StarTech has released a new Thunderbolt 3 USB hub that features three dedicated USB controllers and provides up to 20 Gbps of aggregated bandwidth to USB devices. The company aims the device at users of various bandwidth-demanding professional equipment that uses a USB 3.1 Gen 1 or Gen 2 interface. Since we are dealing with a device for specialized equipment, its price appears to be rather high.
StarTech’s Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.1 Controller Adapter (TB33A1C) is based on Intel’s JHL6540 TB3 controller (Alpine Ridge, so it cannot work with USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C hosts) and is outfitted with two ASMedia’s ASM1042A (PCIe 2.0 x1 to USB 3.0) ICs and one ASM1142 (PCIe 3.0 x1 to USB 3.1 Gen 2) USB controller to ensure maximum performance for its ports.
The USB hub features one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, with oneof the Gen 1 ports supporting the USB Battery Charging 1.2 spec. In addition, the hub has two Thunderbolt 3 port to support daisy chaining or to connect another USB 3.1 Gen 2 device. The hub also comes with a power brick that can deliver 65 W of power to host laptop via a TB3 interface, or USB devices that need more than 15 W provided by Thunderbolt 3 ports by default.
The aggregate bandwidth guaranteed by the StarTech Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.1 controller adapter is 20 Gbps, and for people who need to ensure that they have the highest USB performance possible on their TB3-only laptops this is its key value (enabled by three USB controllers and multiple ports). There is a catch though. In order to connect two USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices at ~10 Gbps each one will have to use one of the USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports and the second TB3 port, but not both USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. This is because both Gen 2 ports share one ASM1142 controller and the aggregate bandwidth it supports is limited to 8 ~ 10 Gbps (depends on its implementation) for both headers.
|The StarTech Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.1 Controller Adapter at a Glance
||2 × ASMedia ASM1042A
||2 × Thunderbolt 3
||1 × USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
1 × USB-A 3.1 Gen 2
|2 × USB-A 3.1 Gen 1
||5 Gbps + 5 Gbps
||To connect two USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices at ~10 Gbps each, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 header and the second TB3 connector have to be used.
||Can be used to charge laptop or USB devices
StarTech positions this TB3 USB hub for connecting various bandwidth-demanding devices, such as 3D scanners, storage arrays, audio-video capture, and broadcast equipment. To guarantee their fast and flawless operation, the adapter features maxed-out USB bandwidth, which comes at a price. The Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.1 Controller Adapter is available for $199.99 from Amazon, and for $263.99 directly from the manufacturer.
StarTech.com is one of the leading suppliers of various adapters and hubs, so it is not surprising that it is gradually expanding its collection of Thunderbolt 3 products with new adapters for customers requiring very specific needs. The Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.1 Controller Adapter is clearly one of such products that is not designed for everyone, but for people who need USB bandwidth to connect high-end scanners, storage arrays (or external SSDs), A/V, and broadcast equipment. Such clients demand maximum performance and are generally used to significant investments in hardware.