Choosing a VPN can be a little bit of a chore. First, you’re going to need to research and figure out which VPN is going to work for you. Then you’re going to want to go through a trial run. But then the real test comes, you need to see how fast that trial goes with your internet once the VPN is set up to your machine and your network. Beth Mauder sits down with David Gewirtz to talk about the research and legwork David has done to come up with the fastest VPN on the market.
Watch my conversation with Gewirtz above, or read a few of the highlights below.
Beth Mauder: Why don’t you go ahead and walk us through what those tests look like?
David Gewirtz: So there’s a variety of ways to figure this thing out, but remember that everybody’s VPN is going to be a little different because you’re in a different location. You’re on the East Coast, for example, I’m on the West Coast. People are in different countries and they’re usually using VPNs to move them to yet other countries. So your performance is going to be a little different.
From my set of tests, and I tested five VPNs over the course of about two weeks, I started with a raw Windows install, so that everything was consistent across each individual test. And then for each install, what I would do is do tests to a variety of countries, and when possible, repeat the vendor, the ISP in each of those countries. So I tried India, and Sweden, and Taiwan, and Russia, and either Australia or New Zealand, and tried to get out to those countries for each of the VPNs I tested. And then tested upload speed, download speed, and latency and ping time.
I also tested how long it takes to establish the connection because it turns out that some of them take quite a bit longer to connect to the VPN than others. And that can get annoying, especially if you’re connecting on and off in different places. So that was the sum total of the test. So what I did is I repeated them three times for each test, and then I averaged the results to try to get some level of consistency. And it’s a pretty rote process. You just set it up and you run the tests and you record the numbers and put them together into, in my case, a big spreadsheet, which then got turned into charts, which were a lot more fun.
Beth Mauder: David, after all of your testing, what were some of the fastest VPNs you can currently get?
David Gewirtz: So I was very surprised. The fastest VPN for download that I found was a product called Hotspot Shield. And what surprised me about Hotspot Shield is they were very hypey in their promotion. They were the kind of company that you didn’t expect to live up to their promises because they were just so full of words, “The best, we’re the greatest, love us, best thing since sliced bread.” It turned out they were substantially faster. And actually, most of my performance to other countries was faster than it was with a direct connection to the other country. So that was an outlier. I was very surprised by that. Then we had CyberGhost was pretty quick. NordVPN was quick. Then StrongVPN and IPVanish wrapped up the set of the five that I did in my own testing.
And I also aggregated tests from around the internet. And that gave me a much better picture. And I’ll talk about that in a second. But from my own personal tests of those five, Hotspot Shield, CyberGhost, and NordVPN were the fastest for download speeds. In terms of ping time, CyberGhost and NordVPN were the winners for how long it just took to send one signal to the remote site and get it back. That’s what ping time is. It’s I touch that site, I get back a response, and that’s a very quick response. And then time to connect, NordVPN and CyberGhost were slowest, and Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, and StrongVPN were the fastest.
So we’re looking at a range from about two seconds to 16 seconds per connection. So you push your little button and you start to connect and you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and then you get your connection. If you’re doing this a lot, if you’re going from airport location to airport location each time you’re reconnecting, then you want the one with the fastest ping connection. If you’re doing it once for your day, then you don’t really care.
Beth Mauder: So you said you looked at other sites too, and you aggregated data from elsewhere. Were your tests confirmed? Did you look for something else? What’d you find?
David Gewirtz: One of the things I did was I looked at 10 sites besides ZDNet, and most of them had lists of their top 10 or so VPNs. I eliminated anyone that only had one VPN reviewed or two VPN review because I wanted to see performance across the world. And the purpose of looking at these sites was that every testing, every site that did these tests was in a different location doing different performance. So if we were able to look at each of these different sites, and then see what was consistent across all their results, we’d get a better picture. So what we found was that ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Hotspot Shield were the top three across all of the sites we looked at. But what was interesting was what’s called the standard deviation, which is the difference between the results, your how many highs and how many lows you have.
