Docking stations are a common sight in office environment; they allow a single link from a laptop (or an Android smartphone) to a larger display as well as a full array of peripherals through just one cable. Their potential is now further realized with the new USB-C connection, and here, we have six docks to show just that.

21 May 2018, Comments: 0

 May 2018         Ian Chiu

What You Need to Know


  • USB-C docks – unless they are Thunderbolt 3 version – are universally compatible with legacy USB ports on existing PCs.  Battery charging as well as video output function, however, only works on USB-C ports that support both USB Power Delivery and VESA video alternate mode.  In comparison, true Thunderbolt 3 USB-C docks are able to support a host of advanced features.
  • It’s technically possible for USB-C docks to output 4k resolutions at 60Hz except speed (for that particular downstream port) would be brought down to USB 2.0.  In most cases, developers limit output to 4k 30Hz mode in order to keep the USB 3.0 mode.  Enabling 60Hz at 4k resolutions may require the manufacturers to provide the special firmware and equally important, the necessary outputs (e.g. HDMI 2.0).
  • USB-C docks usually come with Power Delivery (PD) pass-through feature that can recharge compatible laptops.  Find out from the manufacturer how much power your laptop draws to see if it can be charged at full speed.  These docks usually highlight compatibility with MacBook Retina which requires 29W but majority of them are capped at 65W in charging capacity.
  • Found on some USB-C docks, DisplayLink is a proprietary video solution that shares bandwidth with connected USB devices.  The technology is praised for its scalability to adapt in different environment in addition to guaranteeing backward compatibility.  Its latest DL-6950 now boosts dual 4k output with 60Hz refresh rate, and can work alongside USB-C and USB Power Delivery so you have the best of both worlds.

Feature Comparison


 Dell
D6000 Dock
IOGEAR
USB-C Slim Dock
Kingston
Nucleum
OWC
USB-C Dock
Samsung
DeX Pad
Satechi
Type-C Pro Hub
Supported Platform(s):Windows
Mac
Windows
Mac
Windows
Mac
Windows
Mac
Samsung
- Galaxy S9
- Galaxy Note 8
- Galaxy S8
Apple
- MacBook Pro
USB PD Output:65W60W60W60W15W85W
Self- or bus-powered? Self-poweredSelf-poweredBus-poweredSelf-poweredSelf-poweredBus-powered
USB Type-C Port(s):0011 (rear)01
USB Type-A Port(s):2 (rear),
2 (front)
3 (rear)23 (rear),
1 (front)
2 (USB 2.0)2
Video Out(s):HDMI 2.0 (2),
DP 1.2 (2)
HDMI 1.4b,
Mini DP 1.2,
VGA
HDMI 1.4bHDMI 1.4b
(or Mini DP 1.2)
HDMI 1.4bHDMI 1.4b
Multiple Display Support: YesYesNoNoNoNo
Max Video Res. at 60Hz:5120 x 2880
3840 × 2160
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1080
3840 x 2160 (USB-C)
2560 x 1440,
1920 x 1080
Other ports(s):3.5mm audio
Gigabit Ethernet
SD slot
Gigabit Ethernet
3.5mm audio
Micro SD slot
SD slot
SD slot
Gigabit Ethernet
3.5mm audio
NoneMicro SD slot
Gigabit Ethernet
USB-C cable length:No cable included12" USB-C cable6" tethered USB-C cable18" USB-C cableNo cable included
Available Color(s):BlackSilverSilverSpace grey
Gold
Silver
Rose gold
BlackSpace grey
Silver
Dimensions:6.6" x 3.1" x 1.2"
16.8 x 7.8 x 3cm
11" x 3" x 0.6"
28 x 7.6 x 1.5cm
5" x 1.77" x 0.56"
12.7 x 4.5 x 1.4cm
5" x 12.5" x 3.25"6.3" x 3.3" x 1.3"
Warranty:1 year1 year2 years2 years1 year1 year

Dell’s Triple 4K Display USB-C Dock (2017)


The $200 Dell D6000 is vastly different than rest of the other USB-C docks featured here in that it employs DisplayLink’s highly scalable video technology to drive a total of three 4K displays simultaneously with two of them boosting 60Hz refresh rate.

To achieve this, DisplayLink simply uses the lanes reserved for USB 3.0 traffic on a USB-C cable for video. Enabling the third 4K display, however, requires your PC to have a USB-C port with video alternate mode. The dock additionally supports a single 5K output; though, this needs dual DisplayPort connections.

The Dell dock – powered by a 130W AC adapter – also charges up to 65W laptop over a USB-C cable. You will also find Gigabit Ethernet jack; four USB 3.0 Type-A ports; an audio combo port; and a Kensington security slot. Unlike other native USB-C docks, you have to install DisplayLink driver first before plugging in the D6000 to get this up and running.

IOGEAR’s Slim and Thin Ergonomic USB-C Dock (2016)


The IOGEAR $115 USB-C dock is the type of docking station that elevates laptops slightly to near eye level for viewing ease. Ergonomics aside, the dock thoughtfully includes two concave areas where a 13 / 12” laptop’s feet can fit into. It is also as space saving as it is functional with 10 ports in total in the rear for all your connectivity needs.

