USB hubs are a pretty common peripheral, but Bon.elk reckons its new “Long Life” range should appeal with a hard wearing design and choice of colours. Here’s my full review.
Range of colours
Carrying case is a nice inclusion
Solid metal build
HDMI Port is 4K, but only 30Hz
Multi-Hub ports fill quickly
Metal on hubs can get warm under sustained load
USB Hubs are an absolute commodity product, built to satisfy the needs of laptop users who all too often outgrow the limited number of ports on existing laptops.
That’s a market that Bon.Elk and plenty of others serve. The company recently sent me two of their newer coloured hubs, the Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub respectively to review.
Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub: Design
These are two distinct hub products; the cheaper $39.99 Bon.elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and the $59.99 3-in-1 Multi Hub respectively.
Still, they’re both doing the same essential task, albeit in slightly different frames. The 4 Port Hub couldn’t be much more minimalistic. It’s a thin strip hub with (you guessed it) 4 USB ports along its side, connected up via USB-A.
The Multi-Hub is rather more split in its focus, with a single USB-C port capable of power delivery and data functions, USB-A and 4K-capable HDMI port to offer up. That’s only three connections to the 4 Port Hub’s four ports… though you could daisy chain them, and I’m not going to lie, I totally did that during my test process.
Where the Bon.Elk products are a little different is in colour choices. So many of these hubs wrap their ports in simple black plastic, or sometimes a silver variant to try to match that MacBook aesthetic.
Either the Multi or 4-Port Hub do come in Black and indeed a MacBook-style Space Grey, but they’re also available in Blue, Green or White hues if you fancy a splash of colour.
I certainly do, and Bon.Elk provided me with a Blue Multi Hub and Green 4-port hub to test out. Outside the relative levels of extroversion you may or may not have, the colours do serve a small useful purpose on a busy desk like mine. Having colour there catches the eye, which means I can easily spot where the hubs are when I want to plug in a peripheral.
One final and very welcome inclusion in the box with the Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub are carrying pouches. They’re simple stitched numbers with a Bon.Elk logo on them, but they do at least take notice of the idea that you might use these hubs in a portable capacity. I like that kind of thinking, although these are fairly small pouches. Good luck stuffing either hub into them in a hurry.
Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub: Performance
The 4 Port Hub has USB-A 3.0 “SuperSpeed” 5Gbps ports, though the speed you’ll get out of devices does (as always) depend on what you’re plugging in and the resources of the computer you’re connecting it to. I suspect a lot of users will split that speed up adding both storage (where the speed matters) and peripherals such as mice and keyboards where that really doesn’t matter at all.
Testing with the 4 Port Hub revealed few real issues, and I’d be stunned if there were any. Again, this is a commodity product, well understood. One factor I did notice after a long period of usage was that the metal of the hub was noticeably warm. Not burning hot, to be fair, but it’s obvious side effect of having a metal frame on a product where circuits can run warm over sustained load.
The Multi-Hub had the same issue, and slightly faster if I was using the USB-C port’s Power Delivery feature to supply juice to a laptop.
I tested with a MacBook Air M2, Surface Pro X and even that cheap Chromebook I bought a while back. Yes, it’s still working and I do use it on a regular basis.
Power worked, data and peripheral devices worked as well, and even the HDMI port gave me few hassles, even through the Chromebook where that kind of approach can be very hit and miss.
As you can see above, I’ve tested one of Bon.Elk’s fancier 9-in-1 hubs previously, and there features like dual HDMI were trickier to manage (especially on a MacBook).
Keeping it simple with just one HDMI port does alleviate those issues, but it does also provide a more limited set of tools to work from, especially as it supports HDMI 4K at up to a maximum of 30Hz.
As noted, I did end up plugging the 4 port hub into the Multi Hub, but then I’m in the power user category – and the 9 Port hub is probably more my speed than the lower-cost Multi Hub. If your needs are on the more modest side, and especially if you need a full sized HDMI out it’ll do the trick… with one tiny caveat.
I did notice with the HDMI port connected to an external monitor that if I shuffled around other connections from USB-C or USB-A that sometimes – not every time, but sometimes – it would temporarily reset the HDMI connection, blanking the screen for a split second before recovering.
It’s most likely power balancing in these situations, but if you have a need for absolutely constant connection and you know you’re also going to be, say, shuffling USB SSDs on or off the hub, it’s an issue you may hit.
Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub Verdict: Well built and decent value
It’s hard to get too excited about USB hubs, because it’s not 1999 any more, back when USB was still very much a new concept. I can recall doing roundups of USB hubs back then, because they were a very new idea at that time.
But that just shows that I’m old. The Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub aren’t doing anything new, but they’re doing it well, and within nicely robust frames to boot. The carrying cases are also a very nice and welcome touch if you need a hub but don’t want to risk damaging it while you travel.
Bon.Elk USB-A to USB-A 4 Port Hub and 3-in-1 Multi Hub: Pricing
The Bon.Elk 3-in-1 Multi Hub retails for $59.99.
There’s… a lot. I mean, a whole lot at every single price point I could care to name. I can’t vouch for it (and I’d have my doubts), but here’s the cheapest HDMI to USB dock I could find on Amazon, another cheap one with a cat’s face because why-the-hell-not… but I wouldn’t recommend buying quite that cheap.
The 9-in-1 hub that I’ve tested previously does cost more — because it does more — if your needs are more expansive; you can pick one of those up here.
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