It turned out that NordVPN’s difference was very low. They were mostly ones and twos, where Hotspot Shield had a bunch of ones and a bunch of sixes. So what that tells me is that that performance is consistent in certain locations, but not consistent in other locations. And the same applies to a few of the others. So what we found was that if you’re looking for the truest, most consistent set of results across all 10 plus ZDNet sites, then NordVPN was the fastest and the most consistent. If you’re looking for what was just the fastest, but not as consistent across all the test points, then Hotspot Shield showed up pretty well as did ExpressVPN.
So from that, what do you take out of it? Well, the fact is almost all of these companies have 30 to 45-day money-back guarantees. And the reality is your mileage is going to be different from everybody else’s. Your mileage may vary. So what you really need to take out of this is you need to test it in that 30 to 45 days and find out how it performed for you, especially if you’re just at home and you’re working from home, then that’s easy. But if you’re traveling between home and office, or you’re going to your favorite coffee shop, if they still exist, or you’re going to the airport and you’re allowed to do that, you should test in those environments because that’s the kind of environment you’re working in, and see whether you’re getting the numbers you need. Because really, the bottom line is what our tests can eliminate, you’re having to look at the 500 VPNs out there and narrow it down to, say, three or four to start with. But you should check those three or four for what works best for you.
Beth Mauder: Anything else, David?
David Gewirtz: I would say that things to look at, and if you’re looking at choosing a VPN, you want to look for a VPN that has something called a kill switch. What that means is, is that if the VPN ceases to function, it doesn’t just let your data go out. What it does is it shuts off your internet connection. That’s a really important thing to keep in mind. Because again, if you’re in a coffee shop somewhere and the VPN itself quits for some reason, without the kill switch, now your data is free and open to go out to everyone. What you want is to have it decide, “I don’t have a connection. I am just going to shut you on down.” And that way, you’re careful about that. Other things to keep in mind are what you’re using the VPN for. Are you using it just to protect your login information? Or are you using it because you’re concerned about stalkers or you’re an activist or something like that?
If you’re just protecting your own information and you’re in a coffee shop, then most of these VPNs will do fine for you. If you are using the VPN to protect your life, then you need to do additional research. No one of these articles will be enough. You need to go onto forums. You need to go to groups that are like you to see what they say and what they experience. Because many people, well, not many people, but a significant percentage of people use VPNs to protect their lives in certain ways. And for that, be more serious than just reading one review.
Best telepresence robot 2021
How can remote workers make their presence known in their organization? How can enterprises overcome the limitations of video conferencing and enable a level of communication and collaboration that approaches on-site interaction?
Telepresence robots have been on the scene for the better part of a decade, though as global upheavals reshape work and reorient attitudes toward remote participation, the technology may finally be primed to break out of its niche user base and go mainstream. The timing is fortuitous: The market is now mature enough that consumers have choices when it comes to feature set and price point. As companies downsize physical locations and revamp their policies toward distributed workforces, telepresence offers both technological benefits and collaboration advantages that will appeal to some employers and workers alike.
The current telepresence lineup reflects the range of use cases and intended end-users out there, including a handful of models designed for specific fields and workflows, as well as others that fit organizations of any size. They were chosen based on a wide survey of this growing product category and by speaking with company representatives and end-users about their experience.
These are our picks for the best telepresence robots out there right now.
In the battle for low-cost, truly robotic telepresence, OhmniLabs has been giving rival Double a major run for its money.
At under $2699, the Ohmni Robot weighs just 20 pounds and folds up, meaning you can take it anywhere, but still manages all the functionality you need in a telepresence robot. It features wide-angle, low-latency streaming at HD+ resolution and real-time full-resolution zoom to read whiteboards or see fine details at full UHD 4K detail.
A secondary dedicated wide-angle navigation camera lets you see around the base of Ohmni while you’re driving, which you can do remotely from just about any standard device. The unit features a bright 10.1-inch screen and integrated Jabra speakerphone for great audio. It doesn’t have automatic rising and lowering like Double, but the robot can move its head side to side for natural interactions.
