Sunday, 15 February 2015

EasyAcc Hub and Docking Station Review

[I never get asked to review hardware, which has always been something of a disappointment given the years I've been writing this blog and professing my love for technology. However, my zero offers in ten years record was broken last week, though not via this blog. An offer came through via Amazon. Somebody must have realised that I own and love my EasyAcc USB Hub, which I've written about before. If it's possible to love a lump of plastic and USB ports, then how I feel about my hub is love and erotic love at that. It's been depressing the number of USB hubs I've owned that broke after a couple of months. So, last October, I finally invested a birthday voucher into a quality hub and I haven't regretted it. It sits on my table like the obelisk in 2001. It's a thing of beauty to behold, pumps out plenty of power, and controls everything without any trouble. Unlike previous hubs, I never have to unplug my Wacom tablet to wake it up. It just works. 

Anyway, EasyAcc sent me one of their new hub/docking stations and this is my review with an unpacking video. I won't be posting the video to Amazon because, as always, I hate the sound of my voice and I also make a few mistakes in it. The unit has 3 standard USB 2.0 ports, not four like I initially guess. Also, I didn't know that TF means MicroSD. You learn something new every day.

The only part of this I'm not sure about is giving it a score. It seems self evident that I'd want to give it 5 out of 5, which makes it really difficult to give it 5 out of 5, despite my genuinely liking this hub. This reviewing business is not as easy as it looks...]


I currently own an EasyAcc C72 Smart USB hub and I can happily say that it's been the best USB hub I've ever owned. So when EasyAcc gave me a chance to review one of their new Hub / Docking Station, I was cleaning a space on my desk before the email had left my outbox.

It arrived in EasyAcc's usual green non-nonsense packaging. The unit feels particularly nice to touch, with a slight rubberised texture, and is a sniff wider that 13cm, meaning it's wide enough to hold my 10.1 inch Samsung Note without danger of it sliding off. It's 7cm deep which, again, provides a fairly stable base but more about that later.

It came with one short standard USB cable and another short ribbon cable with a micro USB plug on the end. There were no cables to connect to an iPad. The power supply was reassuringly sizable and not the usual plug adaptor. A short two pin power cable runs to the brick, which means it doesn't take up too much space on my crowded extension block.

The unit itself comes with a single USB port to connect to your PC and three standard USB 2.0 ports. There are two additional ports colour coded to indicate they are higher powered. One is a 'fast charging' port and provides 5V at 2.4A and the other a 'charging port' which delivers 5V at 1A. It also comes with two slots (one SD and another TF meaning it takes cards with the MicroSD form factor) but since I have no use for them (and no cards to try in them), I haven't reviewed them. The unit is switched on via a simple in/out button on the back. When powered the unit has a single pinpoint of blue light on the front. Personally, I'd have preferred the light further away from the screen but that's probably a personal preference and you soon forget to notice it.

The design of the unit means that you're meant to feed the short USB cable through the small gap at the base of the unit and then plug it into your tablet or phone which can rest on the unit as it charges. That's a nice idea though in practise I found it a bit fiddly. It might be a flaw with my Note, which connects snugly to some USB cables and too loosely to others. I couldn't get a good connection and it was fiddly to lower the tablet onto the stand whilst retaining a connection. Again, this might just be a problem with my tablet and my clumsy fingers.

However, this 'problem' reveals what I think is the unit's best feature. It doesn't demand that you use it in a particular configuration. I quickly realised that it was much more useful to me to use the station without trailing the cable through the gap. I tend to use my Note upside down due to the placement of the home button, which I prefer at the top. So, thus far, I've been standing my tablet on the unit upside down. This is ideal but brings me to my only criticism. Unlike the Smart Hub which is heavily weighted to ensure it is very stable, this docking station isn't provided with any additional weight. With my tablet inverted, as I like to use it, pressing the home button can rock the station back. I have to support the tablet whilst pressing the button. This is really a very minor quibble but seems strange given that a benefit of their weighted USB hub is that it is rock solid. When holding an expensive tablet, it would have been a great bonus to have a stand equally firm on its footings. That, however, is a case of looking for problems rather than identifying a real issue. Similarly, like every docking station I've ever owned, the groove in the EasyAcc's base doesn't accommodate my tablet in its current case. Again: not really a problem but something that might be worth considering before you buy.

Regarding the other features. I've used this as a USB hub with no problem. It connected to my Windows 7 PC with no fuss and I even daisy-chained it to my EasyAcc Smart Hub which, for me, is ideal.

I've tried quite a few docking hubs over the years but this is a vast improvement over any I've owned. I've made room for it on my hugely overcrowded desk and that, really, is the highest compliment I can give it. I'd recommended it if you want a flexible docking station that adapts to your needs and doesn't force you to jam your tablet onto a fixed fitting which usually end up breaking after continued use. I could quibble about the weight but is it enough to make me give it only four stars out of five? I think that would be too harsh for a hub that suits my needs just about perfectly.

5 / 5.

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