Powered USB Hub vs. Non-Powered USB Hub Explained

Powered USB Hub vs Non-Powered USB Hub

USB hub is a device designed to add more USB ports to a computer. Normally, a USB hub has somewhere between 2-20 additional ports. Many may even have hundreds of extra ports which kinda overkill unless there’s a good reason to use it.

Albeit looks pretty much the same, USB hubs are distinguished based on two categories: powered USB hub and non-powered USB hub. But what are the differences?

Here is a quick look of them.

Powered USB Hub: Best for powering devices

Powered USB Hub

Powered USB hubs or active USB hubs require an external power source aside from the computer. Generally, they suck power from a wall socket to maintain consistent power output. Each of any given ports rated for 500 mA.

This type of USB hub can be useful if you want to connect to power-hungry devices such as a speaker, scanner, camera, or even charging a smartphone. However, you have to find a power outlet that closes enough to your PC.

Pros:

  • Constant reliable power
  • Good for high-energy devices
  • Won’t hurt the PC’s power supply
  • Great for RGB accessories

Cons:

  • Requires power outlet
  • Not practical for laptop/notebook/tablet
  • The average price is higher

Recommended powered USB hubs:

Non-Powered USB Hub: Just okay for daily usage

Non-Powered USB Hub
Anker Non-Powered USB Hub (via Amazon)

Unlike powered USB hubs that consume electricity from the wall socket, the non-powered USB hub takes energy directly from the computer. The power rate it takes from the computer is 500 mA. So, if the USB hub has five ports, each port only receives 100 mA respectively.

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Although each port may have significantly less power, this non-powered USB hub is still practical for some basic peripherals like a wired mouse, keyboard, gaming pad, or just transferring data from smartphones.

Recharging an electronic device through a non-powered USB hub isn’t the best way to go as its power may constantly change and could damage the battery in the long run.

Pros:

  • Good for low-energy devices
  • More practical for laptop/notebook/tablet
  • No wall socket needed
  • Cheaper and more common

Cons:

  • Unstable power flow
  • Not recommended for high-power devices
  • Not recommended for charging

Recommended non-powered USB hubs:

Powered USB Hub vs. Non-Powered USB Hub in comparison

Powered USB HubNon-Powered USB Hub
Power sourceWall socketComputer
Power capacity500mA on each port500mA divided by total ports
Power reliabilityStableUnstable
High-mobilityNoYes
Bandwidth speedDivided for each portDivided for each port
Price$$$
Good forHigh-power devicesLow-power devices

Conclusion: the core difference is the power

If you are using a computer and have a wall socket near it, and want to use full RGB systems, charging smartphones, or connecting other high-power devices, then a powered USB hub is great for you.

On the other hand, a non-powered USB hub is a perfect companion for laptops that commonly has fewer ports than a PC. However, it can also be used for a desktop PC if you just want to transfer files from a camera or powering a keyboard and mouse.

Other than power, price, and mobility, both powered USB hubs and non-powered USB hubs are pretty much identical.

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