OhmniLabs is also thoughtful about who might use the device, which has dual-band Wi-Fi radio with full 2.4GHz + 5GHz support and optimized background scanning and roaming for large spaces. Full 802.1x support means it should be simple to run on business or school networks.
Where the Double 2 used a tablet display, Double 3 replaces the iPad with a fully integrated solution using an Nvidia Jetson TX2 GPU, two Intel RealSense depth sensors, two high-resolution cameras, and a beamforming microphone array. In place of the iPad is an integrated screen and new feature sets, including AR overlays, that really step up the functionality and feature set game of the Double.
Some of those features include a new click-to-drive interface, obstacle avoidance, and pan/tilt/zoom video, all of which contribute to a fully immersive remote experience that’s still intuitive to use. Perhaps the biggest functionality upgrade is the addition of mixed reality overlays.
In Double’s version of mixed reality, virtual 3D objects are added into the video stream to appear as if they’re in the real world. Virtual objects include helpful waypoints to make the video feed more informative during navigation.
The Double 3 with charging dock runs $3,999. If you already have a Double 2, you can upgrade your current device with a Double 3 head for $1,999.
With the Ava Telepresence robot, remote users easily and safely navigate through large workspaces, event spaces, and retail spaces with an enterprise-grade video conferencing system designed to make interacting with people on-site feel natural.
Unlike lower-priced models, the robot features intelligent, autonomous navigation. Remote users simply specify a destination, and Ava automatically moves to the desired location while avoiding obstacles. The technology is slick: The robot utilizes advanced mapping to learn the local environment and create a realistic map of the area, which enables it to navigate at the push of a button. Obstacle avoidance we’re used to seeing on autonomous mobile robots in fields like logistics and fulfillment enables Ava to navigate around people and avoid tumbles down the stairs.
Perhaps Ava’s biggest selling point is its form factor. This is one sleek unit, making it ideal for applications in client-facing offices and sectors like hospitality.
It’s also secure. Embedded enterprise-grade security (including encryption, secure HTTPS management, password protection) means Ava is well suited to a corporate IT infrastructure.
Meeting Owl is a 360-degree video and audio conferencing system that automatically focuses on the people speaking in the room. It doesn’t move, so it’s not a robot by most definitions, but its autonomous functionality makes it an excellent and highly affordable tabletop system for individuals and teams that routinely conference and collaborate remotely.
Eleven-inches tall, Meeting Owl uses an eight microphone array to pick up sound and lock in on the person speaking. Remote viewers on the other end get a panoramic view of all the meeting attendants and a close-up view of the current speaker.
The system comes in original and Pro versions. The Pro version improves on the Meeting Owl’s 720p picture and increases audio pickup range from 12 feet to 18 feet, which is especially useful for larger teams or any collaboration utilizing a whiteboard.
The system integrates with all the major video conferencing services so usability is a snap. The Pro version goes for $999.
Kubi is an inexpensive ($600) robotic docking cradle for tablets that augments the teleconferencing experience you’re used to with the addition of movement.
During video conferencing, the remote participant can steer the cradle to look around a room. “Kubi” means “neck” in Japanese.
That makes it a particularly useful device for team environments where one participant is remote. The remote worker sits at a laptop or desktop but is able to look around the room to engage with speakers, which the device’s developers say enhances the interactive experience.
An enhanced audio kit and a secure docking retrofit to keep tablets secured to the base make them good options for educational environments where learners have to beam into larger classroom settings and engage in conversations but won’t necessarily have to move around the classroom.
Anyone in tech or a tech-adjacent industry will be familiar with the sight of telepresence robots roving around conference room floors as virtual attendants beam in remotely.
Beam is comfortable in offices and is used by some of the biggest companies in the world, but this robot from Suitable Technologies really shines in conference settings, where it’s nimble enough to bounce from keynotes to breakouts to hallway banter.
Beam has four wheels (the pro version has five for increased stability and maneuverability) and wide-angle navigation cameras. The entire ecosystem was built in-house, which means participants must use Beam’s app.
The advantage is security, which is best in class. Using industry-standard technology such as TLS/SSL, AES-256, and HMAC-SHA1, Beam encrypts all communication that travels through our system to ensure your calls remain private and secure.
