Tech

Satechi Surface Pro 9 Hub review: What a niche device!

Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 HubImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Physically stableReasonable price4K60 output

Cons

Very niche product — specific to the Microsoft Surface Pro 9Single 4K display support, even for USB4 hardware

Our Verdict

Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub is an affordable, suitable hub for the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet. Just be aware that it might be the only product that can use it.

Best Prices Today: Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub

RetailerPriceSatechi$59.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub is, well, a little messy. And that’s maybe putting it lightly.

First, it’s designed specifically for the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet. Second, there are two different Surface Pro 9 models, and they each have different internal hardware. Does this matter? To an extent, yes. But the real question is whether you’ll be able to buy this hub if you own other Surface Pro hardware.

A hub designed specifically for the Surface Pro 9 is obviously a little limiting. Will the Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub work with the Surface Pro 8? No, not really. And will it work with the Surface Pro 10? I think so. I’ll try to tease out the differences for you.

This review informs our roundup of the best USB-C hubs and dongles.

Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub: Fit, ports, physical construction

Let’s start with the basics. Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub lacks a cord. Instead, two USB-C connectors on the hub slot into the pair of USB-C ports on a Surface device. The hub is just 1.4 ounces, measuring 4.45 x 1.3 x 0.31 inches. It’s light and thin, and it fit just fine into our in-house Surface Pro 9 (5G) review unit, and into a Surface Pro 8, too — with a big caveat, which we’ll discuss later.

But the spacing of the ports is slightly different on some of the Surface clamshell notebooks — the Surface Laptop Studio’s ports, for example, are spaced just differently enough that the hub won’t fit.

Mark Hachman / IDG

The lack of a cord is a good thing. Even at just a few ounces, the weight of a dongle dangling from the Surface Pro 9’s USB-C port would probably stress that connection. Satechi’s approach is the correct one.

The Surface Pro 9 has the two USB-C ports on the left side of the tablet, with the Surface power connector on the right side. So, yes, the Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub works just fine with that device. From press photos of the Surface Pro 10 (we don’t have a review model), I would assume that Satechi’s hub will work just fine with that tablet, too.

The Surface Pro 8, however, places the ports on the right, tucked up against the power button, with the Surface charger slot just below. That means that the hub covers the power button, and the charging port is too close to the hub itself to plug in. Connect the hub, and you could inadvertently power off your device! You can jerry-rig a solution on the Surface Pro 8 by connecting the hub just after you’ve pressed the power button, then using one of the USB-C ports for charging…but why? So, no, this hub doesn’t really work with the older Surface Pro 8.

The far-left USB-C inlet port on Satechi’s hub — on the side where you can plug in cords — is a USB4 40Gbps pass-through port. USB4 is the more open version of Thunderbolt 3/4, so Thunderbolt devices should work with this hub, but only in certain cases. The other USB-C inlet is a more conventional 10Gbps port. Next to it is a 10Gbit USB-A port, and then an undisclosed HDMI port and a UHS-1 SD/MicroSD slot, too.

Mark Hachman / IDG

On the Surface Pro 9 (5G) — which has a Snapdragon Arm chip — the passthrough port didn’t allow me to power the tablet with a USB-C power plug. I could when using the Surface Pro 8 with an Intel chip inside, suggesting that the Intel version of the Surface Pro 9 will do the same.

With any hub, you have to worry a bit about whether ports are spaced wide enough to allow USB keys and cords to fit. Satechi’s hub doesn’t allow a lot of space, but all of the ports are spaced far enough away from each other, with the exception of the USB-C ports. If you have a USB-C memory stick, it might not fit when the other USB-C port is occupied. Any cord connectors, however, should work fine side-by-side. The physical construction of the hub also seems secure and sturdy enough that you could use a thick HDMI cable without its weight pulling the hub loose from its own connection.

The hub appears to be made of aluminum. It warmed to the touch under load, but not alarmingly so.

Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub: Performance will vary

Here’s the catch.

The Surface Pro 9 is available in two ways: Surface Pro 9, with an Intel chip inside, as well as the Surface Pro 9 (5G), with a Microsoft-Qualcomm Snapdragon Arm chip inside. The Intel-based model includes a 40Gbps Thunderbolt port, which natively connects to the hub’s 40Gbps USB4 port without issue.

Mark Hachman / IDG

But the Surface Pro 9 (5G) only includes a 10Gbps generic USB-C port, which means that the hub’s capabilities are limited by what the tablet can offer. You see the issue? The value of this hub is somewhat limited by what Surface version you own.

Using the hub, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) will connect to just a single 4K display, at 60Hz. The Surface Pro 8, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t connect to two 4K displays, as a USB4 or Thunderbolt 4 dock would. (Since the hub only has a single HDMI port, I tried using a USB-C (Thunderbolt) to HDMI cable. No dice — the experience should be the same for Intel and Qualcomm-based Surface devices in that regard.)

The hub lacks an Ethernet port, so all data must come to the tablet wirelessly. That’s a point in its favor, but while streaming a 4K60 test video to the Surface Pro 9 (5G), the video stuttered frequently, dropping 814 out of 10,000 frames. On a second run, performance improved to 246 dropped frames, but it still wasn’t impressive.

When connected to an SSD and the Surface Pro 9 (5G), performance wasn’t bad: 129MB/s, using PCMark’s storage benchmark, as good or better than competing devices. But transferring a folder from the SSD to the desktop took about 20 seconds more than a Thunderbolt dock.

Mark Hachman / IDG

When trying to transfer data while streaming, the Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub dropped about 1,000 frames per 10,000 streamed. That’s bad, and often turned video playback into a choppy mess.

On the Surface Pro 8, performance was noticeably better. The dock/SP8 setup dropped just 52 frames on our test stream, and just 48 when running the PCMark test in the background. That PCMark test yielded a result of 151.76MB/s throughput, which is actually the best I’ve ever seen. That dropped to 146.91MB/s while streaming our 4K test video.

Copying a file from an SSD to the desktop took much longer than usual, though, and I’m not sure why.

Finally, Satechi’s hub pushed out 7.2W of power across the other USB-C port on both the Surface Pro 9 (5G) and Surface Pro 8. That’s enough to slow-charge a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone in about an hour. The power didn’t change when I connected it to a power supply, or let the tablet’s battery take care of it.

Should you buy Satechi’s Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub?

If you don’t own a Surface Pro device, almost certainly not. Even if you have two Thunderbolt or USB-C ports on the side of your laptop, they probably aren’t spaced correctly. Even Microsoft’s own Surface Pro devices aren’t consistently designed.

If you own a Surface Pro 9, is it the Intel device? If so, you certainly could find a more powerful Thunderbolt dock or USB-C hub. But if you’re not willing to spend that much, and you don’t care about running two 4K displays, or if you own a Qualcomm-based Surface Pro 9, the Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub is a satisfactory niche device.

Best Prices Today: Satechi Dual USB-C Surface Pro 9 Hub

RetailerPriceSatechi$59.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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