The Orico USB3 Hub and Gigabit adapter
After the flop of the no brand approach, I went for a product from a brand I’m getting good results time and again: Orico.
The Orico USB3 Hub with Gigabit Ethernet adapter is a totally different kind of product which, although the price range it’s not exactly the same, it isn’t significantly more expense. The end result though, it completely different.
It’s not clearly stated, but this product seems totally targeted at Macbook users, as every detail tries to mimic the Apple experience: white and somewhat environmentally raw cardboard packaging, white accessories and finally and aluminium case.
The device itself is built around an aluminium casing with a slightly different finishing than what is used on MacBooks, although it’s not different enough to cause concern. Quality wise, it’s a stark departure from the cheap black plastic casing of the no-brand product. Then, the accessories, because it actually includes two white USB SuperSpeed cables, one cable with two type-B plugs, and another with one type-B plug. This tremendous value as this alone would cover a significant cost of the product.
Continuing on the unpacking, the reason why cables are included: the Hub has a type-B receptacle, which not only allows you to switch cables for a longer one, but as obvious due to the previous lines, use it on the new MacBooks which only support type-C plugs. The greatest departure from an Apple product is the existence of a blue LED which lights up as soon as the device is plugged to a powered USB3 host. I’m not aware of any Apple device with such an LED, however it’s still well designed: clearly visible but not too bright. Ever since LEDs were made available at reasonable prices that vendors added them to products, without caring for the extreme brightness they often output, rendering a possible interesting design feature into a significant drawbacks.
It isn’t a perfect product however, although not drawn by the same constrains usually attributed to Apple’s design choices. The most visible of them is the lack of ethernet LEDs. For some reason almost none USB Gigabit ethernet adapters have them. It’s not a killer flaw, and most users will never miss them, but it some helps on troubleshooting some basic issues.
The thing that can actually bring issues is the lack of external power supply, not the fact that is doesn’t include one, but even if you get one, there is no input socket. The concern here is not as much on the inability to properly charge mobile devices, as there are significant more effective means, but on power-hungry USB3 devices. Whereas USB2 devices were limited to [email protected] per USB link, USB3 raises the bar to [email protected] or 4,5W. As this hub is already bus powered, and the embedded ethernet adapter takes around 140mA, it means that the sum of any other devices connected to it cannot exceed 760mA, which automatically makes all full power devices incompatible with it. Fortunately, there aren’t many of those, so most users will never feel this problem. For those who have such devices, this is a show stopper.
Connecting this device shows almost the same experience as before, with the sole a and significant difference of the blue LED. Again, it’s a very soft and absolutely non disturbing light source, properly designed. Looking at it’s internal components, some differences start to be very apparent: it’s based on the Via VL813 chipset, an extremely mature solution built on top of the first two generations of Via USB3 chips which endured the biggest burden of being the industry’s guinea pig.
Connecting a gigabit capable cat5e cable is the same eventless experience, as the ubiquitous ethernet link and activity LEDs are absent, however with some notable exceptions:
- MacOS recognises the new ethernet connection within a couple of seconds
- The new connection is in fact detected as gigabit
Now, to what really matters: does it really deliver gigabit bandwidths?
For a more detailed analysis on USB3 ethernet performance on MacOS, comparing it against the alternatives, check the upcoming post on that exact subject.
Against the alternatives
Although the market for USB3 Ethernet adapters is not huge, a number of known brands do include some options on their portfolio.
In this case, Belkin and Apple would be the usual suspects. From Apple we get a very traditional USB3 FastEthernet and the now almost universally present lack of ethernet LEDs. This is a product totally out-of-sync with reality. If we consider the US$ 29 price tag, this is a product for the very die hard and uniformed Apple addicts.
On the Belkin side, we have a product with is very much in line with the Orico one: it’s a USB3 hub with a gigabit ethernet adapter embedded. Comparing the Belkin product with the Orico one, we can clearly see that Belkin is on troubled waters:
- USB3 plugs are on the side, which means you need both hands to plug any single device. On the Orico device, the plugs are vertically aligned.
- Casing is made of reasonable plastic, but plastic nonetheless and incomparably worse than the aluminium case of the Orico product.
- Pricewise, there’s little to compare: the Belkin adapter will cost you almost US$50 while the Orico can be bought for between US$20 to US$30 depending on where you buy it.
The only plus side of the Belkin offering is the ethernet LEDs is absolutely not worth the extra US$20 or US$30….
If on one hand you clearly get what you pay for, you may be paying too much if you’re not careful. As usual, getting the lowest possible cost product will not serve you well, paying too much will not get you a better product.
When buying an USB3 ethernet adapter, it’s usually a better value for money if you choose the adapter embedded into an USB3 hub, which gives you a number of USB3 ports for free, without compromising performance.
In this case, a number of features may be of far greater importance:
- Build quality
- Included cables
- Gigabit compatibility
- Great build quality, almost perfectly matches most Macbook finishing
- Actually does gigabit
- Included USB3 cables are almost worth the price alone
- Those ethernet LEDs would be an welcomed addition
- Lack of power input will prevent this hub from being fully used
Verdict: Highly recommended
This product can be bought from these sellers: