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DGRule Invisible Hub – Thoughts and Impressions

The biggest problem with the latest and greatest Mac laptops is that their ONLY physical connectivity comes through the use of USB-C style ports.  Yes, those ports also support Thunderbolt 3; but its not the through-put or bandwidth of either USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 that’s the problem.

What’s the problem, you ask… That’s easy.  There aren’t a lot of accessories out there that actually use USB-C connectors by default. Yes, its changing; but after at least four (4) years since the port changes were implemented, the situation hasn’t changed.

I know. I know…. You’re gonna tell me that USB-C is the new standard. You’re gonna tell me, its the future of mobile connectivity. You’re gonna tell me that I really need to just get over it and get past the fact that USB-C is the way of the future and that everything is going there.

And you may be right.  But, to quote the (at the time) future king of Gondor; “it is not THIS day..!”

That’s why things like the DGRule Invisible Hub are so important. They provide ports when you need them, keeping you from having every different kind of dongle known to man from being attached to your laptop, because no one… NO ONE wants all that shit hanging off of their laptops. (Carrying all those dongles around in your gear bag is also a total pain.)  At the end of the day, its just a lot of unwanted CRAP that I – and really… NO ONE else – wants to carry.

So, after my unboxing of the DGRule Invisible Hub, I decided to try to see if I could make the DGRule Invisible Hub a part of my every day kit.  Let’s see how it fared…

Nearly Invisible

This is really pretty impressive.  When attached to your laptop, The DGRule Invisible Hub is nearly that – invisible.  The only thing that you can really see of it when looking straight on at your computer, are the two, small ends where it attaches to your Mac.

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As you can see from the photo above, the two flared bumps near either edge of my 15” MacBook Pro display what you actually see of the Invisible Hug while its attached to your Mac.  The nice thing about it, aside from the fact that is securely and unobtrusively attached, is that it raises the PC up between 5º and 10º, allowing an appropriate amount of air to circulate underneath the body of your Mac, to assist with cooling. (See the photos, below)

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The left side of the MacBook Pro, and the DGRule Invisible Hub, attached to the computer. Notice the body of the laptop appears to sit flush with the edge of the MacBook Pro, except for the actual USB-C ports being used by the Hub.  This low profile is what helps make the Hub appear invisible.

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The right side of the MacBook Pro and the DGRule Invisible Hub.  Note that the two, right side USB-C ports are visible and unobstructed.  While the Hub does use the audio port to help hold it in place, audio though the hub is available via a dedicated port in the back.

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This is the rear view of the DGRule Invisible Hub.  Note that the hub is taking power from the MacBook Pro’s USB-C ports (the blue light). Please also note the audio port is the second port in from the left.  The DGRule supports simultaneous video via both a miniDisplayPort port as well as a HDMI port (third port and second port from the right, respectively).  The final port on the right is supposed to be a Thunderbolt 3 pass through port. (More on that can be found below.)IMG 2371

The bottom of the MacBook Pro with the DGRule Invisible Hub connected to it.  The black slots are vented, gates for air circulation, permitting airflow to cool the machine as needed.

Thunderbolt Compatible?

I found this to be a bit confusing and a bit disappointing. The DGRule Invisible Hub only has two USB-C styled ports and only one of them is Thunderbolt 3 compatible.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully convinced that the one port that was supposed to be TB3 compatible, actually was.

DGRule Invisible Hub Ports

I have three monitors on my desk that I use with my MacBook Pro.  Two of them are Apple Thunderbolt Displays.  One is an HDMI monitor. Theoretically, I should be able to connect all three displays to the DGRule Invisible Hub, via the last 3 ports on the right, though the one connecting via the miniDisplayPort won’t have any Thunderbolt capabilities (and therefore the accessories connected to that monitor aren’t usable).  However, I had issues with both the miniDisplayPort AND the TB3 port pushing video.  The only port that consistently pushed any video out was the HDMI port, and that was the one monitor I was least interested in.

When you have issues with the DGRule Invisible Hub and video, DGRule tells you to unplug and replug in the cable(s), and if that doesn’t work… bounce the box.  However, this didn’t work for me. The HDMI port consistently displayed video, but neither the miniDisplayPort nor the TB3 port worked. In fact, I couldn’t even get the TB3 port to recognize anything I put in it.

Conclusion

While it is possible – and likely – that my DGRule Invisible Hub is defective, it is possible that there’s an issue with Thunderbolt compatibility.  While Apple does say that TB1 and TB2 accessories will work in a TB3 port (and Apple provides a miniDisplayPort/ TB2 to Thunderbolt 3 dongle, it is possible that the dongle doesn’t work with EVERY Thunderbolt 3 accessory.  Its also possible that the technology in the DGRule Invisible Hub isn’t up to the challenge.

Most Thunderbolt 3 docks cost in the neighborhood of $300 to $500 USD.  The DGRule Invisible Hub is currently selling for $129 USD, direct from DGRule, on sale and down from $149 USD.  Seeing as nearly every other TB3 dock on the market today costs more than twice what the DGRule Invisible Hub costs, either every other dock is over priced, or the DGRule Invisible Hub isn’t made with the best quality parts.  No offense, DGRule, but until I see some better performance out of the Hub, I’m unfortunately left with the  impression that the DGRule Invisible Hub is either hit and miss with its compatibility or its not the most reliable dock out there.

However, given the price, its definitely worth a go. It fits REALLY well. It’s very svelt. Its bagable, while still connected to your device, allowing you to take legacy ports with you wherever you go on your modern MacBook Pro, without sacrificing all of your Thunderbolt 3 ports.  And while my experience may not have been as positive as I could have hoped, your mileage may vary.  For the price, it’s definitely worth the buy.

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