Plugable Triple Display Docking Station
Last updated date: April 29, 2021
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We looked at the top Thunderbolt Docking Stations and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Thunderbolt Docking Station you should buy.
Update as April 29, 2021:
Checkout The Best Thunderbolt Docking Station for a detailed review of all the top thunderbolt docking stations.
For those who like to connect multiple monitors, the Plugable Triple Display Docking Station is a clear winner. You'll get 5K resolution with one connected monitor, degrading to only 4K resolution once two are connected, provided your monitors support that. Five USB ports and a one-year warranty with free technical support top off this docking station's benefits.
In our analysis of 55 expert reviews, the Plugable Triple Display Docking Station placed 12th when we looked at the top 12 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.
From The Manufacturer
Plugable's 4K USB-C Triple Display Docking Station (1x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort) with Power Delivery Charging for Windows USB-C & Thunderbolt 3 Systems USB 3.1 Type-C is revolutionizing connectivity. We’ve designed our USB-C 4K Triple Display Docking Station to showcase what this new standard is capable of with flexibility and scalability in mind. More features, less compromise. Utilizing cutting edge USB 3.1 technologies in conjunction with the latest features of our UD-6950 docking station, the Plugable UD-ULTC4K 4K Triple Display Docking Station provides two of USB 3.1's most exciting new features: support for Alternate Modes and Power Delivery. Alternate Modes allow certain non-USB data and protocols (such as native video) to be sent over a USB-C cable, while Power Delivery enables you to power and charge a supported system without the need for a traditional proprietary OEM charger. Support for these features must also be built-in to the system being used, so please see the important additional compatibility details in the sections below. Please note: HDMI and DisplayPort use different connectors and cables. If your displays do not have DisplayPort inputs, the DisplayPort ports on the UD-ULTC4K can be converted with adapters, sold separately. See additional details on DisplayPort adapter compatibility below. Features & Performance When attached to a fully compatible USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 system, the UD-ULTC4K supports Windows 10 and 8.1, macOS 10.13.3 and earlier and some systems with ChromeOS. Features One HDMI output via USB-C Alt Mode supporting displays up to 4K@30Hz Two DisplayPort++ 1.2 outputs supporting DisplayPort displays up 4K@60Hz One USB-C port on the backside of the docking station with Power Delivery functionality to charge your host computer (not all USB-C computers are able to charge through their USB-C port; see additional compatibility details below) One USB-C USB 3.0 port on the front of the docking station for USB-C peripheral connectivity Four USB 3.0 (Type-A) ports One Gigabit Ethernet port Headphone and microphone jacks (TRS) Performance The dock's main HDMI port utilizes USB-C DisplayPort Alternate Mode (converted internally to HDMI for maximum compatibility) which has a direct pipeline to the host graphics processor (GPU), and the connected monitor will perform as if natively attached to the system. Video and photo editing and other resource-intensive tasks are possible assuming that the system's GPU capabilities are sufficient for the application being used. The 2nd and 3rd graphics outputs (DisplayPort++) are powered by DisplayLink DL-6950 USB graphics technology which leverages the host GPU & CPU to render the image. These outputs are recommended for web/productivity software; not recommended for gaming. Supported Resolutions Maximum resolution via Alt Mode output is 3840x2160@30Hz (4Kp30) as outlined in the HDMI 1.4 specification. 2560x1600, 1920x1080 (1080p) and lower resolutions will display at 60Hz. The DisplayLink graphics supports dual monitors up to 4K@60Hz (3840×2160@60Hz) each and a single 5K@60Hz monitor when connected to displays that support the desired resolution. DisplayPort equipped monitors and the DisplayPort cable must support DisplayPort 1.2 specification in order to support 4K@60Hz. While backwards compatible with DisplayPort 1.1 standards, the resolution will be limited to 4K@30Hz if the display or cable does not support DisplayPort 1.2 specifications. Does not support gaming, DisplayPort MST daisy-chain connections, nor Dual-Link DVI conversions. Compatibility Details For the most current system-specific compatibility details, please see "Technical Specifications" section further down the page. USB 3.1 Type-C Compatibility Overview USB-C is a new standard with much versatility. As a result, compatibility information is complex. Some USB-C systems support Alt Mode video output, while others do not. Some can be powered and charged via USB-C PD, while others do not. Information on specific system compatibility will be updated online as we test more systems internally, and we welcome compatibility reports from users as well. Compatible Systems (Alt Mode, PD, & DisplayLink) Some of the best examples of systems which currently support Alt Mode, PD, and DisplayLink are the Dell XPS 13" 9350/9360, Dell XPS 15 9550/9560, Dell Precision 5510/5520, HP Spectre