The upstream cable is tethered to the dock. To supply power to dock, IOGEAR expects you to use the laptop’s USB-C adapter and cable. Other ports include a trio of USB 3.0 Type-A; Ethernet; 3.5mm combo audio jack; SD slots; and surprisingly, 3 PC video outputs (i.e. HDMI, mini DisplayPort, VGA). There’s a USB Battery Charging 1.2 port for smartphones or tablets.

What distinguishes this dock from others is its dual monitor option (HDMI + mini DisplayPort, allowing up to full 1080p at 60Hz. If a second display is all your need, then you can up the resolution to 4K at 30Hz. However, one additional video output is only allowed on a Mac. USB Power Delivery pass-through is capped at 60W regardless what USB-C charger you provide.

Kingston’s Solidly Built Mobile USB-C Dock (2018)


The Nucleum from Kingston is a bus-powered USB-C dock with 7 different jacks and slots to get you everything covered when on the road. You will find onboard a pair of USB Type-A ports; a HDMI 1.4b jack; a USB-C power passthrough; another USB-C (5Gbps) for data; and two memory card slots. On top of that, there’s a 6-inch USB-C cable tethered to the Nucleum so it’s one less thing to worry about when you might also have to pack a zillion other things.

The inclusion of both microSD and SD slots is always welcomed. Its USB PD passthrough capability, however, only guarantees full power charging for MacBook and MacBook Pro 13″ as well as other laptops that draw 60W or less. Lastly, as for as durability is concerned, the Nucleum is built like a rock and it probably won’t even bend without considerable amount of force. If anything else goes wrong, Kingston provides two years of warranty to give you peace of mind.

OWC’s Classy USB-C Dock for MacBooks (2016)


OWC takes a more conventional approach with this $169 USB-C dock.  Despite of its pedestrian rectangular prism design, the dock is complete with a piano block glossy surface that gives it a classy look.  The aluminum chassis is also available in 4 different colors to match that of MacBook Retina.  Suffice to say, OWC is primarily targeting at this particular group of customers.

There are 10 ports in total on this dock.  Front facing ports include a full-sized SD slot (with UHS-I support) and a high-powered USB port as well as an audio combo jack.  The 4 other USB 3.1 ports, including a USB-C, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 1.4b (up to 4k 30Hz) are on the back.  The other model has a mini DisplayPort in lieu of HDMI.

With a 80W power brick, 60W is allocated for laptop charging while the rest is reserved for the aforementioned ports.  That means the dock cannot charge MacBook Pro 15″.  Judging from its size, the OWC isn’t meant to lug around like the Marble DCS1 or the Samsung DeX.  BootCamp is supported out of the box, but Ethernet driver is required if you are still running OS X Yosemite and El Capitan.  Last but not least, OWC backs the USB-C dock with two years of warranty.

Samsung DeX Pad Turns Galaxy S8, S9 or Note 8 into Desktop (2018)


Samsung’s DeX Pad is closest thing to Microsoft’s Continuum, which in a nut shell transforms smartphone into desktop.  Though, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the South Korea’s top conglomerate wants to compete with Redmond in the same “phone as PC” space in spite of the fact that both solutions rely pretty much on USB-C to make this possible.

In comparison, Microsoft has big plans to push its Continuum as part of Windows 10 eco-system into enterprise market whereas Samsung is simply touting the DeX Pad as an accessory that offers desktop-like functionality for its latest Galaxy handsets – S8, Note 8 and S9.

Getting the DeX Pad up and running should be pretty effortless.  Simply slide the Galaxy smartphone to USB-C connector and the display to the dock’s HDMI.  Then a heavily tweaked version of Samsung’s Android desktop interface should pop up on the display.  And by the DeX’s design, the Galaxy lying flat on the dock would double as a virtual touchpad but with the smartphone facing up, you would no longer have the ability to unlock the Galaxy using its iris recognition nor fingerprint authentication.

As of this writing, there are about 30 apps optimized for DeX.  Among them are MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Skype, which most of us would find immensely useful.  If you need to do some light photo editing, Adobe Photoshop Express and Lightroom are at your disposal.  Keep in mind all these are still Android apps while allowing for window resizing.  Having said that, apps like Chrome, YouTube and Gmail will also take full advantage of this feature.  We can see why the highest end model of Galaxy S9 Plus ships with 6GB of RAM, which sure comes in handy when running half a dozen apps at the time.

Satechi’s Macbook Pro-exclusive USB-C Dock (2018)


This oversized dongle from Satechi has what appears to an ideal mobile USB-C dock for MacBook Pro.  Not only can it charge a laptop at 87W via its USB PD passthrough port, the same USB-C jack can also deliver 10Gbps for high speed portable SSDs.  There are also a pair of USB-A ports (5Gbps) and HDMI 1.4b (4k @ 30fps) output.  On the opposite end of the micro SD slot, you will find a Gigabit Ethernet which is the most notable inclusion for this version of Satechi dock.

It’s all well and good except the Satechi only works on a MacBook Pro because by design, the dock requires direct connection to the laptop’s two USB-C ports.  Not that it matters anyway since similar docks would also block access to the second USB-C on the laptop.  Satechi again didn’t give this hub a proper marketing name, but at least the hub comes in two colors (i.e. space grey and silver) to match your MacBook Pro.

Did we leave off any USB-C docks we should have included?  Let us know in the comment section below.

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