Anker’s 551 USB-C hub is a nearly perfect iPad Pro accessory

Anker 551 USB C Hub for iPad, Desk with ZDNET Homepage.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

I have been testing for the past two weeks Anker 551 USB-C Hub with me 2021 iPad ProThen the 2022 iPad Pro. It’s proven to be a valuable device that I’ve grown to appreciate the more I use it.

It’s not because of the eight different ports spread around the perimeter of the base.

What makes the 551 a gadget I’ve enjoyed using is the adjustable stand where you can place an iPad or, indeed, any USB-C tablet. Let me explain.

For the past few years, I’ve been searching for my ideal iPad Pro hub and dock workstation. I tried all kinds of solutions.

Further: M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs M2 iPad Pro (2022): Worth the upgrade?

I like very much TwelveSouth’s $80 HoverBar Duo It holds the iPad at the same height as my external monitor, but lacks any kind of hub to attach accessories like a keyboard, mouse, or external storage. It gets bonus points in my app for being easy to adjust on the fly.

The hub is connected to an iPad that displays an image of a parrot.

Image: Hyper

I also liked the small size, ease of use and portability Hyper’s $99.99 6-in-1 USB-C Hub Allows when used with iPad. Hyper’s $99.99 USB-C 6-in-1 Media Hub Similar, but with the added bonus of physical media controls within arms reach. However, having an entire core physically sticking out of the side of the iPad makes me incredibly nervous that I’m going to break the charging port on my iPad. Not to mention what looks like a spaghetti bundle with various cables and wires coming out of the side of the display.

Belkin Thunderbolt Pro 4 Dock on White Surface.

Image: Belkin

Even if you ignore all that, you’ll still need to find some sort of mounting arrangement for the iPad Pro.

I’ve also used more expensive USB-C or Thunderbolt hubs with the iPad Pro. $399.99 Belkin Connect Pro Thunderbolt 4 Dock. With fast transfer speeds, multiple ports, and a long Thunderbolt cable to connect to your iPad (handy if you’re using the HoverBar Duo mentioned earlier), it does everything you could want in a hub — but it’s $400. Alas.

All of that testing and testing led to appreciating the Anker 551 for a few different reasons.

Further: Using the wrong USB-C cable can damage your technology. Here’s how to avoid it

What I love about the Anker 551 USB-C Hub

First, I appreciate the way the iPad is held. The adjustable stand is versatile and allows you to position the iPad so that it looks like a laptop display, and it looks great. However, I found using the 551 with an iPad Pro still flat at a slight angle below my external monitor.

That means I can type and interact with anything else on the iPad and the external monitor, and then if I need to use the iPad Pro’s screen, use the Apple Pencil or my finger to quickly write, tap, or swipe the screen.

The 551 has two hinges, the lower hinge offers 70 degrees of range, while the upper hinge near the tablet can rotate a full 180 degrees.

A close-up side view of an iPad with anchor 551 hinges.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

When it comes to connecting accessories and additional devices to the hub, you have a total of eight options. On the left side of the base, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack and two USB ports. On the back, on either side of the hinge, you’ll find a USB-C PD port that accepts up to 100W of power to charge your tablet, and an HDMI 2.0 port that handles 4K/60Hz output.

A on the right side of the base Micro SD card slot and a full-sized SD card slot, along with another USB-C port that can be used to connect your iPad to the dock via an attached cable.

What I don’t like about the Anker 551 USB-C hub

There is one area where the 551’s quest to become the perfect USB-C hub for the iPad falls short. It’s the absence Ethernet port. Of course, Apple just added it Wi-Fi 6E support For the new iPad Pro, wireless networks are generally faster and more reliable, but nothing like a hardwired connection.

I’d give up the 3.5mm audio jack or USB port on the left side for a nice gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port any day of the week. But maybe that’s just me.

Anker 551 USB-C closeup on a table.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

However, for now, the Anchor 551 It stays on my desk for days or moments when I use my iPad Pro as a computer rather than as a tablet.

If you don’t own an iPad Pro and like the overall look and feel of the Anker 551, don’t overlook it. Since it uses USB-C, it can be used with any USB-C device. That is, the Surface Pro 9Any of Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs, or upcoming ones Pixel tablet It rests well on the stand and interfaces with everything you attach it to.

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