x360 13" ("Kaby Lake" version w/ Thunderbolt 3), Lenovo Yoga 720 13" & Yoga 920, Microsoft Surface Book 2. Operating System & Platform Details (Windows) Windows users can download DisplayLink drivers from Plugable. Windows drivers can also be installed by Windows Update (with existing Internet connection) IMPORTANT: Operating System & Platform Details (Mac) Please note that only macOS 10.13.3 and earlier are supported. Mac systems currently only support "Extended"/independant desktops; display "mirroring" is not supported. Performance on Mac systems compared to performance on Windows systems will be less on the 2nd and 3rd attached displays (DisplayPort++ ports). Operating System & Platform Details (Chrome OS) Chromebooks/Chrome OS is currently unsupported, but we hope this changes as the Chromebook platform evolves Partially Compatible Systems (Supporting Alt Mode, PD, and/or DisplayLink, but not all) Many current USB-C systems which do support Alt Mode video output do not support charging via USB-C. Systems such as this will output video from the dock, but will still need their proprietary OEM chargers. The Dell XPS 15 9550/9560 and Precision 5510/7510, for example, will display a warning during boot if connected to a 60W power adapter rather than a Dell 130W power adapter. These systems may still charge, but at a slower rate. Conversely, while some USB-C phones and tablets may accept charging via PD, most do not support Alt Mode video output. Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports generally support Alt Mode output and DisplayLink functionality, but support for Power Delivery/charging on these ports is system-specific. Compatibility Details, Continued The UD-ULTC4K relies upon new functionality introduced with USB 3.1 Type-C and as such is not compatible with USB 3.0/2.0 Type-A legacy systems. Most current phones and tablets with USB-C ports do not support Alternate Mode video output, and some do not support USB Power Delivery. Consult your device documentation or contact device manufacturer to confirm compatibility with these technologies. macOS 10.13.4 The Lenovo Yoga 900 and 910 are not compatible (the 910 can support video, or charging, but not both) Most HP systems are not compatible (see above for the most well known compatible model at this time) Most Razer systems are not compatible at this time Most Android phones and tablets currently do not support Alt Mode video output ASMedia USB 3.1 controllers do not support Alternate Mode video (typically found in desktops and AMD based laptops and some PC motherboards) Power and Charging The UD-ULTC4K power supply can charge host systems with up to 60 watts of power (20V, 3A) via the USB Power Delivery standard. As mentioned above, some devices which support video output over USB-C will not charge via USB-C. For these systems, the charger from your system manufacturer will be required. DisplayLink Compatibility Details DisplayLink USB graphics technology works great for most workloads. However, gaming is not supported, nor is HDCP copy protected content playback (Blu-Ray, Netflix, Amazon Prime video, Hulu, etc). Does not support DisplayPort MST daisy-chain connections or conversion to Dual-Link DVI. DisplayPort Adapters Conversion to HDMI, Single Link DVI, and VGA is possible using the following adapters (not included with dock): To convert the DisplayPort output to HDMI 2.0: Plugable DP-HDMI Active Adapter To convert the DisplayPort output to HDMI 1.4: Plugable DPM-HDMIF Passive Adapter(maximum resolution of 4K@30Hz refresh) To convert the DisplayPort output to DVI: Plugable DPM-DVIF Passive Adapter To convert the DisplayPort output to VGA: Plugable DPM-VGAF Passive Adapter In the Box Plugable UD-ULTC4K docking station with stand, 1m USB-C to USB-C cable with eMarker, 100W (20V, 5A) power adapter (100V-240V) with a US power plug, quick start quide
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Our Expert Consultant
Technology and parenting blogger
Molly Thornberg is a professional writer, creative and mom to four kids, living her best life outside of Dallas, Texas. With a love for all things tech, she is passionate about helping parents raise kids in the digital age. She writes about technology, parenting and humor on her blog Digital Mom Blog.
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An Overview On Thunderbolt Docking Stations
Workers are more mobile than ever. Whether you report to an office 40 hours a week or not, chances are you have a need to take your computer with you when you leave. Docking stations have long been a convenient way for workers to enjoy the mobility of a laptop while still having access to the screen, mouse and keyboard they prefer when they’re seated at a desk.
With a Thunderbolt, you get the benefits of speedy technology to charge compatible devices quickly. But as technology and parenting blogger Molly Thornberg explains, Thunderbolt docking stations come in a variety of options.
“Each Thunderbolt Docking Station has its own unique set of ports and features,” says Thornberg, the brains behind the Digital Mom Blog. “Research before buying a docking station to ensure that all of your needs are covered. Some commonly found ports and features include: additional Thunderbolt ports, USB-A ports, USB-C ports, computer charging, displays, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD reader and an audio port.”
