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Dear Aunt TUAW: Why can't I find a USB hub that charges my iPad?


Dear Aunt TUAW,

When you go to Amazon or Best Buy or Newegg and search for powered USB hub for a nice new iPad... Good luck!

The results provide lots of choices. The kicker is adding the iPad to the search terms does not help, as all it does is get items that explicitly state they will not fast charge an iPad.

Have you folks found any powered hubs that will fast charge iPads?

Your darling nephew L. Randolph

Dear Nephew L,

When Apple released the iPad, it came with recommendations for power management on the device. The provided battery tips are mostly commonsensical, but the charging rules are not.

Since the iPad "fast charge" mode requires extra power compared to the standard USB specification, the best way to charge it is using the provided 10W iPad adapter. Second best: connecting the device to a high-power USB port on a recent vintage Mac. Connecting the iPad to other powered ports results in "slow charging," although the screen indication says the iPad isn't charging. It actually is -- as long as you leave the screen off (or turn the iPad off completely), it will eventually top off the battery.

There's a great primer from Plugable on how the iPad charging process works, and what tricks you can do to get charging traction (in trickle mode/"Not Charging") with your iPad and a powered hub. Plugable is now selling a 4-port hub that supports the USB Battery Charging 1.1 specification, which enables high-power charging for devices like the Kindle Fire, but as far as we know Apple's devices aren't yet working with that new spec.

It is possible (although not necessarily recommended) to trick the iPad into drawing the extra power it needs from a standard USB port. BoxWave's $7.95 sense cable doesn't support syncing, but if you don't have too much else plugged into your hub it may work for fast charging. (If anything catches fire, we never had this conversation, capice?)

Cirago sells a small hub with a dedicated iPad charging port -- but like the BoxWave cable, this is a charge-only port that does not allow you to sync simultaneously. Uncle Mike hasn't tested the device, but it's not expensive ($29.99). The folks at Aviiq have a portable charging station with a single iPad-friendly high power port ($59.99), and most of the Powerbag products also have one port to charge iPads.

Professional-grade multidevice charging is the province of companies like Datamation, which offers a full suite of charging, sync and storage setups. The 16-port PowerPad 16 delivers charges for up to 16 iPads simultaneously -- at the bargain price of $710.

Happy charging!

Uncle Mike

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