USB hub

Lazyweb, what's a good 10 data port USB hub that puts out a ludicrous amount of juice on each port? I have an Orico 10 port USB 3 12v/3A but lately things are wonky in a way that smells like "your USB-powered drives are sometimes underpowered."

Wasn't USB 3 supposed to come with high enough amperage to make these problems a thing of the past?

(Fun fact, a 10 port USB hub seems to actually be three 4-port hubs in a triangle and/or wearing a trench coat.)

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21 Responses:

  1. Tim says:
    11

    Wasn't USB 3 supposed to come with high enough amperage to make these problems a thing of the past?

    If you're talking about the original USB 3.0 Type A/B, the spec is only 5V @ 900mA, or 4.5W.  It's also possible to do up to about 2A if no data transfer is taking place on that port, under the USB Battery Charging Spec.

    Later they added USB-PD (Power Delivery), a brand new and very complicated system which supports amperage levels of 3A and 5A as well as different voltages than the classic 5V.  PD requires intelligent negotiation between power sources, power sinks, and even the cables themselves to make sure nothing's going to blow up.  This is Very Important due to the higher voltages (the latest revisions of the spec support up to 48V).  So, everything starts out in the classic 5V@900mA mode and negotiates up from there - and if something's wrong, e.g. you didn't use an "e-marked" cable with the active electronics inside, sucks to be you, 5V@900mA might be all you get.

    Since this is USB, as far as ordinary human beings are concerned, all of this is extremely opaque and confusing.

    But all that's a digression, because typically these types of hubs don't implement PD at all, and instead support only the standard 4.5W per port.  But... the amazon link claims your 10-port hub comes with a 12V@3A PSU.  That's only 36W.  As you are no doubt able to multiply or divide by 10 with ease, I'm sure you see the problem here.

    So yes, it's extremely believable that if you attach a bunch of HDDs to this hub, it will not deal very well with the load.  You need something with a substantially larger power supply.

    Anker has a fairly good reputation, and this:

    https://www.amazon.com/Upgraded-Anker-SuperSpeed-Including-Charging/dp/B005NGQWL2/

    looks like it comes with enough of a power brick to handle ten 4.5W devices with ease.

    • db48x says:

      Conversely, if you want a USB charger that does 100W or 150W, they are available. They just don‘t plug into your computer at all, and wouldn’t send any more power than your hard drives ask for in any case. Search amazon for things like “usbpd” and “quick charge 4.0” to find some, though I hesitate to recommend anything specific. I have a 30W charger from amazon that works ok, but I haven’t measured the ripple current or voltage under load or anything.

      Oh, and I am not surprised at all that your 10–port hub is really three four–port hubs inside. They probably all are. USB was designed to be daisy–chained for a reason, and supports up to 128 devices at a time (some of which are the hubs and controllers). This is intentional, as it allows them to manufacture a gazillion generic USB chips per year and then when you need more ports you just use multiple at once. Economies of scale and all that. Your computer probably has multiple USB hubs built into the motherboard even. Mine has 6, though they are all roots.

    • Eric says:
      2

      Let's not forget about PoweredUSB... or on the other hand, actually let's forget about it entirely. You'll never see one unless you're hooking up a POS anyway.

    • jwz says:

      Will plugging a higher amperage transformer into this hub increase the available juice on the ports, or is there likely to also be some internal limit upstream of the plug?

      Also, does USB-hub-negotiation stupidity affect this? Like if I plug a fast/high power device like a drive into a port that happens to be on the same controller as a USB1 mouse, is that going to fuck up what the drive gets in some exciting and inexplicable way?

      • Andrew Klossner says:

        The device assumes you're supplying the number of watts it expects and won't draw more than that.

        There's no problem connecting a high-speed high-power device and a HID device at the same time. Power is separately switched to each hub port (and overcurrent separately detected so only the problem port is disabled.)

