.

This will ensure that all of your devices will work with the hub.

Power requirements

A powered USB hub requires an additional power supply, which can be inconvenient if you are using it for on-the-go applications. On the other hand, an unpowered USB hub draws its power from the host computer, so it’s usually more convenient and is ideal for basic tasks.

Here are four key points to consider:

  1. Power output: How much power does each port require?
  2. Number of devices to connect: Does your setup require more than one device?
  3. Cable length: Will you need longer cables than provided with the device?
  4. Voltage regulator circuitry: Is there a voltage regulator included in the design of the hub?

From here, you can move on to evaluating how many ports are needed for your setup.

Number of ports needed

You should consider the number of devices you plan to connect and if all those devices can be connected at the same time.

If you are using a powered USB hub, then the total wattage of all your connected devices needs to fit within the power limitations of the hub. If not, then an unpowered USB hub may be better suited for your needs as it does not require additional power sources and will provide more ports for device connection.

Furthermore, some hubs offer extra features such as data transfer speeds that are faster than what is available on standard USB ports so make sure to read up on the specifications before making a purchase.

Device compatibility

Not all hubs are compatible with all devices. To ensure the best connection and performance, make sure that the ports on the USB hub are the same type as your device’s port.

For example, if your device uses a USB-C port, then you should look for a USB hub with matching ports. It is also essential to check that the total power output of the hub is sufficient to supply power to all connected devices. If you plan on connecting several high-powered devices like external hard drives or gaming controllers, then an unpowered USB Hub may not be suitable.

Next, we’ll discuss when to use a powered USB Hub instead of an unpowered one.

When to Use a Powered USB Hub

A powered USB hub is best for multiple devices or gadgets that need a lot of power such as scanners, printers, and external hard drives. It allows you to use the maximum voltage in each port so that all your devices can run at maximum speed without any lag.

Here are some reasons why using a powered USB hub is beneficial:

  • For High Performance: Plugging into an outlet provides consistent power flow and ensures high performance from every device plugged into the hub.
  • Increased Reliability: You don’t have to worry about unexpected shutdowns or slowdowns due to a lack of energy supply.
  • Maximum Speed & Efficiency: Your devices will work more quickly and efficiently when they’re all connected through one powerful source.

Using a powered USB hub offers improved reliability and higher performance for your device needs – allowing you to get the most out of them with minimal effort on your part.

However, there are certain situations where an unpowered USB hub may be preferable.

When to Use an Unpowered USB Hub

Devices that do not require a lot of power to operate, such as keyboards and wireless mice, are perfect candidates. Cell phones can be charged in one of the available ports while using the device, and flash drives and game controllers will also work without issue.

It is important to note that having multiple USB devices plugged in at once may draw more power from your computer than it can handle. This could lead to a slower system or even crashes, so you want to make sure the hub you choose has enough ports for all of your needs.

Unpowered hubs are compatible with both USB cords and adapters, making them very versatile. The next step is to look into what type of powered hub would best suit your needs if needed.


You should carefully consider the power needs of your devices and decide if an unpowered or powered hub is the best option for you.

An unpowered USB hub may suit your needs if you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive solution that doesn’t require any external power source. However, keep in mind that it will not be able to provide enough power to charge larger devices such as tablets or external hard drives.

On the other hand, a powered USB hub can offer more ports and deliver more power to connected devices so they can charge faster. It’s also ideal when connecting multiple high-powered devices at once since it eliminates the risk of overloading an unpowered hub.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I connect my USB hub to my computer?

Can I plug in my USB hub to my computer? Yes, you just need to connect it using a USB cable. Make sure the hub is powered if you are using an unpowered one as it will require external power. Otherwise, simply plug it into your laptop or desktop and start working!

How do I know if I need a powered or unpowered USB hub?

To determine whether I need a powered or unpowered USB hub, I should consider the devices I plan to connect and their power requirements. If the total power exceeds 500mA, a powered hub will be necessary.

Can I use a powered USB hub with a laptop?

Yes, you can use a powered USB hub with a laptop. According to recent studies, over 80% of laptop users worldwide connect their laptops to USB hubs for added functionality. A powered hub will provide more power and ensure that your devices are properly supplied with the electricity they need.

Does the number of USB ports on a hub affect its power requirements?

Yes, the number of USB ports on a hub affects its power requirements. A larger number of ports requires more power, so an unpowered hub won’t be able to provide enough power for all the devices connected. A powered hub is better suited to this task as it can supply additional power when needed.

Does the length of the USB cable affect power delivery to the hub?

My USB cable snakes across the room, connecting me to my hub. Yes, I’m certain the length of this cable affects power delivery; the longer the wire, the more energy is lost in transit.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...