VGo’s parent, Vecna, knows the healthcare sector, so it makes sense that the company has developed a telepresence robot that enables healthcare providers to deliver lower-cost services and improved quality of care virtually.
Telemedicine is certainly having a moment as providers figure out ways of reducing in-person visits, but the robot has also been used to enable homebound students to go to school virtually.
Using the VGo application on a PC or Mac, an internet-connected person located anywhere connects to a VGo in a distant facility. VGo can be shared by a set of people or dedicated to a single person using standard web accounts and permission settings maintained by the admin.
VGo is lightweight, contributing to its excellent battery life, which is best in class at 12 hours. That makes it ideal for clinical environments and hospitals.
Advocating for telepresence
Offices are coming around to telepresence solutions for remote workers, and the recent health crisis has put the transition to distributed workforces into hyperdrive. Teachers and school administrators are now also embracing remote learning, which, in the short term, can quell infection rates — but, in the longterm, may be a way to maximize limited resources while bringing needed services to students.
Markets and Markets estimated the overall telepresence market will be over $300 million by 2023. However, that market research doesn’t take into account the rapid adoption of remote work due to or the expected long-term effects of the global stay-at-home experiment on attitudes toward remote working. Pivoting out of the pandemic, many companies may embrace a partially distributed workforce, which is a huge opportunity for developers of telepresence and video conferencing systems.
For workers, employers, and IT pros who wish to advocate for telepresence systems, the most important strategy is to tout the collaborative benefits of the technology and to have a plan for implementation. Robots in the workforce carry a longstanding stigma. Coupled with lingering resistance to remote work situations, existing biases on the part of employers or employees could stop the proposed adoption of telepresence dead in its tracks.
But advocating for telepresence as a way of maximizing collaboration and approximating the productive magic that happens in unstructured interactions in hallways and face-to-face chats can help mitigate concerns. As can explaining that most telepresence systems are ready-to-go out of the box with intuitive user interfaces. The technology is carefully designed not to need extensive training to use. After all, most humans don’t need training to have natural interactions in person.
What to look for in evaluating telepresence robots
The biggest questions to ask are who might use a telepresence solution and in what settings. If you’re just looking to enhance video conferencing without spending big bucks or implementing new processes and protocols, solutions like Meeting Owl or Kubi would be the best places to start.
However, for those willing to embrace the dynamic features offered by a mobile robot, consider whether your environment is client-facing. A slick robot like Ava makes a great impression, although it comes at a price.
For most SMBs, models from Double or Ohmni are likely to be smart bets. They’re relatively inexpensive and provide a seamless user interface. A company can get by with one shared robot to start and easily scale up to meet needs.
After all, once one remote employee gets a robot doppelgänger, it’s likely others will want them as well.
Other options to consider
The goal of telepresence is to seamlessly integrate remote workers into physical locations. But, in 2021, with work totally transformed and record numbers of workers staying remote for the foreseeable future, that use case may have less urgency for office workers. (The use case for telepresence designed for medical professionals, however, has never been clearer.)
If all of your colleagues are remote, as well, there’s not much call for a robot that can roam the halls. If you’re stuck at home and suffering from epic levels of Zoom fatigue, I’ve had excellent luck with Facebook Portal, which integrates video conferencing with all the functionality of an Alexa-powered home assistant. It’s not technically a robot, but it does bridge the gap between the standard webcam and the fancier telepresence robots on this list. For the time being, and at least until more workers migrate back to offices, this is a very solution for seamless video conferences from home.
Best cyber insurance 2021
Cyber insurance is quickly becoming a must-have amid cybercrime, ransomware, and daily threats. The problem is that wading through insurers is a bit daunting. With that in mind, I went shopping.
For large enterprises, cyber policies are increasing the cost of doing business. Large firms such as Equifax, Marriott, and SolarWinds all had coverage to cushion the hit from high-profile data breaches. Smaller enterprises may not have the coverage.
I have a few working theories about the cyber insurance market.
