Best USB 3.1 and USB-C PCIe Expansion Cards 2020 Detailed Review.
Best USB 3.1 and USB-C PCIe Expansion Cards: A desktop computer can be a pricey investment, but it offers several benefits when compared to a laptop. Perhaps the most important benefit is that you can continue to upgrade it over time.
So instead of buying a new laptop every three or four years, your desktop rig can last a decade or more. Normally, when you think of upgrading your desktop, you think of a new graphics card or CPU. But adding more USB ports is also a viable option.
This is particularly true for gamers, who need more and better peripherals. It’s also true if you’re rocking an older rig that doesn’t have any USB Type-C ports.
StarTech.com USB 3.1 PCIe Card
The StarTech.com USB 3.1 PCIe Card sports four USB ports. The first three ports are USB 3.1, while the fourth is a USB Type-C. Each port is capable of providing 10Gbps of bandwidth. However, your actual bandwidth is going to depend on how many devices you have connected.
Each pair of USB ports actually shares 10Gbps of bandwidth, so your theoretical maximum is 20Gbps, not 40Gbps. That said, this shouldn’t be an issue for most builds. Your mouse and keyboard will barely put a dent in this bandwidth, nor will most peripherals. This is only going to be a limitation if you’re reading and writing a lot of data from external hard drives.
The StarTech.com USB 3.1 PCIe Card supports additional SATA power. This means that you can potentially draw up to 400 total watts. If you’re trying to use the USB ports for power, this is a great added value.
That said, this feature is only supported by the latest and greatest PCIe 4.0 and 5.0 formats. Unless your motherboard is a relatively new model, you won’t be able to take advantage of this feature.
Sonnet Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe
The Sonnet Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe is just what it sounds like. It’s a PCIe card that contains four USB Type-C ports. On the one hand, you won’t be able to use any USB Type-A peripherals with this card. On the other hand, you’ll get more USB Type-C ports than you know what to do with.
Each port supports up to 10Gbps of data transfer, so bandwidth is not going to be an issue. Power delivery and wattage is also not a concern. With 7.5 watts of power per port, you can run almost any external hard drive.
One unique feature of the Sonnet Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe card is that it’s compatible with Mac machines. If you’re one of those brave souls who want to upgrade their Mac, you may have just found your soulmate.
It’s compatible with MacOS 10.10.5, as well as 10.12.6 and later, but not with 10.11. That said, it’s a full-sized card. If your machine has a smaller case, it’s not going to fit.
The Ableconn PU31-2C-2 is a bit different from the last two cards we looked at. It sports only two ports, both of which are USB Type-C. Each port allows for 10Gbps of data transfer, which is right in line with modern standards.
The power delivery is 15 watts per port, which is sufficient for most purposes. One thing we like about this card is the appearance. It’s a bright crimson that really catches the eye. If you have a see-through case, the Ableconn card is definitely worth a second look.
The card itself is compatible with any type of PCIe slot. It can be plugged into an x4, x8, or x16 slot without any issues. It’s also compatible with MacOS and Linux machines.
The Ableconn PU31-2C-2 has a narrow form factor. This makes it compatible with any size of PC case, large or small. To make installation as easy as possible, a low profile PCIe bracket is included with the kit. In addition, this card is RoHS-compliant. This means that it’s legal for sale and use in the EU, as well as the US and Canada
As you can see, all of these cards are worth a second look. But which one is the best is going to depend on exactly what your needs are. To begin with, the StarTech.com USB 3.1 PCIe Card is ideal if you need maximum power delivery. On the downside, if you need a lot of bandwidth, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you have a lot of USB Type-A peripherals, it’s a great choice.
For maximum rates of data transfer, the Sonnet Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe is your best choice. You can connect four USB Type-C devices, all of them with 10Gbps of data transfer. You can also use it with Mac machines, or with one of Sonnet’s Thunderbolt adapters.
Finally, there’s the Ableconn PU31-2C-2. This choice offers only two ports, but both offer 10Gbps of data transfer. Moreover, it’s small enough to fit in a Micro ATX or Mini ITX case, so you can use it in your mini PC.