But there are several things to consider before you choose a docking station. The first is compatibility with the devices you use every day. With some docking stations, you can plug in multiple electronic items, which means you can charge your mobile devices while using your laptop. You’ll need to check to make sure your docking station has ports that will work with the cables that connect to your devices.
When it comes to ports, advances in technology have made things a little complicated. You’ll see both USB-A and USB-C ports advertised, as well as the rating of USB 3 and USB 2. These are standards applied to data transfers, and both USB-C and USB 3 are newer. You’ll recognize USB-C by its smaller port size, as seen on newer computers and mobile devices. USB-A is the type you’ve seen for years, with a larger port on both the devices and the cables you plug into them.
When looking at ports, consider all the things you’ll need to plug in. If you prefer to have two monitors, make sure your docking station will support that and check how much the video quality will degrade when the signal is split between two monitors. Also keep in mind whether the ports are in the back or front of the docking station, as that will influence how far your cable will have to reach.
There are some cosmetic considerations, as well. You probably have limited space on your desk, so a docking station that sits vertically rather than horizontally can provide some relief. You should also take a look at the basic design of your docking station, as it will become an important part of your office aesthetic.
For many people, it may not matter, but for photographers and videographers, an SD card reader is essential. These professionals often need to quickly offload photos or videos to a memory card at the end of each day. If they’re in a rush, the process of transferring the data can be cumbersome. With a good SD card reader, you can get the high-speed transfer you need, allowing you to spend less time waiting and more time working.
The Thunderbolt Docking Station Buying Guide
- You likely already know what devices you want to dock. If you need your docking station to power a MacBook Pro or PC, you’ll want a unit with plenty of power. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock and gofanco Mini DisplayPort are compatible with the Apple MacBook Pro, although the gofanco Mini DisplayPort won’t work with 2015 MacBooks.
- The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock provides 85 watts of power, which is plenty to charge a 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed.
- An 85-watt docking station will also provide enough power for you to set up a compatible host to serve as a charging station.
- For compatibility, you’ll need to make sure your chosen Thunderbolt will work with the devices you have.
“Using just one Thunderbolt port on your computer, a docking station expands that to however many ports your particular docking station offers,” Thornberg says. “These additional ports come in handy when your computer or laptop does not have the ports you need built-in, if you are out of ports or want additional functionality.”
- The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock can connect to any Windows or Apple device that has a Thunderbolt 3 port on board. Thunderbolt 3 was released in 2015 and designed to provide fast connections to docks.
- The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock promises to offer the most ports, and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll get 5 USB-A ports, ideal for plugging in hard drives, mice and keyboards. You’ll also get two USB-C ports for devices that support that. The gofanco Mini DisplayPort has two USB-A ports, while other models have two USB-A ports and one USB-C port.
- If you’re limited on desk space, look for a docking station with a smaller footprint. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock stands upright to minimize the real estate they consume.
- Those who need to transport the dock from home to work and back again may want to look for a lightweight model. The gofanco Mini DisplayPort is the lightest at only 6.4 ounces, but the CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock measures around one pound. Other models can weigh as much as 3.25 pounds, making them best for those who plan to keep the docking station in one place for the duration.
- Whether you’re regularly moving your docking station or not, you’ll likely want a unit that’s built to last. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock has a strong aluminum case that should hold up against anything that might fall on it.
- As you’re looking at ports, pay close attention to which docking stations have easy-to-access connections on the front of the device. Since your docking station will most likely be on your desk, not having to reach around to plug in those often-used items will come in handy. Your keyboard and mouse may be fine to stay plugged in permanently, for instance, but you’ll be connecting and disconnecting items like your laptop and headphones on a daily basis.
- Some consumers use mobile storage solutions regularly. If you’re a professional photographer or videographer, for instance, you may need to quickly download your footage for safekeeping when you return home at the end of each day’s work. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock has an Ultra High Speed II (UHS-II) SD card reader to transfer your data at lightning-fast speeds.
- If you prefer to use multiple monitors, consider the CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock can handle up to two monitors along with the usual peripherals. However, if you’re going for the highest resolution possible, you may notice resolution starts to degrade once you’ve split the connection between multiple monitors.
- For those on a budget, the gofanco Mini DisplayPort will be the most affordable choice, but beyond that extremely low cost, you’ll find most other options are similarly priced.
- Resolution can be an important feature, especially if you’re a gamer or you watch video on your monitor. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock lets you connect two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor. Other models give you 4K resolution on up to two monitors, while the gofanco Mini DisplayPort gives you 1080p resolution.
- The overall design of your docking station may come into play, particularly since it will become a prominent part of your office environment. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock looks similar to a router, but you’ll find the gofanco Mini DisplayPort has a much lower profile, coming in the form of a small box.
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