- This year — 2021 — will be the year that cyber insurance evolves significantly. It’s possible that cyber insurance will be required for businesses much like home and auto.
- The market is dominated by massive insurers targeting large enterprises, but there will be segments of the marketing targeting mid-sized and smaller businesses.
- Cyber insurance could be part of a cloud services stack. For instance, Google Cloud’s partnership with Munich Re and Allianz is a start, but cyber insurance could be resold by cloud providers, web hosting, and other parts of the business technology stack.
- While cyber insurance may become part of a tech bundle or at least easier to acquire, there will be multiple players gunning for policies in a fragmented market. Reportlinker projects that cyber insurance will be a $70.6 billion global market in 2030, up $5.6 billion in 2019.
In any case, cyber insurance scouting needs to commence for businesses. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the top 20 cyber insurance providers accounted for 92% of the market in the US.
According to NAIC, AXA is the cyber insurance market share leader based on standalone policies. AXA’s cyber insurance covers North America and writes policies for data breach response and crisis management, privacy and security liability, business interruption, data recovery, cyber extortion and ransomware, and PCI among others.
AIG’s cyber insurance can be standalone or added to an existing policy as an endorsement. AIG also offers three cyber insurance products.
- CyberEdge, which covers the financial costs due to a breach as well as first-party costs.
- CyberEdge Plus to cover physical world losses caused by a cyber event including business interruption and property damages.
- CyberEdge PC, which can be added to traditional property and casualty policies.
AIG also offers threat scoring and analytics as well as tools to prevent attacks. AIG has a network of vendors to restore and recover, too.
Cowbell Cyber aims to automate data collection with its cloud platform, provide observability and monitoring, and then combine it with risk scoring, actuarial science, and underwriting. The company recently raised $20 million in venture funding.
The company’s portfolio includes cybersecurity awareness training, continuous risk assessment, and pre- and post-breach risk improvement services. Cowbell Cyber also has a free risk assessment service called Cowbell Factors, which adds a freemium element to selling cyber policies.
Corvus has a host of business insurance products but has a bevy of first-party cyber insurance offerings for business interruption, system failure, cyber extortion and ransomware, and breach response and remediation to name a few.
The company, which recently raised $100 million in venture funding, uses a broker-focused approach to use AI to analyze data to predict and prevent loss. The data Corvus brings together helps policyholders, underwriters, brokers, and reinsurers address market requirements. Phil Edmundson, CEO of Corvus, said that artificial intelligence and data science can simplify the cyber insurance workflow. “If you try to read a cyber policy even knowledgeable people would find it challenging,” he said.
Travelers takes a broader approach to cyber insurance, with plans designed to mitigate risks for companies of all sizes. The insurer has cyber insurance plans for technology companies, public entities, and SMBs.
The company bundles pre- and post-breach services provided by Symantec and a hub to evaluate risks.
Travelers policies fall into these categories:
Compared to the big insurers, Beazley isn’t a household name, but NAIC rates the firm No. 4 with 11.2% market share just behind Travelers.
Beazley’s headliner is Beazley Breach Response, which is a customized policy based on a company’s situation. Beazley claims to be the “world’s best designed cyber insurance solution.” Beazley also covers breach response services for up to five million people.
For companies in specific industries, Beazley looks like an option. Beazley counts healthcare, higher education, hospitality, financial services, and retail as target industries.
Allianz provides cyber insurance on a standalone basis but is now partnered with Google Cloud along with Munich Re under a program called Cloud Protection +. The pairing is likely to move Allianz as well as partner Munich Re up the cyber insurance rankings.
While the big-name insurers are going after the large enterprises, midmarket companies may gravitate toward a specialist. Midmarket companies often have their own tech providers since they are often ignored by large enterprise vendors.
Cyber insurance companies may also shortchange the midmarket. Resilience offers cyber insurance with a few interesting perks. First, it combines insurance and expertise like the large players. And, second, Resilience includes a program where customers can earn credit to put toward security services and products.
Hiscox specializes in cyber insurance for small businesses. The firm is also spending heavily on marketing but is worth a look. The company offers a training academy to shore up small business defenses, or what it calls the “human firewall.”
