I’ve started using an Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA for some of my text- and web-based work. It’s thin and light, and a fraction of the cost of other ultraportables, but it has a fairly significant problem: no USB-A or HDMI ports. Its connectivity is limited to two USB-C ports and a microSD card slot. Apple fans who have recently bought MacBooks have also encountered this problem. That’s where the Kingston Nucleum comes in. At $79.99, it’s much more expensive than many USB-C adapters and hubs, but it’s also much more functional and reliable. The premium price is justified by its excellent build quality and connectivity options, which makes it an excellent pick for those in need of a more robust set of ports for their laptop and earns it our Editors’ Choice.
Pick Your Port
Measuring 5.0 by 1.8 by 0.6 inches (HWD), the Nucleum is a silver-colored box with a 5-inch black cable extending from the bottom edge and terminating in a USB-C connector. An HDMI port sits on the top edge, opposite the USB-C cable. The left edge holds a USB-C port, a USB-A port, and SD and microSD card slots. The right edge holds a USB-C port with a power icon indicating pass-through for charging, and a USB-A port.
Works With Chromebooks (and MacBooks)
I tested the Nucleum with my chromebook, plugging a power adapter into the right USB-C port, a mouse into the right USB-A port, and a USB drive into the left USB-A port. I also connected the hub to a TV over HDMI and inserted both SD and microSD cards into their slots.
Every function works simultaneously and perfectly. The USB drive and both cards showed up as external storage, the chromebook’s screen extended to the connected TV, the mouse worked as soon as it was plugged in, and the power pass-through kept the system fully charged. The extra USB-A ports and storage are invaluable for covering events on-site when I have to pore through photos and switch between multiple screens on a temporary workstation, and the HDMI connection is a helpful way to display what I’m doing on a larger screen (or extend to a second screen) without using a Chromecast or dealing with Wi-Fi setup.
The Nucleum doesn’t require external power to function, so you don’t need to keep it plugged into your charger if your connected device has enough power to run. It still outputs over HDMI and all device ports and slots stay active running just from the USB-C connection to your device. If you do use a charger, however, be careful to unmount any attached storage or put your device to sleep before plugging it in or unplugging it. Switching from powered to unpowered mode makes the Nucleum switch off for a moment. In my experience, it was up and running in only a second, but my notification bar filled with dire warnings about the dangers of suddenly removing storage from my chromebook because of the switching process.
After testing the Nucleum with a chromebook, I performed the same tests with a 13-inch MacBook Pro. It worked just as reliably, immediately charging the MacBook, extending the screen to the connected TV, and detecting the mouse and three storage devices I connected to the hub. There were no hiccups when I hooked up everything, and the MacBook responded to the hub quickly. The Nucleum works with Windows laptops as well.
An Ideal Ultralight Notebook Companion
The Kingston Nucleum is small, sensible, functional, and reliable. At $80 it can seem pricey compared with cheap USB-C hubs available online, but those hubs have fewer ports to work with, and more importantly aren’t nearly as reliable based on the ones I’ve tried. The Nucleum acts exactly as it should, managing external storage, peripherals, video, and charging from MacBooks and chromebooks with ease. If you pack light enough that your notebook doesn’t have enough ports for your taste, the Nucleum can stand alongside an external battery pack as your best companions for traveling.