Add convenient media controls and 6 ports to iPad with one USB-C hub [Review]

By

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub review
Kit out your iPad with physical media controls as well as six commonly used ports.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The popular Apple Magic Keyboard turns an iPad into a laptop, but unlike some rivals, it doesn’t include physical media controls. However, the HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub adds these advanced options. And that’s only the start, as it also includes ports for connecting a monitor, headphones and a range of useful USB-A accessories.

I love it. Here’s why.

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub review

Many people like to listen to music while working. That’s why MacBook keyboards include buttons to let you stop or start songs, and jump forward or back a track. Nearly all iPad add-on keyboards come with media controls, but for some reason, Apple’s own Magic Keyboard for iPad does not.

Clip the HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub to the side of your iPad Pro, iPad Air or iPad mini, though, and you get these media controls. You can, for example, listen to Apple Music through AirPods and stop the song by pressing a button on this accessory.

These controls are an addition to an iPad USB-C multiport hub from Hyper that’s brilliant all on its own. That basic model also offers a collection of very useful ports that let your tablet use a wide range of accessories.

Hardware and design

The HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub is specifically designed for iPad. Plug it into the USB-C port on the side of your tablet and it’s ready to go.

Much of the casing is aluminum and the outer corners are rounded to match the look of the tablet. The buttons are large and easy to press, and they also have rounded corners.

The hub measures 3.9 inches tall, 1.4 inches wide and 0.4 inches thick. It weighs a mere 0.08 pounds and is small enough to be pocketable. Which is good, because you’re not going to walk around with the accessory on the side of your iPad; it doesn’t attach that solidly.

A black plastic flange along one long edge of the hub serves to keep it in place when cables are plugged in. This is intended to reduce stress on the iPad Pro’s USB-C port as well as the USB-C connector built into the peripheral. In my testing, it worked very well; the hub stays connected even with a heavy HDMI cable plugged in. And it doesn’t interfere with the Apple Magic Keyboard.

Hyper’s product is compatible with the 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro, the fourth-generation iPad Air and the sixth-gen iPad mini because they all come with USB-C ports. While the accessory focuses on iPad, Hyper includes an adapter that lets you use the hub with a Mac. The adapter can be easily popped on and off.

Handy media controls

The Hyper 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub has three buttons: start/stop, forward and back. Yes, these controls are available in Control Center but that gets old if you use them frequently. Having physical buttons you can press is faster and easier.

Just so there’s no confusion, the controls are not restricted to accessories connected to the hub. You can skip through podcasts playing on the iPad’s built-in speakers with nothing plugged into the hub. Or control music playing through Bluetooth headphones. You can stop/start YouTube videos or movies on Disney+.

Of course, you also can combine the two functions of the product. Hook a TV or wired headphones (or both) to your iPad, and you can use these controls for your movie or music.

There are no volume controls on this accessory (probably because there’s a physical set of those built into the side of the iPad).

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub with iPad Pro
Hyper’s 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub attaches to any iPad and makes it much more useful.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

6 useful ports

As convenient as the media controls are, don’t overlook the six ports Hyper built into this hub.

On the top edge is an HDMI port that supports up to 4K video at 60Hz. That’s suitable for video games or movie night. I hooked up my iPad to a TV with it and everything I watched looked great.

There’s also a USB-A port. I found this most useful for hooking up a mouse or for exchanging files with thumb drives. When moving files around, the port supports up to 5Gbps. In my real-world testing with an old USB drive, a 1GB file transferred from my iPad to a thumb drive in 12 seconds while the move the opposite direction took 38 seconds. Use something like the new Kingston DataTraveler that supports USB 3.2 and transfers go a lot faster, even with an adapter. The 1GB file jumped from drive to tablet in 4 secs, and from iPad to drive just as quickly.

Apple stopped putting headphone jacks in most of its tablets, but the HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub includes a 3.5mm audio jack so you can use wired headphones while working on your iPad. Don’t expect studio-quality audio, but it sounds quite good to my non-professional ears.

The hub also offers both an SD card reader and a microSD card reader. With them, you’re ready to import images taken with external cameras like the ones built into drones. And don’t think they’re limited to bringing in images — you can move files back and forth like you would with any other compatible drive. Too bad they can’t be used at the same time. If you plug something into one reader, the other becomes inactive.

And they’re only UHS-I, so they max out at 104MBps. While testing, I was able to copy a 1GB file to my iPad in 12 seconds and the same file went to an SD card in 32 seconds.

A USB-C port in Hyper’s hub lets you charge your iPad while using the other ports or the media control buttons. It supports up to 60W Power Delivery, though the iPad can’t take advantage of all that power.

But that’s not its only use. You can plug in a USB-C drive and transfer files between it and your iPad. Or between it and a USB-A thumb drive or an SD card also plugged into the hub. It transferred a 1GB file in about 4 seconds in my testing. But there are limits. This port can’t handle an external monitor — I tried.

HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub final thoughts

Hyper 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub for iPad Pro review: I love a device that brilliantly combines two tasks.
I love a device that brilliantly combines two tasks.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Combining a set of media controls with a USB-C hub is darn clever. I’m guessing the idea came from someone tired of opening the Control Panel on their iPad every time they wanted to skip a song on their streaming service.

All the ports in the 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub work well, too. This is a gadget worthy of going into many people’s gear bags.

Pricing

The HyperDrive 6-in-1 USB-C Media Hub costs $99.99 on hypershop.com.

If you can get by without the media controls, the HyperDrive USB-C 6-in-1 Hub is slightly smaller and cheaper. I reviewed it also.

Comparable products

You’re not going to find another USB-C hub with built-in media controls. (I couldn’t, anyway.) But if you’re only looking for a multiport hub designed to cling to the side of iPad, read my review of the Twelve South StayGo mini.

Hyper provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out other in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.