Review: Plugable Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Docking Station adds 10 additional ports to your ...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 21
Plugable's new Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C docking station aims to keep your workspace tidy while helping you expand your monitor setup.

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C docking station


The Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Dual Display Docking Station boasts transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps across Thunderbolt 3. This enables the device to support two 4K monitors at 60Hz, as well as 60W of charging for a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

The dock also includes a wired gigabit Ethernet connection, which uses an integrated 1Gbps i210 Intel network adapter with 10Gbps peer-to-peer networking capabilities when directly connected to a second Thunderbolt 3-enabled host.

There are also five additional USB ports -- one 10Gbps 3.2 Gen 2 USB-A around the front supporting BC 1.2 charging, two 10Gbps 3.2 Gen 2 USB-C ports, and two 5Gbps 3.0 USB-A ports in the back.

Close up of ports


Lastly, there's a combined analog audio input/output jack for connecting headphones and microphones as well.

Compatibility

This dock features full Thunderbolt 3 compatibility with late 2016, Mid 2017, 2018, 2019 MacBook Pros, 2018 MacBook Air, 2018 Mac Mini, and Mid-2017, 2018, 2019 iMacs.

To use the dock, you'll need to be running macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later and have an available Thunderbolt 3 port. There is some limited support for Macs that run macOS Sierra 10.12 -- specifically the 2015 12-inch MacBook -- with a USB-C port, though.

When used with USB-C, you'll still be able to support two monitors, though at a reduced maximum resolution -- 1080p at 60Hz.

If you're the type of person who doesn't own a Mac, that's okay, too. There are plenty of PCs that can also take advantage of this dock.

Plugged in


Much of Dell's XPS line is capable of supporting 4K 60Hz dual-display output with charging, as are the newer Lenovo Carbon and Yoga PCs. Some of the HP Spectre line can support 1080p 60Hz dual-monitor output (4K 60Hz single-monitor output) with charging as well.

We suggest checking out the manufacturer's website for a helpful compatibility chart in the event that you plan on using this dock for PC.

Performance

Unsurprisingly, the TB3 dock performed exceptionally well, which is something we've come to expect from Plugable products. While you can use it for supporting two monitors, it's also a perfectly serviceable dock that can expand the functionality of your MacBook Pro.

The addition of USB-A ports allows for the use of older peripherals that haven't migrated to USB-C or Thunderbolt yet, preventing you from dealing with separate adapters for each device.

The only downside is that when used with a MacBook that comes with an 87W charger -- such as a late 2018 MacBook Pro -- it will likely drain your battery under heavy CPU and GPU load. This is because the MacBook will supplement the 60W dock power supply with its own battery.

Once the GPU and CPU load decreases, the dock will be able to charge the MacBook again.

Dock includes a TB3 cable, but does not include a DisplayPort cable
Dock includes a TB3 cable, but does not include a DisplayPort cable


Furthermore, the manufacturer does not suggest that anyone who owns a Core i9 MacBook Pro use this -- or any other -- 60W dock.

We also found that using a DisplayPort 1.2 cable -- especially shorter ones -- produced the best results during our testing.

Overall

If you're in the market for a docking station to help expand the capabilities of something like a MacBook Pro, we can't recommend this dock enough. If you're going to use it with a Windows computer, we highly suggest that you check out the compatibility guide before buying, though.

Where to buy

You can purchase the Thunderbolt 3 and USB C Dock from Amazon for $179.00.

Rating: 5 out of 5

    Pros
  • Features both USB-C and TB3 compatibility
  • Provides 60W power to MacBooks
  • Drives dual 60Hz displays for MacBook Pro and iMac setups
Cons
Limited compatibility with windows computers
Not compatible with the Core i9 MacBook Pro

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    When will there be a decent TB3 dock with 90+ Watt charging? :(
    fastasleep
  • Reply 2 of 16
    wow321wow321 Posts: 8member
    When will there be a decent TB3 dock with 90+ Watt charging? :(

    The Caldigit TS3 dock is 87 Watts.  It keeps my 16” MacBook fully charged powering normally 2 4K displays, external USB hard drive, USB powered lit keyboard, wireless mouse dongle and sometimes 3 4K displays (with the third display plugged directly into the opposite side of the MacBook).  

    commentzillaseanj
  • Reply 3 of 16
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Apple keeps cutting down on ports, pushing tiny compact computers (or plutocrat-level expense for an actual power machine), and people keep excusing it by saying “just get a dock if you need more ports because most people don’t”...

