Can this $8 Accessory Add a Display to your NUC?

So there I was, wasting a few minutes on Facebook, minding my own business, when an add from Gearbest popped up.  The ad was for this USB-C hub:

20180628150237_81931

I’d seen similar devices before: they split a single USB-C port into USB 3.0, HDMI, and USB-C 3.1 ports.  This one looked just like the others I’d seen, but those were usually in the $30 range.  They allowed you to run, among other things, an HDMI display off of your USB-C port. For a NUC with USB-C, this gives you an extra display connection. This one, at a paltry $8.59, seemed way too good to be true. The phrase “cheap knock-off” came to mind. But it was too cheap for me not to try. So, in a rare case of a pop-up ad working on me, I went ahead and ordered one. I even…(gasp)…paid $2 for expedited shipping.

It arrived in a few days, in what I can only describe as generic packaging:

IMG_20180715_095625256

After taking it out of the package, I gave it a good looking over. The build quality seemed surprisingly good.

Bracing myself for disappointment, I plugged it into my Baby Canyon NUC, then connected a monitor to the HDMI port. The Baby Canyon has one HDMI port and one USB-C port, so using this device would give me dual displays. After a couple of seconds, Windows recognized it, installed drivers, and added the new display.

It was that simple.

No drivers, no fiddling with settings. The display behaved as though it was plugged into one of the on-board HDMI ports. So I decided to put a little pressure on it. I connected my m.2 external enclosure from GoRite to the USB port. Surely, I reasoned, connecting more than one device would cause this ultra-cheap part to burst into flames.

But no. The connected display didn’t so much as flicker while the external enclosure was recognized, and everything kept working:

usb-c hub

IMG_20180718_064741487

Just for laughs I ran Performance Test by Passmark:

The hub’s results are on the left. They aren’t quite on par with the on-board graphics, but they’re still respectable enough for productivity work. These are 2D tests.  Of course, the less said about 3D the better:

usb-c hub 3d results

I played a few videos at full screen, ranging from 480P to 1080P, and switched between both displays.  I could see no difference between the hub’s HDMI port and the on-board one.  I did a bit of productivity work, switching various apps between the monitors. No issues, no lag. Everything worked surprisingly well.  I even tried playing video on the HDMI port while copying files from the USB drive. No problems at all.

I am genuinely surprised. For $8, I was expecting a USB-C hub that would either not work at all, work intermittently, or fail immediately.  I fully expected the HDMI port to not give me anything, or at best give me poor performance. Instead, I got a hub that does exactly what it says. It gives me an extra display via the USB-C port, and for everyday computing, the performance appears to be more than up to the task.

Of course I can’t speak to durability yet, as I’ve only had it for about a week. But so far it’s going strong and doing the job.

I’ll call this the little hub that could.

 

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I'm a self-described technology nut, as well as a writer. That means the only thing I love more than learning about and playing with new technology is writing about it! Techster means "one who techs", and that's me!

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