Monday, May 6, 2013

Short Review: Kanex DualRole portable Gigabit plus 3 port USB 3.0 hub

Here is an interesting little gadget for the road-warrior.

Kanex DualRole Gigabit Ethernet + 3-port USB 3.0 hub. Designed with Macbook users in mind, it is a small portable USB 3.0 hub with a VIA USB 3.0 controller and a fairly popular ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit chipset. These are currently shipping for $50 on Amazon.

I've dealt with this type of hardware before in other hubs and USB 3.0 gigabit adapters. So the performance is pretty much standard fare if you ever used a VIA USB 3.0/ASIX gigabit adapter. What makes this device unique is the packaging and portability.

I previously toted a Thunderbolt Gigabit or another ASIX USB gigabit adapter along with several SSD drives in my backpack. I've been trying to slim my carry-on weight down so I've been investing in 64GB USB sticks to substitute for 2.5" SSD shuttle drives. Other four port USB 3.0 hubs I have tend to be bulky so this pretty much solves my problem. I figure this is something to have in the bag in the event I need it.

The hub has 3 ports instead on the usual four but I would often end up using the fourth port for Gigabit anyways.  Since I already have four other ASIX gigabit dongles, this one was a plug-n-plug for me. If this is your first USB 3.0 Gigabit adapter, you will need to install thew pre-requisite ASIX 88179  drivers.

Overall, I really like it. I wish it had an aluminum finish instead of the mid-2000s iMac/White iBook white finish.  The ports are fairly evenly space and you will be able to add some thick USB devices. Still, I wish the ports were a little further spread apart like some of the cheap 4 port Anker USB 3.0 hubs. For example, in the picture below, I could not add two Patriot XT sticks side by side. With different arrangements, I can still all use three ports.

There is no extra USB cable to plug in which is nice. The short cable folds in when not in use. I've read some complaints about the length of the short cable. If you are using this mobile as pictured above, it shouldn't be a problem. However, if you use this in a docked desk environments, I can see where people can complain. Below is a picture of how it dangles when connected to a Macbook on a desk stand like the mStand.

Next, it does not come with an aux power adapter. It does have a hole for an AC power adapter if you plan to power something that requires a little more juice like some 2.5" 7200 rpm drives. This is fine with me since I would only be using this as a mobile gadget.


I think this is a fair price item. Most USB 3.0 four port hubs cost as little as $30 and a USB 3.0 gigabit adapter will run you $20-$30 on how aggressively you discount shop. The lack of a fourth port is made up with the Gigabit adapter. It uses the standard VIA and ASIX controller IC which works well with other products. I personally love the small footprint and short cable for portability reasons. However, I can see where people would prefer a longer cable in a docked desk environment.

The current competitors are SIIG and Startech. They cost a bit more ($60-$90) and are not as portable as the Kanex. They also use bulky longer USB cable which makes them more suited for a permanent docked desk environment. The SIIG and Startech USB3.0 combo Gigabit hub below. Another alternative are the DisplayLink PC USB 3.0 docking stations. They run $150 and up and provide USB 3.0 video which I don't need.

No comments:

Post a Comment