According to Hiscox, its cyber insurance covers lost business revenue and data recovery costs, money lost to phishing, defense against fines and privacy lawsuits, and breach response. The Hiscox policies also include digital media upgrades. It doesn’t cover criminal action, fund transfer, infrastructure interruption, and prior acts of knowledge.
More notable providers
There is a bevy of other providers — and many insurers offer cyber insurance as part of a broader package of business offerings. Among those that looked interesting:
Google Cloud hires SAP alum Kazmaier, unifies database, data analytics, Looker units
Google Cloud named former SAP executive Gerrit Kazmaier general manager for Databases, Data Analytics and Looker in a move that consolidates data units.
Kazmaier, who starts on Monday, will report to Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure and Google Fellow at Google. Andi Gutmans, vice president of engineering for databases at Google, Debanjan Saha, general manager of data analytics, and Ronaldo Ama, general manager of Looker, will all report to Kazmaier.
Google Cloud has been building out its industry expertise with hires from enterprise software giants such as SAP and Oracle.
Most recently, Kazmaier was President of SAP HANA & Analytics and led SAP’s global product, solution and engineering teams for database, data warehousing and analytics.
Kazmaier also was vice president of SAP Analytics Cloud. At SAP, Kazmaier focused on enabling customers to share and utilize data across enterprises.
On February 1, Kazmaier said he was leaving SAP via a post on LinkedIn. “The questions: “how will this help our customers?” and “how will this help the people working in this organization?” are guiding stars for me,” said Kazmaier, who thanked SAP and said he was going to pursue a new career opportunity.
Best iPad accessories in 2021: The best dock, hub, and more for your USB-C iPad
For some, Apple’s iPad is more than just a tablet. It’s a computer. With the addition of trackpad support in early 2020, and the rollout of the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad for the iPad Pro lineup and the fourth-generation iPad Air, the iPad lineup has never looked or worked more like a laptop.
However, with only a single port on the Pro and Air, connecting multiple accessories to the tablet can be a chore. For example, if you’re using the iPad with a USB keyboard, you have to disconnect the keyboard if you want to transfer some files to an external SSD.
Both iPad Pro models, as well as the fourth-generation iPad Air, have a USB-C port that makes the tablets compatible with most, if not all, USB-C docks and hubs.
There are several docks and hubs that make connecting multiple devices and accessories, including external monitors, to the iPad a breeze. Below you’ll find a mix of devices from various companies at a wide range of price points that I’ve personally tested with the 2018 iPad Pro.
I specifically picked devices that would appeal to all types of iPad users, ranging from someone who just wants a couple of extra ports to someone who wants a dedicated workstation.
Anker’s USB-C 7-in-1 hub is the most affordable option of the group, but don’t discount its capabilities. As is often the case with hubs, the name includes the number of ports that it has.
More specifically, this Anker hub has 2 x USB-A ports, 1 x USB-C port with Power Delivery at up to 85W for charging your iPad or laptop, 1 x USB-C data port, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x microSD card slot, and 1 x standard SD card slot.
The HDMI port supports a single 4K display with a refresh rate of 30Hz, and the USB ports (both A and C) support up to 5Gbps transfer speeds for transferring files.
The Anker 7-in-1 is a low-cost solution that lacks support for faster display refresh rates, or other notable connections like audio or Ethernet. However, it does a fantastic job at giving your iPad extra ports.
Apple’s own USB-C adapter was originally released for MacBooks, but it also works with the company’s iPad Pro and Air tablet lineup. You’re paying a premium for an Apple product, however. There are only three ports on the AV Multiport Adapter: HDMI, USB-A, and USB-C.
The USB-A port works with external hard drives or accessories, while the USB-C port only acts as a power pass-through for charging your iPad (or MacBook). The HDMI port supports up to 4K at 60Hz for all iPad models and a limited selection of MacBook models.
I included Apple’s hub in the list simply because, if you’ve owned a MacBook after Apple switched to USB-C, odds are you also have one of these adapters. I wanted to highlight that it does indeed work with the iPad Pro or Air and does a good job at providing minimal connections.
