Cramming A Pi Zero Into A USB Hub

We kinda feel bad posting all these awesome hacks you can do with a Raspberry Pi Zero when we know most of our audience here probably doesn’t have one due to the backlog of orders… but regardless — here’s another one you can try — if you have one anyway. A Raspberry Pi USB Hub!

In case you didn’t know, Amazon has a series of electronics accessories called Amazon Basics — and they’re actually pretty good quality accessories. One of them is a 7-port, 4A USB hub. Looking at this [gittenlucky] figured he might just have enough room to fit a Pi Zero inside… and as it turns out. He did.

It’ll require a little finesse with either a hot knife or a mini hacksaw, but it’s possible to modify the casing of the USB hub to make room for the Pi inside. He’s removed the USB Type-B connector, and wired it directly to the Pi, giving the Pi an extra 7 USB ports to work with. In its place, he added an HDMI adapter to stick out from the newly created hole.

As you go through the pictures, it looks like quite the hack job, but as he finally buttons it all up with the final pieces of casing, it actually looks pretty damn good — and inconspicuous to boot!

We’ve shared tons of Pi Zero USB hubs (since it is kind of lacking on the USB front), but we have to admit, this one really turns it into a pretty functional little PC.

[Thanks Max! via r/Raspberry_Pi]

41 thoughts on “Cramming A Pi Zero Into A USB Hub

  1. I am beginning to wonder, is there anything else you can do with the PI Zero apart from adding USB ports to it? This must be the fifth hack of this kind.

    (Of course, I am just bitter because I don’t have a zero…)

    1. this is a waste of a product that is high in demand and low in supply. I bet people who can actually do something impressive with it can’t buy it and people who can are getting on the HaD front page for just soldering it to a hub.

      It’s supposed to be a compact device that runs without peripherals and uses GPIO for its tasks. As soon as you want to add networking or USB devices, a better choice would be a Model B instantly.

      And once you factor in the various bits needed to get some connectivity plus uSD card, it will go over the cost of the CHiP $9 computer that has WiFi on board already.

      Stop wasting the Pi Zero

      1. Its a well known effect of bringing price point of desirable object to reasonable levels.

        Same thing happened to 6502 in 1975 at WESCON. This was the first time you could buy CPU for mere $25, motorola MC6800 was still >$200. Chuck Peddle said many people keep showing him pristine never used 6502s they bought at that show, those cpus went straight into the drawer for 40 years. They were so cheap people bought them as a comfort thing, because why not.

        1. I have purchased 3 pi zero’s just for the “why not” appeal. They’re 5 frigging dollars. “Why not” indeed. Put one in a custom gameboy, desoldered and resoldered every last component on another, and the third is sitting in a drawer waiting to probably put in another game boy. When I bought them, I had no specific need or use in mind.

          Who exactly is having a hard time getting them? I got mine super easy. Wasn’t even trying. And for msrp of 5$ each. Bought them one at a time spread out added into a larger order.

      1. PSU? You mean the 5V barrel plug on the hub? That’s not a PSU, sorry.

        Personally, I miss the factor that made the author of this article pick the word “awesome”. It is neither particularly innovative nor done in an particularly aesthetically pleasing way. So can we please, please tone down the hyperbole?

          1. But surely Hackaday must be aware that neither their subject matter nor their target audience are particularly geared towards clickbait and shared-on-a-whim social links. At least I hope that we, as Hackaday’s extended “community”, deserve to be treated a little bit more seriously.

    2. Hopefully the foundation have started to understand (although I guess they are more busy bragging about their so called 5$ computer) that it has a serious design fault, namely that there is only one USB port.

      So a lot of time is wasted in trying to make the Minus One to be useful – instead of Eben&Co have spent a couple of dollars more to make a really, really nice product – a pity.

      I would see much more use of 8$ computer that could be used immediately, instead of a 5$ computer that it is necessary to mod before it can be used – but of course it is purely academical, as neither are available.

      1. Stop whining about that one USB port.

        The pi zero is an embedded processor that costs only 4 times more than an Atmel ATMEGA328. For that money you get: 256000 times more RAM, 128000 times more flash (4Gb SD card), 35 times more CPU cycles (MHz) and 4 times more bits-processed per instruction. On the other hand, you get features you don’t get in the atmega like HDMI and USB.

        The reason it can be made/sold for this price point is that its just a bare-bones board without any expensive chips. Adding an USB HUB chip increases the price significantly. As can be seen in the USB-hub-hacks, adding a cheap USB hub if you need one is an option. If you want the USB hub on the board, get a B+ or something. You also get a few other connectors (CSI, DSI), but you pay a price. Another trick to being able to do things cheaply is to make big batches of identical stuff… If they had chosen to make a pizero, a zeroplus, and a zero-extra there would have been less demand for each separate product, so smaller batches and higher per-unit write-off of one-time-costs.

        My pi-zero measures and logs voltages through something connected via SPI, and reports that to “base” (when in range) over WIFI. ONE usb port necessary, one USB port provided. Nice fit.

    3. I hope that the fact of having so many hacks to add USB ports to the PI Zero can show to RPI foundation how badly the PI customers want more USB ports. May them hear their customers and add more (ports) in future products.

