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What Are All These Ports For?

  • 3 min read

If you asked the majority of people to write down all of the ports they know, they'd probably come up with USB, HDMI, maybe Ethernet.

But if you go on Amazon and search for a hub, you'll see some with 12 ports, 13 ports, or even more!

What are these ports and what do they all do? We're here to answer that question.

1. Power Delivery Input Port

 

Usually labeled "PD-IN" on the outside of a hub, this port is where you plug in your laptop's charger to provide pass-through power to both the hub and your connected laptop.

2. USB-A Port

 

A USB-A port is the most common type of USB port, so much so that it's usually just called a USB port. This is the port that's used to connect most external devices like keyboards, mice, thumb drives, and so much more.

3. USB-C Port

 

USB-C ports can be used to charge, transfer files, and even connect to an external monitor. However, that's not always the case. It's important to read the fine print before buying a USB-C hub or docking station to find out exactly what the USB-C port can do.

4. HDMI Port

 

HDMI is currently the most commonly used video transmission interface. HDMI transmits both digital audio and video signals, and is relatively good at combatting interference.

HDMI Type Transmission Rate 1080p 2K 4K
HDMI 1.4 10.2 Gbps 120Hz 60Hz
144Hz (Limited Color)
30Hz
60Hz (Limited Color)
HDMI 2.0 18 Gbps 240Hz 144Hz 60Hz
120Hz (Limited Color)
HDMI 2.1 48 Gbps 240Hz 240Hz 144Hz

 

Of course, the resolution that you can achieve doesn't just depend on the HDMI type, it also depends on the specs of your USB-C hub / docking station and laptop.

5. DisplayPort

 

DisplayPort is still fairly uncommon, but it generally has better specs than HDMI, making it a popular choice with gamers. Like HDMI, DisplayPort also transmits both audio and video signals.

DisplayPort Version Transmission Rate 1080p 2K 4K
DisplayPort 1.2 21.6 Gbps 240Hz 144Hz 60Hz
DisplayPort 1.4 32.4 Gbps 240Hz 144Hz
240Hz
60Hz
120Hz

 

DisplayPort 1.2 is much more common than DisplayPort 1.4. If you want to get a display output of 4K@60Hz you need to confirm the following 3 things:

  • Your laptop's USB-C port must support the DisplayPort protocol. You can check your user manual or ask your laptop's manufacturer to confirm
  • Your USB-C hub's DisplayPort must support 4K@60HZ
  • The monitor you want to connect must also support 4K@60Hz

When it comes to data transmission, whether that be video or audio, the results are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. This means that if you want to achieve 4K@60Hz display, then your monitor, your laptop's port, and your USB-C hub must all be able to support 4K@60Hz. If only one of them falls short, then everything else will fall short too.

6. SD/microSD Card Slot

 

The SD in SD card stands for Secure Digital Memory Card. SD is bigger than the microSD card. These memory cards are generally used in cameras or sometimes in mobile phones. At present, Anker hubs and docking stations mainly use SD 3.0 and SD 4.0 card slots.

7. 3.5 mm AUX Port

 

Also know as an audio jack or a headphone jack, this port is used to connect audio devices like headphones, speakers, and even microphones. It supports both audio input and output.

8. Ethernet Port

 

At present, really the only choice in terms of network connection on USB-C hubs is a gigabit Ethernet port. This can be provide you with a 1 Gbps transmission rate and theoretical download speeds of 125 MB/s.

There are some hubs with support for 2.5 Gbps Ethernet but they are fairly uncommon.

Hopefully now after reading this article you'll be a bit more familiar with some of the most common ports and what exactly it is they do. We didn't go into too much detail, otherwise we might be here for days, such is the amount of variation possible for each type of port.

If you have a rough idea about what type of USB-C hub or docking station you're looking for, and want to get some recommendations, try taking our quiz here.

Compare some of our USB-C hubs and docking stations below.

Our Top Picks for You

Product name Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C Hub PowerExpand 11-in-1 USB-C Hub PowerExpand 7-in-2 USB-C Hub
Price £279.99 £79.99 £99.99 £39.99
Picture Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station Piciture
PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C Hub Piciture
PowerExpand 11-in-1 USB-C Hub Picture
PowerExpand 7-in-2 USB-C Hub Piciture
Number of Ports 12 8 11 7
Number of Supported Displays 3 1 2 2
Supports Laptop Charging
Data Transfer 40 Gbps 10 Gbps 5 Gbps 40 Gbps
USB-A Port 2 × USB 3.1 Gen 2, 10 Gbps, 5V/0.9A
2 × USB 2.0, 480 Mbps, 5V/0.5A
2 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 2 × USB 2.0
1 × USB 3.0
2 × USB 3.0
USB-C Port 1 × USB 3.1 Gen 2, 10 Gbps, PD 3.0, 9V/2.25A 1 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 1 × USB 3.0 1 × USB 3.0
Thunderbolt Port 1 × Thunderbolt 4 downstream port, 40 Gbps, 8K@30Hz, 15W - - 1 x Thunderbolt 3 port, 40 Gbps, 5K@60Hz
HDMI Port 2 × HDMI 2.0, 4K@60Hz 1 x HDMI, 4K@60Hz 1 x HDMI, 4K@60Hz 1 x HDMI, 4K@30Hz
Display Port - - 1 x HDMI, 4K@60Hz -
SD/microSD Card Slot SD Card Slot: UHS-II UHS-I UHS-I UHS-I
Audio In&Out 3.5 mm 3.5 mm 3.5 mm -
Ethernet Port 1 Gbps 1 Gbps 1 Gbps -