It’s expensive for what it offers, but that’s usually the case with Apple accessories (and some products.)
For $10 more than Apple’s adapter, you can get the CalDigit USB-C Soho Dock. With a total of eight ports, you can connect random accessories and devices to your iPad without having to figure out what to unplug.
The total list of ports includes 1 x USB-C (10Gb/s) that connects the dock to your iPad. There’s another USB-C port next to a standard USB port, both of which offer 10Gb/s speeds, a full-size SD card port, and a microSD card port. When it comes to external displays, you have an HDMI port and a DisplayPort with 4K@60Hz with HDR support. Next to the display connections is another USB-C port that only serves as a 100W PD receptacle to power all of your USB devices and charge the tablet or computer attached to the dock.
Instead of lengthy housing, the Soho has a rectangular design with ports on three of four sides. It’s a unique design since most hubs (like the aforementioned Anker) have a similar design.
At $80, the Soho isn’t overpriced and offers a wide range of connections and speeds.
The HyperDrive Power 9-in-1 hub is near the high-end of the docks I cover here, but for good reason. With nine total ports and a lengthy USB-C cable that connects to the iPad, there’s not a lot you can’t connect to or do with the HyperDrive.
The ports include 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x 4K@30Hz, 1 x microSD, 1 x SD card reader, 3 x USB-A (5Gbps), 1 x USB-C PD at 60W, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The headphone jack may be confusing at first glance, and I’ll admit even I was perplexed by it. Then I remember that, whenever you’re using a dock or hub with the iPad, it automatically routes all audio through the HDMI connection. By connecting a speaker or a pair of headphones to the audio jack on the Power hub, you’re able to listen to system sounds or music.
For someone who needs more than one or two USB ports, and prefers a hardwired Ethernet connection, the HyperDrive Power is where it’s at.
By far the most expensive dock of the bunch, the Kensington Studio Dock is also the most capable. Pricing starts at $379 for the 11-inch iPad Pro/4th Gen. iPad Air version. It costs $399 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro version.
I wrote a more thorough review of the Studio Dock you can read here, but I’ll run down the features. At the base of the stand are two Qi charging pads, one for your iPhone the other for your AirPods (or any other Qi-compatible device). There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, an SD card reader, a gigabit Ethernet port, 3 x USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 4K@60Hz port, and a USB-C port with 18W throughput.
Above the ports is where you dock the iPad into the stand, with magnets and a USB-C adapter holding it in place and powering your iPad at the same time. The stand rotates your iPad’s screen, making it easy to trigger Face ID or adjust it whenever you need to use an Apple Pencil to write or draw on the screen.
The StudioDock is a pro-level accessory that combines several different products into one device.
While the HoverBar Duo isn’t a hub, it lends itself to being included in this list because it provides a way to use the iPad in a way that mimics a desktop feel.
I’ve used the HoverBar Duo with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro and all of the hubs discussed here — outside of the StudioDock because it’s not possible. Effectively, you could combine the HoverBar Duo with the HyperDrive Power and you’d have a similar amount of ports and setup as the StudioDock for about half the price.
I spent the last three months using all of these hubs and docks with a 2018 iPad Pro. Using each dock or hub for several days, I would test the ports, connections, and reliability of the accessory during my time using it.
At times, my iPad would be connected to an external display. Other times, the hub would only serve as a means to connect external storage and accessories to the tablet, without a display attached.
How to choose
The type of hub you want or need for your iPad will depend on your budget and how you use the tablet. Something like the Studio Dock is clearly for someone who uses the iPad as a computer replacement and doesn’t mind paying a lot for it. It’s easily the most versatile gadget out of the group.
Whereas the Anker hub is for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot on a hub and doesn’t mind if it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles as the rest of the hubs covered.
My favorite picks go between the HyperDrive Power 9 and the StudioDock, but I do most of my work on an iPad. The Soho Dock is something I’ve found myself using with a MacBook Pro and my iPad Pro, because of the DisplayPort and HDMI connections on the back.
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