Best USB 3.0 Hub with Card Reader for Your iMac

by Barrett

Does anyone else feel that having to stretch behind your iMac to reach the card reader is something of a drag? The same goes when you’re trying to connect a USB flash drive. I think it’s time to get ahead of the problem…

Message to Apple designers: I don’t like struggling to reach to the back of my new iMac to access the SD card reader slot for my camera card and USB 3.0 ports for my various devices. And while I’m kvetching… I want more than four USB 3.0 ports. Just as importantly, I need one or two of them much nearer to my keyboard to plug in my iPhone, thumb drives and such.

Earth to Barrett: You’re on your own to find front-facing ports.
Fortunately, the easy solution is to buy a little USB 3.0 hub/card reader combo that can sit elegantly within fingers’ reach.

The question is which one?

So Many Choices!
After doing a little research, I found five companies making devices to address this need:

  • Alcey
  • Cateck
  • Sabrent
  • Satechi
  • UNITEK

Most of these combo units are silver, reflecting the Apple design aesthetic, and I focused on the smaller models, offering only 3 USB ports:
(I don’t need more.)

And all of the choices are backwards compatible to earlier USB protocols.

Alcey
Alcey Bus-Powered USB 3.0 3-Port Hub with SD/TF Card Reader Combo
$14.99 on Amazon

Cateck
Cateck Bus-Powered USB 3.0 3-Port Aluminum Hub with SD/TF Card Reader Combo
$19.99 on Amazon
(Looks exactly like the Alcey)

Sabrent
Sabrent Premium 3 Port Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub with Multi-In-1 Card Reader
$19.99 on Amazon
It has three different card reader slots as opposed to two.
(I don’t really need the extra one.)
The orientation of the ports are top/down as opposed to side to side like the Alcey and Cateck.

Satechi
Satechi Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub and Card Reader
$29.99 on Amazon
The two card reader slots (Micro and SD) are side to side as opposed to one on top of the other.
Note: It’s also ten bucks more than the competition…
The specs mention the cable being ‘shielded.’
(More on this later)

UNITEK
UNITEK 3 Ports USB 3.0 Hub with Multi-In-1 Card Reader with 5V 2A Adapter and USB 3.0 Cable
$21.99 on Amazon
4-in-1 card reader
It’s black instead of silver.
(Looks like something out of a “Terminator” film)

USB 3.0 and Bluetooth Devices Don’t Play Well Together
Before we continue, please note that each of these choices comes with a warning listed in the marketing materials…
You see, Bluetooth-connected keyboards and mice (like I have with my new iMac) can have a problem with USB 3.0 hubs that aren’t properly shielded. The resulting interference can cause your wireless devices to malfunction.
(Nice! Right?)

So, if you place these hubs too close to your iMac wireless transmitter in the back corner, you might run into problems.
(If you’re connecting to a laptop, you’ll be fine.)

That said, you shouldn’t forget that the Satechi unit claims to have a ‘shielded’ cable. I don’t think that’s any kind of guarantee, but it couldn’t hurt…

Which One?
At the end of the day, the choices all seem similar, except for the UNITEK ‘Skynet’ box, which didn’t appeal to me at all. I just didn’t like the design. Plus, I didn’t need all of the extra card slots.

And what do other reviewers have to say?
The Alcey, Cateck and Sabrent units all had a similar split of Amazon reviews.
Many folks gave 4 or 5 stars, but enough gave 1 or 2’s.

Hmmm…

Satechi received better overall Amazon reviews, but there were only eleven of them.

Both Macworld and The Gadgeteer liked the Satechi.
But MacSources liked the Sabrent.

Still, no clarity…

Then, I went to the websites for each of the manufacturers.
I know you shouldn’t judge a product based on the marketing quality of a website, but image does matter.

Satechi blew away the competition, and Alcey came in dead last.
The rest were perfectly fine.

So where does this all point to?

Hello, Satechi!
Short of saying “Eenie meenie miney mo…”
I say, “Get the Satechi!”

Yes, it’s more expensive, but it appears to have a more unified fan base.
(Plus, the cable is apparently ‘shielded’ and may play better with wireless devices.)

That’s my choice, and I’m sticking with it!
At Home with Tech says…
“Click.”

Any other suggestions out there?

Do tell!

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