Review of the HyperDrive Thunderbolt 3/USB-C Hub Kickstarter edition

December last year, Sanho launched a Kickstarter campaign for the HyperDrive Thunderbolt 3/USB-C hub and it was a very successful campaign indeed. On the first day, the campaign went over the initial $100,000 goal and reached $200K. In the end, they raised more than 1.8 million dollars with 20,680 backers.

The result came in some time ago, after the campaign suffered some production and logistics problems. Luckily, the communication was very clear throughout the delay and last month, the hub came in. We’re finally able to make some time and look at this hub.

Anatomy

This hub is a little different from other hubs. It’s designed specifically for the 2016 MacBook Pro (either the 13″ or 15″ model) because it has two male connectors that exactly match the Apple laptop port layout.

HyperDrive Thunderbolt 3 Hub

The hub is designed to be compact. This causes the ports to be situated close to one another; this goes for the USB-C ports as well as the USB-A ports. Especially when using two USB sticks in the USB-A slots, it’s getting rather cramped.

When viewed from what we’ll call the front, from left to right there are 6 ports: the Thunderbolt 3 port, the USB-C port, the SD and Micro-SD slots, and two USB 3.0 ports. What Sanho Corporation has done, is basically patch the Thunderbolt port straight through the hub, to the laptop. This is the port to use for charging the laptop.

So to drive this point home; the port marked with the lightning symbol is meant to power the hub. The right port is NOT a Thunderbolt 3 port and cannot power the laptop; it’s a USB-C port that’s limited to data.

This setup has advantages; since there’s really no intelligent circuitry between the power supply and the laptop, charging is not limited in any way.

On the other hand, it’s not actually a Thunderbolt 3 hub. We think it’s a trifle disingenuous to call it like that. It’s an USB-C hub with a passthrough for the Thunderbolt port. The hub identifies itself as an USB 3.1 Gen 1 hub with a product ID 0x0813 from VIA Labs. That means the VIA Lab’s VL812 4-port USB 3.0 hub controller, which is used in a number of hubs.

Speed

We hooked a CalDigit Tuff 2 TB external harddrive to the hub and ran the AmorphousDiskMark benchmark. It performed as well as a direct connection to the laptop. Then we performed the same test with a Samsung T3 250 GB Portable SSD, with or without hub, the SSD had read speeds of up to 325 MB/s. No problems here.

Monitor

There’s not much to test here; the HDMI connector is fine. We hooked up a 4K monitor, and as expected the refresh rate is 30 Hz. This is a current limitation of USB-C hubs. We don’t advise this for daily usage, but if you don’t have a 4K monitor, the refresh rate is a regular 60 Hz. We did find something funny here; when the laptop would wake up from sleep, regularly our monitor (a Samsung L28E590DS) would show a snowy display for a couple of seconds. Other hubs that are based on the same chipset, also display this behavior. It could also be a thing with the monitor, though.

Other tests

Copying a movie over the HyperDrive Thunderbolt 3 hub, from one disk to another: OK

WiFi speeds remained constant while transferring data over the hub: OK

Does the hub get too hot while using: No, it barely got warm

How much power do the USB-A ports deliver: 5.1V @ 0.45A = 2.3W

That last point is a disadvantage. In principle, an USB 3.0 port should be able to give 0.9A (at 5V, this is 4.5W). Directly connecting an iPhone to the MacBook would charge it with a bit more than 7W.

Conclusion

All in all, it’s a nice piece of equipment. We don’t advise it for people who wear a soft/hard shell around their MacBook Pro; the hub simply won’t fit. Charging devices off the hub is also not very useful. We do advise it for all MacBook owners who are looking for something very portable, or who have an external monitor that’s not 4K and wish to hook up their laptop in a single step.

Missed the campaign? Order this hub on Indiegogo.
Wish to talk about this hub? Check out the topic on reddit.
Rather have something else? Have a look at our selection of hubs.