      1. Raspberry Pi model B has 2 USB ports, B+ and RPi 2 have 4 ports… I don’t recall seeing so many “add a USB hub hacks” on the RPi Model A/A+, people just plugged a hub in and did what they needed to do…

        The Zero is cheap because it only includes the peripherals from the SoC itself and the minimum to get it up and running, adding more USB ports would only raise the price and increase the size… if you think the Pi Zero needs more USB ports you have entirely missed the point of the Zero.

        As an example, I have a Pi 2 in my car running OpenELEC with an autostart script to play videos from a USB drive at startup (so that no interaction is required) to keep the kids entertained on long trips, it has a single USB flash drive plugged into it, the Pi Zero would be a drop in replacement occupying much less space but keeping the same functionality. I also ran my Christmas lights this year from an RPi2, all I needed was network, given the Pi Zero only has 1 USB port I could plug in a USB Wifi or Ethernet adapter and use that for connectivity, no USB hub necessary.

        There’s plenty of projects and tasks a Pi Zero could do as it is, let your project dictate which board you use, not the price of said board then complain when it doesn’t include enough USB ports.

        1. All the fuzz about the number of USB ports in RPi Zero isn’t my complain: This is a market feedback, telling sound and loud that customers loved the small footprint but they want more USB ports and they think the extra cost will worth the price.
          Personally my complain with RPi, all versions from the beginning, is about not having a decent way to power the board, not even two vias where you can solder wires into. Despite that I am very fond the the PIs, all versions from the beginning :)

          1. On an original model B Pi used in my daughters room I soldered power wires directly either side of the large capacitor near the USB port, this cap is across the 5V rail and ground, not elegant but simple, my car Pi is powered from the 5V pins on the GPIO header… There’s options :)

            What some of the people don’t realise is that the SoC itself only has a single host USB port, on the model B with multiple USB ports there is a chip on the board that serves 2 purposes, a USB Hub and USB to Ethernet. So to add more USB ports to the Zero you will need a hub chip that takes up PCB space as well as the relevant passive components, adding more USB takes space and extra components, its not just a matter of putting another USB socket on the board and routing traces, if it were possible without the extra space I’m sure the foundation would have done it, but to meet space and price constraints they chose not to.

            The answer is simple, if you want multiple USB ports and Ethernet use the appropriate model of Pi that provides those, or just plug in a hub and be done with it.

    1. Man, such fond memories of ‘the slug’. I should really dig mine out of storage and fire it up.

      Though given that I paid ~$100 for it at the time, it’s amazing how spoiled we’ve become.

    1. Especially as it’s real strength is utilising it as a device.

      I guess that things will pick up when Raspbian Jessie boots as an ethernet or serial device as standard and the ability to use raspi-config to reconfig it as anything from a keyboard to a midi device will really get the ball rolling in the maker community.

  2. If you need to put USB hub on rpi zero then you need RPi2 the only diference between this one and and Rpi2 is that this one is without Ethernet and audio ports and has 3USB ports more. It is not even a project but something you build a project with.
    I just hope that the winner of Pi zero conest wont be someone who put USB hub on it without it beeing justified.
    I apologise for the snarkines but HAD contests are awsome and would like to see this contest to rise up to the same level.

  3. What model of USB Hub is that? that looks a hellova lot like that “Blackfin” device that keeps gong about in rumors. It might be the linchpin in a argument against the device’s existance.

    1. It’s just an Amazon rebrand of a Chinese hub that uses a rather standard off the shelf case … I have seen routers and kvm switches use the same case
      Not sure what blackfin device you speak of

  4. For me it’s a logical move. Since many years I wondering why the industry don’t standardize everything possible on USB. More and more small systems look like a central CPU+DDR+SDcard surrounded by a lot of USB devices. This kind of architecture is vastly superior to specific buses, allowing to reuse standard components and drivers. It’s a dream for doing prototype and allow smooth upgrade of subsystems components in production. I hope that more and more USB device will be available for industrial temperature range (hub, WiFi, etc…).A standard industrial USB type C would be a great move.

    1. The USB protocol has some serious drawbacks. For example it is quite a complicated protocol, not appropriate in every situation. Another issue, that I’m not sure if they fixed it for USB3.0, is that devices cannot report: “i’m done, I have data for you” at “random points in time”. They have to wait for the next milisecond poll. That latency can be a big bottleneck in some workloads.

      Inside PCs your suggestion is already being implemented… but not with USB but with PCIE.

      The problem is that for “simple tihings” it is difficult to interface with the hardware protocols. USB was meant to be “free” for 1.5Mbps implementations (i.e. you can do it in software, no hardware required). That turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. You can get the usb-on-atmel software stacks, but those are wobbly at best. The software complexity of things makes it a hassle to implement on cheap-simple addons. The next step up, 12MBPS, is reasonably cheap to do in hardware. But for many things that remains too slow.

  5. With all the projects involving adding a usb hub to a pi-zero or vice versa I wonder if we’ll start seeing targeted adds by those usb hub manufacturers/sellers boasting about how easy it is to add a pi-zero to one of their quite affordable hubs.

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