(Poll) Ultrabook Intervention: Give Us Three USB Ports

Posted on 09 September 2013 By

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The Ultrabook platform has proved that you can get power packed productivity in a thin and light package. The high dynamic range of today’s Ultrabooks means that you can go from long life web browsing out and about, to seriously heavy work like Photoshop and video editing at your desk, all on the same device. Using a laptop as a desktop in this way means that connectivity is important — two USB ports simply doesn’t cut it.

To get you on my page, I’ve been living with the Asus Zenbook UX31E as my primary computing device for the last two years, and it’s been great. After upgrading from a 1-inch thick tablet PC, the UX31E felt like a feather in my bag — and I don’t need to carry around a spare battery or power adapter when I know I’ll be using it on-the-go for several hours. The near-instant sleep and resume times mean that I almost never need to power the unit down or even hibernate it. Gone are the days of ‘guess I’ll go make a cup of coffee while I wait’ when the unit needs to restart. The 1600×900 display is ideal at 13.3 inches, the performance feels like desktop class when the system kicks it to full power.

I do a lot of work on the computer; it benefits me massively to have a proper desktop setup (keyboard, mouse, monitor). When I plug the UX31E in and hook up my peripherals and screen, I have a combined 3040×900 desktop environment with full keyboard and mouse. I can get a lot of work done on this capable machine.

But there’s one pervasive problem with many Ultrabooks, the UX31E included. Two USB ports is crippling for the desktop experience. The first two things I plug in are the keyboard and mouse — and that’s all the room I have. If I want to plug in an external HDD (like the 1TB that sits on my desk), I have to remove the keyboard or mouse, and temporarily fall back to the trackpad or keyboard on the UX31E. If I want to charge or sync my phone, I have to do the same. Maybe I want to transfer some files from my external HDD to a flash drive? How about printing? Get ready to start plugging and unplugging. There’s a huge range of peripherals that one could reasonably expect to plug into their Ultrabook when it’s at the desk.

Yes you could get a USB hub (I have actually, and it has made life significantly easier), but that’s one more thing I have to carry around with me if I happen to need it while I’m out and about.┬áThe addition of just one more USB port would make a world of difference, and there’s really no good reason that it can’t be done. If Ultrabooks werent’ capable of such excellent desktop-class performance, none of this would be an issue. But because they can scale so well from low to higher power, it is a big mistake to cripple that capability with 2x USB ports.

gigabyte u2442dt gaming ultrabook

While most Ultrabooks (in fact, the majority of those that I’ve reviewed) have just two USB ports, there is the occasional rule-breaker like the Gigabyte U2442, which might be one of the most port-packed Ultrabooks out there — even though it’s only 11.6-inches. The U2442 has 4x USB ports, full HDMI, full VGA, full SD, full ethernet, 3.5mm min in, and 3.5mm headphone out. That’s a long way from the UX31E which has 2x USB, micro VGA, micro HDMI, full SD, and a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack.

Ultrabook makers — this message is to you: we should have at least 3x USB ports on any computer — at least until someone figures out a viable universal wireless standard.

What say you Ultrabook readers… how many USB ports is best for you?

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  1. #1 by Robert on September 10, 2013 - 11:34

    more usb ports yes definately but what really bothers with all the Touchscreens is the lack of matt Screens … if i am forced to choice matt Screen is more important as much as i am intrigued by the touch Option.

    • #2 by Touko on September 19, 2013 - 02:04

      Yeah, you can look at prices of some 2012 ultrabooks with non-reflective, non-touch screens actually rising!

      The most unlikely thing to ever happen in the computer business…

  2. #3 by ice on September 10, 2013 - 16:01

    give us a ETHERNET port
    usb/ethernet dongle can be problematic when you start having lot of virtual vpn interfaces plus a virtual enviroment

  3. #4 by Jeff on September 10, 2013 - 17:34

    Not if the OEM does it by sacrificing other ports. 2 USB 3.0 ports are fine if I get gigabit ethernet, full HDMI (mDP is fine if it has Thunderbolt) and full SDXC slot.

  4. #5 by Clio on September 10, 2013 - 18:03

    Gone are the days when the Motherboard takes up most of the “floor space” inside a notebook. Nowadays, the battery is taking up most of the space inside, and the Motherboard is receded into a corner.

    USB ports are invented over a decade ago and it’s a GIGANTIC component by today’s standards. Additional ports probably would mean reduced space for battery, so having 2 ports is an understandable trade-off.

    However, I do think 2 port is the bottom line for me, sometimes USB things just don’t work via a hub, and less than that is very very bad.

    I’m afraid you just have to compromise by investing on some new peripherals. First I think Bluetooth mice and keyboard are the obvious, even better if they can pair up by NFC. Otherwise Logitech has these Keyboard and mouse sets that uses a “universal receiver” and that handles both keyboard and mouse in a single USB port.