      • Chris says:
        1

        With a 60W power supply to the hub (12V/5A) that's 6 watts per port you have. At 5V, that's 1.2 amps per port. That's a reasonably high current for a USB-A port to provide. The device-to-host (or "port") negotiation for power is exceptionally complicated, often vendor-specific, and just a mess.

        A hub that has 60W on its input will definitely have overload protection on its outputs. These are typically for safety purposes, so I would expect somewhere between 1A and 3A at which point it would shut off. Note that the "it" that gets shut off could be a single port (best) or entire hub (worst) and the device manufacturer gets to make a judgement of cost vs convenience on that one.

        The hub does advertise which protection model it uses via its descriptors, assuming the mfg set them correctly. I think you can see it the system info / More Info in macOS, but I don't remember.

        To answer your question: I would generally consider there to be no point in adding a bigger power brick. 60W is a lot. If something went wrong, it's desirable to have the smallest amount of power being dumped into a hub fault, and the brick's own overcurrent triggered as quickly as possible.

        Would you trade some of the convenience of having good data and good power in exchange for more stability for the high-power devices? Anker has huge multi-port charge-only things that are great at providing power. No data functionality, so plug into the correct source for what you're doing.

        USB-hub negotiation stupidity absolutely affects everything, but plugging a *well-behaved* high-power device into the hub will not cause problems. That device is allowed to pull up to 900mA once the host PC does an appropriate SetConfiguration() to the device. With great sarcasm, there is no way a device would misbehave and trigger those safety shutoffs.

        Yes, the Chinese stuff always violates this. Apple has its own negotiation. USB has a "Battery Charging" spec that kind of works but is not always used.

        The USB philosophy is that the power consumption limits are respected by the consumer of power; The provider of power only needs to not catch on fire in case of a fault. (At the very least Apple MacBook Pros from 2013 have a very specific 1.1A power limit, I have never seen another manufacturer do this)

        Another thing to be aware of is that USB2 hosts could support 127 devices, but USB3 hosts use xHCI typically and have internal limits on the number of endpoints/devices that can be addressed. A lot of Intel systems in the 2015-2017 era were limited to 31 or 32 USB devices. I don't know about AMD or recent Intel systems. Each of those hub chips counts as *2* devices, because there is a separate USB2 hub and USB3 hub, and your 10-port hub has 3 hub chips, so there goes 6 right there. This may have been improved but it sure did surprise me when I first encountered this. On the plus side, everybody has just copy/pasted their xHCI instances several times and so you can plug another tree into another port and have another 32 devices available.

      • Tim says:

        Will plugging a higher amperage transformer into this hub increase the available juice on the ports, or is there likely to also be some internal limit upstream of the plug?

        Unknown.  There is a DC-to-DC converter inside the hub to drop 12V down to 5V, and it very well could be underspecified.  Given that the manufacturer cut corners on the power brick, I wouldn't be optimistic about that.

        If you try another brick, do the usual dance - find something with the same connector, polarity, and 12V DC output.

      • G says:

        Will plugging a higher amperage transformer into this hub increase the available juice on the ports, or is there likely to also be some internal limit upstream of the plug?

        If you already have a bigger/better 12VDC power supply, then try it out.  The existing power supply unit could just be overtaxed by your load, but it could also be overrated or failing.  I've experienced very much more power brick failure than failure of the powered devices.  Sometimes this has been sneaky failure, with reduced power causing malfunction, rather than total absence of current.

  2. Zygo says:
    1

    Honestly, you might be better off with 3 separate USB hubs wired together, as they'll each have their own power brick to supply them.  Even that Anker has a lot of fine-print limitations--only 50W of the 60W power supply is usable, and all but one of the ports are capped at 0.9A, which is less than half of what stand-alone USB2 chargers will give out these days.

    https://www.amazon.com/Rosonway-Aluminum-Splitter-Certified-Individual/dp/B08DKQQ6MR/ref=sr_1_2_sspa has more than 10 USB ports, but if you want 10W of power on each port, you're going to have to leave some ports empty.  As a rule of thumb, you'll want to leave 20% of the power supply's capacity unused if you want stable power.

