16 June 2017, Comments: 0

 June 2017         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

Universal Dock
D6000 Dock
USB-C Slim Dock
USB-C Dock
Supported Platform:Windows, MacWindows, MacWindows, MacWindows, MacWindows, MacWindows, Mac
USB PD Output for Laptop:85W65W60W60W60W60W
USB 3.1 Type-C:00012 (rear)1 (rear)
USB 3.1 Type-A:3 (rear),
1 (front)
2 (rear),
2 (front)
3 (rear)22 (rear)3 (rear),
1 (front)
Video Out(s):HDMI 1.4bHDMI 2.0 (2),
DisplayPort 1.2 (2)
HDMI 1.4b,
Mini DisplayPort 1.2,
HDMI 1.4bHDMI 1.4b
(or Mini DisplayPort 1.2)
HDMI 1.4b
(or Mini DisplayPort 1.2)
Multiple Display Support: NoYesYesNoNoNo
Max Video Res. at 60Hz:2560 x 1440,
1920 x 1080
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
Other ports(s):Ethernet, 3.5mm audioEthernet, 3.5mm audioSD slot
Ethernet jack
3.5mm audio
Micro SD slot
SD slot
Micro SD slot
SD slot
SD slot
Ethernet jack
3.5mm audio
USB-C cable length:No cable included12" USB-C cable6" tethered USB-C cable5" USB-C cable18" USB-C cable
Available Color(s):GrayBlackSilverSilverWhiteSpace grey
Rose gold
Dimensions:6.6" x 3.1" x 1.2"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
3.2" x 2.8" x 1.1"
8.1 x 7.1 x 2.8cm
5" x 12.5" x 3.25"
Warranty:1 year1 year1 year2 years1 year2 years

Samsung DeX Turns Galaxy S8 into Desktop (2017)

Samsung’s DeX docking station is closest thing to Microsoft’s Continuum, which 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 as an accessory that offers desktop-like functionality for its Galaxy S8-series as well as its upcoming Note 8.

Getting the DeX docking station up and running should be pretty effortless. Simply tilt the top to reveal the USB-C connector and plug the S8 into it.  The phone would then be positioned at an angle so that you can still use iris or face scanning for unlocking the phone.  If you already have monitor, keyboard and mouse connected to DeX’s HDMI and USB 2.0 ports respectively, everything should be up and running instantly.

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 except they allow 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 S8 Plus ships with 6GB of RAM, which sure comes in handy when running half a dozen apps at the time.

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.

Marble’s Portable DCS1 USB-C Dock (2017)

The $129 Marble DCS1 from Mofily is a laptop USB-C dock made for road warriors. Granted, it still requires plugging the 5-foot long AC cord but at least, the 8-ounce dock – measuring at 3.3 by 1.1 by 2.7 inches – is reasonably portable.

All the ports are on the back where you will find a pair of regular Type-A USB 3.0, a USB Type-C and HDMI 1.4b as well as a microSD slot.  The bundled USB-C cable – at 5-inch long – is shockingly short; hence, the DCS1 literally has to sit right next to your laptop unless you replace it with another cable.

The DCS1’s built-in USB PD pass-through is rated to recharge any laptops that require 65W or less power.  Mofily clearly lists MacBook Retina, MacBook Pro 13”, Dell XPS 13 and Samsung Tabpro S as compatible models.  This requirement rules out support for MacBook Pro 15”, which draws 85W.  Regardless, you can still use the Marble as a hub if you have a power-hungry notebook.

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.

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.

Satechi’s USB-C Dock Ships in a Dongle (2016)

Satechi from California has an oversized USB-C dongle that focuses primarily on substance over style. The $45 multi-functional hub comes equipped with a pair of Type-A ports; a full-sized SD card slot; a micro-SD slot; and most importantly, a USB-C port for laptop charging.

Keep in mind the built-in USB-C couldn’t be used for data so you cannot daisy chain it to a monitor for secondary display. Also, the pass-through port has a maximum output of 45W, meaning you are limited to recharging a MacBook Retina or other ultrabooks that draw a similar wattage when connected to this dock.

Satechi didn’t give this hub a proper marketing name, but at least the hub comes in all 4 colors (i.e. gold, rose gold, space grey and silver) to match your MacBooks.

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

Featured USB-C Docks on Amazon

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