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Anker’s 551 USB-C Hub is almost the perfect iPad Pro accessory

Anker 551 USB C Hub on iPad with ZDNET homepage on a desk.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

For the last two weeks I’ve been testing the Anker 551 USB-C hub with my 2021 iPad Pro, and then 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 that are spread out on the perimeter of the base.

What makes the 551 a gadget that I enjoy using is the adjustable stand where you place an iPad, or really, any USB-C tablet. Let me explain. 

Over the last few years, I’ve been on the hunt for my ideal iPad Pro hub and dock working station. I’ve tried all sorts of solutions. 

Also: M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs M2 iPad Pro (2022): Is it worth the upgrade?

I really like TwelveSouth’s $80 HoverBar Duo for putting the iPad at the same height as my external monitor, but it doesn’t include any sort of hub for connecting accessories like a keyboard, mouse, or external storage. It also garnered bonus points in my use for being easily adjustable on the fly.

Hub connected to iPad showing image of parrot.

Image: Hyper

I’ve also enjoyed the compact size, ease of use, and portability that Hyper’s $99.99 6-in-1 USB-C Hub allows when using it with the iPad. Hyper’s $99.99 USB-C 6-in-1 Media Hub is similar, but with the added bonus of physical media controls within arms reach. However, having something like an entire hub physically sticking out from the side of the iPad makes me incredibly nervous that I’m going to break the charging port on my iPad. Not to mention, having what looks like a bundle of spaghetti with various cables and wires coming out of the side of the display just doesn’t look all that great.

Belkin Thunderbolt Pro 4 Dock on white surface.

Image: Belkin

And even if you can overlook all of that, you still have to figure out some sort of mounting arrangement for the iPad Pro. 

I’ve also used some very expensive USB-C or Thunderbolt hubs with the iPad Pro, such as the $399.99 Belkin Connect Pro Thunderbolt 4 Dock. It does everything you’d want a hub to do, with fast transfer speeds, multiple ports, and a long Thunderbolt cable to connect to your iPad (handy if you’re using the previously mentioned HoverBar Duo) — but it’s $400. Ouch.

All of that experimenting and testing has led to my appreciation of the Anker 551 for a few different reasons. 

Also: Using the wrong USB-C cable can damage your tech. Here’s how to avoid that

What I like about the Anker 551 USB-C Hub

First and foremost I appreciate the way it holds the iPad. The adjustable stand is versatile and lets me place the iPad so that it looks more like a laptop’s display, and it’s great. However, I’ve found myself using the 551 with the iPad Pro lying nearly flat yet still at a slight angle, just below my external monitor. 

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

There are two hinges on the 551, with the lower hinge offering 70 degrees of range, while the top hinge nearest the tablet can rotate a full 180 degrees. 

Closeup side view of iPad with hinges of the Anker 551.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

As for connecting accessories and more 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, flanking 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.

On the right side of the base are a microSD card slot and a full-size SD card slot, along with another USB-C port that’s used to connect your iPad to the dock via the included cable. 

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

There’s one area where the 551’s quest to become the perfect USB-C hub for the iPad falls short, though. That’s the lack of an Ethernet port. Sure, Apple just added Wi-Fi 6E support to the newest iPad Pro, and wireless networks are getting faster and more reliable in general, but there’s nothing quite like a hardwired connection. 

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

Anker 551 USB-C closeup on a desk.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

For now, however, the Anker 551 is going to remain on my desk for the days or moments when I’m using my iPad Pro as a computer and not a tablet. 

If you don’t have an iPad Pro but like the overall look and idea of the Anker 551, don’t overlook it. Because it uses USB-C, you can use it with any USB-C device. That means the Surface Pro 9, any of Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs, or even the upcoming Pixel Tablet will rest nicely on the stand and interface with all the things you connect to it.

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