  3. TMG says:

    Big, industrial high capacity usb hubs: https://www.cambrionix.com/

  4. Andrew Klossner says:
    1

    I've been using this hub for over a year: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NWZT1TQ
    Manufacturer's page here: https://www.vantecusa.com/products_detail.php?p_id=243
    It comes with an external power supply that puts out 5 amps @ 12 volts.
    It implements BC 1.2. This is the only hub I've found that can satisfy the power needs of my iPad Air 2; it stays charged while acting as a second screen for my PC.
    The upstream port is a full-size USB 3.0 B port. I've used hubs with micro-USB upstream ports from which the cable came loose with the slightest jostling.

  5. Nathan Williams says:

    (Fun fact, a 10 port USB hub seems to actually be three 4-port hubs in a triangle and/or wearing a trench coat.)

    Yup. The USB spec allows more downstream ports per hub than that (up to 15 with USB 3, I think technically up to 255 with USB 1 and 2), but internally building a tree out of commodity hub-implementing chips (for which 4 ports is pretty common) is the inexpensive way to design such a thing. There's a limit of 5 layers of hub between the root and a device, so in practice chaining more than two physical hubs together can cause problems.

  6. Pronoiac says:

    Are any of the devices or cables possibly dying, and starting to use more power? (This might be my brainfart.) I've run across oddly warm cables. There are apparently hardware usb power meters, for checking this.

    • Zygo says:

      If the cable connectors are getting corroded (they don't all use gold-plated contacts, and mechanical wear can scratch off the gold even on the ones that do), then their resistance will shoot up, resulting in low current to the device, and also more heat to speed up the corrosion process.  If the connectors are getting noticeably hotter than they used to, they're in a death spiral and should be replaced.  Hopefully it's not the connector in an expensive device that is failing, but it does happen.

      There are USB power meters, but beware of using them with the new USB charging protocols.  Cheap inline USB meters are only designed to handle 9.9V, but fast chargers can send many times that voltage if the device agrees to receive it.  Also the meter adds a small voltage drop of its own.

  7. Adolf Osborne says:

    It isn't ten ports so you don't care, but for those who do:

    I have a weekly shitshow of a livestream that I help to produce, and this shitshow involves a room full of people with microphones, a couple of whom are also armed computers and HDMI capture devices that are feeding a machine running OBS that is over in the next room where I sit.

    It was a never-ending cacophony of weird USB errors, disconnects, and wonky video feeds until I dug out a years-old 7-port steel-cased industrial Startech USB 3.0 powered hub and cabled it up within a couple of feet of these people.  And I had tried fucking everything, including no hub at all and direct (big! fat like your little finger is fat!) cables to the host PC and a plethora of newer powered 3.0 hubs in every imaginable permutation of new/old and good/better/best cabling.

    After well over a year of fucking around with it, things finally seem to be predictable and stable and I no longer have to apologize to our audience of three people about the shitshow that is our presenters' video.

    And the singular change that made it work was the addition of the completely-unlikely Startech hub, way over there in the next room.

    FWIW.  YMMV.  (I think they're still current offerings.  Another version of me got delivery of a very different system that included four of them a few months ago, but I have not stressed those particular examples in similar ways and probably never will in the application where they'll be used.)

  8. Eric TF Bat says:

    Thank you for this. The memory of this conversation was handy recently when dealing with a client whose external DVD drive wasn't behaving.  Turns out he had plugged it (and two hard disk drives) into an unpowered four-slot USB hub plugged into another unpowered six-slot USB hub plugged into his laptop.  Also plugged in to the same disaster: some speakers with pretty lights, a mouse, and a few other things.  Oddly, the DVD drive didn't feel it was getting enough power (or basic human respect) and so shut itself down randomly.  I explained what I could recall of what your commenters have said here, and the 15 watt light bulb came on behind his eyes. He plugged the DVD drive into the laptop directly instead.  He's off to buy a powered hub some time, so with luck the problem will not recur.

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