  5. #6 by skablast on September 10, 2013 - 22:36

    So, your problem is that you don’y like to bring an USB hub with you but you are happy to carry a mouse and a keyboard with your notebook ?
    I don’t get it.
    But I undestand bringing a mouse expecially when using a Zenbook touchpad…
    My 2 cents ? 1 USB 2.0 and two USB 3.1 when they will be available and I ‘ll be happy

  6. #7 by asusfan on September 11, 2013 - 08:50

    I would be happy with 2 usb ports if there was a gigabit ETHERNET port as well.
    Fujitsu has an ultrabook with an ethernet port, I don’t understand why others can’t include one.

  7. #8 by ice on September 11, 2013 - 10:19

    So it’s 3x UP for ethernet port in just 6 comments
    Hope some manufacturer is listening…..

  8. #9 by looser on September 11, 2013 - 13:44

    I’m fine with 2xusb as long as they are 3.0
    stop pushing 2.0 allready
    My biggest resentment towards ultrabooks is lack of wwan+gps!

  9. #10 by Anfanglir on September 11, 2013 - 21:52

    for mouse I use bluetooth, I don’t find external keyboard necessary or even desireable (although I have a bluetooth one I never use). A sim-slot for 3/4G should be standard by now so no need for a USB modem. USB is needed for external drives and maybe for charging other devices like a phone. 2 usb-ports is enough for my needs :)
    / Anfanglir

  10. #11 by Anfanglir on September 11, 2013 - 21:54

    and yes, onboard GPS should be standard by now

  11. #12 by guy on September 12, 2013 - 06:24

    I don’t understand your reasoning. On your desktop setup you use a hub anyway. When on the go, you don’t bring your keyboard and mouse. You probably don’t bring your printer either. What accessories do you often need to plug in simultaneously?

    I’m with the others, 2 USB 3.0 ports is good enough if that means other full size ports and GbE. I’d rather carry a USB 3.0 hub than a whole bunch of adapters (micro to full SD, mDP to HDMI, mDP to DP, mini HDMI to HDMI, etc.). In the worst case you have to carry some proprietary adapter to get other ports.

    • #13 by Ben Lang on September 15, 2013 - 07:19

      As a gamer, I often find myself with a mouse while I’m on the go. That’s leaves me just one port for another USB peripheral which has led to annoying bottlenecks in many occasions!

    • #16 by Touko on September 19, 2013 - 02:13

      when traveling, I carry a small external BD drive, external hard drive and mouse. (since I find trackpads absolutely annoying, slow and cumbersome to use)

      Whenever I want to write something from the external drive to optical media or vice versa, I’m always forced to unplug the mouse and use the PoS trackpad.

      So yes, Chippy is absolutely right: 3 USB ports should be the minimum.

      • #17 by Robert on September 19, 2013 - 10:02

        I am the same external hardrive and mouse .. rarely use trackpad so 3 usb schould be good my lovely Samsung series 9 just has two i ordered a small usb 3 hub for ultrabooks creating 7 usb 3 ports schould be useful at times although i learned to get along with 2 usb ports and 1 sd Card Slot (in which i always Keep a 64 GB)

      • #18 by Tom on September 21, 2013 - 16:27

        Use a good quality Bluetooth mouse or a hub since you’ll have a big enough bag anyway with all that stuff.

    • #19 by Tom on September 21, 2013 - 16:31

      I agree, I’d rather have more or any of the other ports which would likely disappear at the expense of the USB ports in this non-ideal world.

  12. #20 by Yann on September 12, 2013 - 11:05

    That’s why I have choosed the Z930 Toshiba Ultrabook. As its forerunner (Z830), it features 3 usb port, full vga, ethernet and hdmi, separated in and out audio, without any adapter. And was one of the lightest 13″ ultrabooks.

  13. #21 by Mark on September 12, 2013 - 14:09

    Three usb 3.0 ports at a minimum. Four would be even better.

  14. #22 by blade on September 13, 2013 - 23:35

    Okay before I was happy with 2 but now 3 is needed for my upgraded desktop setup.

    1. cheap usb hub w.o power adapter
    2. external hard drive
    3. USB DAC

    Now I’m forced to buy a more expensive usb hub that can power an external hard drive.

  15. #23 by Touko on September 19, 2013 - 02:07

    I don’t see why these USB ports all need to be full sized USB ports.

    For all I care, they can line the edge with micro USB ports and size should not be an issue anymore.

    Its easy enough to get a micro USB cable with whatever size plug you happen to need on the other end.

    Phones and some external hard drives already use micro or mini USB ports anyway.

    • #24 by Tom on September 21, 2013 - 16:29

      That’s more hassle than getting a hub.

  16. #25 by Caren on October 2, 2013 - 18:09

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much,
    However I am encountering issues with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I can’t subscribe to it.
    Is there anybody getting similar RSS problems?
    Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond?

  17. #26 by Touko on November 1, 2013 - 00:18

    I see no reason why they shouldn’t offer 2 regular ‘clunky’ USB ports and 2 micro USB ports.

    Eventually, I’d like to see nothing but micro USB ports, since you can micro USB cables with just about any size plug on the other end.

Comments are closed.