    ...and here we have a dock that will actually cause battery drain because the laptop needs to feed it... even when both are powered.

    And we are supposed to not criticize Apple over this?
    jrc
  • Reply 4 of 16
    ClarusClarus Posts: 36member
    Some of the earlier posts seek to tar all docks (or the concept of docks, or the port situation) with the same brush of docks not providing enough power.
    That is misdirection. The problem is not with Apple or the concept of docks, the problem is docks that are not up to date.

    I bought an early OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock. I love it, one cable connects everything on the desk. It only provides 60 watts, but that was enough for my 13" MBP.
    OWC has upgraded that dock. The current version does provide enough power for all current MBP models.
    The current CalDigit dock mentioned by Wow321 also does provide enough power for all current MBP models.

    If you are criticizing docks because you only want to look at old models and ignore the good ones, that is certainly your own personal problem, not a real world one.

    As for this Plugable being reviewed, there is no excuse for a new Thunderbolt 3 dock to lack the power for a 16" MBP. Multiple other companies above do offer it.

    I like Plugable devices in general, and of course this dock has enough power for my own 13", but a dock sold at that price point should be able to power any current MBP. This dock also lacks HDMI, and says if you want to plug in HDMI through one of the two DisplayPort outlets you must use an active adapter. These are limitations and extra costs that do not apply to other docks. Also, it does not seem to have Thunderbolt 3 pass-through since there is only one TB3 port. And using the USB-C ports for displays appears to have limitations according to the specs. None of these limitations are mentioned in the review. I will stick with my OWC dock which has proved to be much more versatile for my needs.
    edited May 2020 chasmseanjbeowulfschmidtentropysfastasleeppscooter63svanstrom
  • Reply 5 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,404member
    dysamoria said:
    Apple keeps cutting down on ports, pushing tiny compact computers (or plutocrat-level expense for an actual power machine), and people keep excusing it by saying “just get a dock if you need more ports because most people don’t”...

    ...and here we have a dock that will actually cause battery drain because the laptop needs to feed it... even when both are powered.

    And we are supposed to not criticize Apple over this?
    Wow, this is a really dumb premise. How exactly is it Apple's fault that Pluggable failed to make a dock that provides enough power for the high-end models?

    Why is having ONE port that can be literally adapted to be almost any port that has ever been used in the this century inferior to having to cram all 27+ possible ports that somebody MIGHT possibly want into a case that will then weigh in excess of five pounds due to all the additional controllers and circuitry needed (to say nothing of loss of battery life)? Are you just not familiar with the term "portable"?

    Hubs and adapters did not arrive on the scene with USB-C/TB3 ... or with USB-A ... they predate both of these by many years. I have a 15-inch MBP and a tiny hublette that attaches to it for the rare occasions I need USB-A, Ethernet, or HDMI -- I thought in particular I would need USB-A and HDMI (which is why I bought the mini-hub, but in fact I rarely use either (mainly for when people hand me flash drives, or I have to plug into a projector that doesn't yet have USB-C). It weighs about three ounces (maybe) and attaches directly to the MBP's ports without a cord.

    You're really making a mountain out of not even a molehill.
    seanjfastasleep
  • Reply 6 of 16
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,117member
    dysamoria said:
    Apple keeps cutting down on ports, pushing tiny compact computers (or plutocrat-level expense for an actual power machine), and people keep excusing it by saying “just get a dock if you need more ports because most people don’t”...

    ...and here we have a dock that will actually cause battery drain because the laptop needs to feed it... even when both are powered.

    And we are supposed to not criticize Apple over this?
    Maybe it’s the fault of the dock. They could be enabling power sharing incorrectly. Because of that, and a couple of other lapses, I give this dock a three out of five.
    edited May 2020
  • Reply 7 of 16
    quark108quark108 Posts: 5member
    When will there be a decent TB3 dock with 90+ Watt charging? :(
    I love my CalDigit TB3 Dock w/ 87Watt charging! It is a little more expensive but I feel it runs circles around this “Pluggable” one. I’m very surprised it got 5 stars. 

    CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock - 87W Charging, 7X USB 3.1 Ports, USB-C Gen 2, DisplayPort, UHS-II SD Card Slot, LAN, Optical Out, for 2016+ MacBook Pro & PC (Space Gray - 0.7m/2.3ft Cable) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CZPV8DF/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_tEoUEb93QNZE5
  • Reply 8 of 16
    Clarus said:
    Some of the earlier posts seek to tar all docks (or the concept of docks, or the port situation) with the same brush of docks not providing enough power.
    That is misdirection. The problem is not with Apple or the concept of docks, the problem is docks that are not up to date.

    I bought an early OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock. I love it, one cable connects everything on the desk. It only provides 60 watts, but that was enough for my 13" MBP.
    OWC has upgraded that dock. The current version does provide enough power for all current MBP models.
    The current CalDigit dock mentioned by Wow321 also does provide enough power for all current MBP models.

    If you are criticizing docks because you only want to look at old models and ignore the good ones, that is certainly your own personal problem, not a real world one.

    As for this Plugable being reviewed, there is no excuse for a new Thunderbolt 3 dock to lack the power for a 16" MBP. Multiple other companies above do offer it.

    I like Plugable devices in general, and of course this dock has enough power for my own 13", but a dock sold at that price point should be able to power any current MBP. This dock also lacks HDMI, and says if you want to plug in HDMI through one of the two DisplayPort outlets you must use an active adapter. These are limitations and extra costs that do not apply to other docks. Also, it does not seem to have Thunderbolt 3 pass-through since there is only one TB3 port. And using the USB-C ports for displays appears to have limitations according to the specs. None of these limitations are mentioned in the review. I will stick with my OWC dock which has proved to be much more versatile for my needs.
    Y'all, I am well aware of the CalDigit and OWC docks, as those are literally the only two on my list for consideration, so chill :)
    What I was not aware of was that these two docks seem to be meeting everyone's 16" power needs. This is not something I could possibly be certain of, since the charger it's shipped with is 96w, meaning at some point in time the computer is absolutely capable of drawing that much power, meaning any charger under that wattage would result in a net loss of battery charge even while plugged in if pushed to the max for any amount of time. The CalDigit maxes out at 87 and the OWC maxes out at 85, an 11w difference from OEM...not insignificant. 

    I know all of you know this already, I'm just explaining where I'm coming from. 

    I would like a dock to be able to provide at least as much power as the OEM charger and I think that's a valid request. I'm already likely going to buy one of the two mentioned docks, I merely expressed a desire for a little more wattage. :neutral: 
    fastasleep
  • Reply 9 of 16
    jrcjrc Posts: 817member
    I just bought my first, nice Mac, a MBP 13/2TB, with 2 TB-3 ports. I already hate the TB dongled-stuff. I have had operational issues with it, and I have to play musical chairs with what I have plugged in. I really would like more TB ports, and normal USB-A/3.x, and Ethernet.
  • Reply 10 of 16
     The dock also includes a wired gigabit Ethernet connection, which uses an integrated 1Gbps i210 Intel network adapter with 10Gbps peer-to-peer networking capabilities when directly connected to a second Thunderbolt 3-enabled host.“

    How does one enable the 10Gbps peer to peer networking using the integrated 1Gbps i210 Intel network adapter?
  • Reply 11 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    “ The dock also includes a wired gigabit Ethernet connection, which uses an integrated 1Gbps i210 Intel network adapter with 10Gbps peer-to-peer networking capabilities when directly connected to a second Thunderbolt 3-enabled host.

    How does one enable the 10Gbps peer to peer networking using the integrated 1Gbps i210 Intel network adapter?
    You don't. You connect a Thunderbolt 3 cable to another host.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    Thanks. That’s what I thought, but the verbiage in the article made it seem like the integrated rj45 port could do 10 gbps under a certain scenario.  But this isn’t the case, it’s a direct TB3 to TB3 connection which you don’t need this dock to do. 

    Thanks!
  • Reply 13 of 16
    neilmneilm Posts: 917member
    jrc said:
    I just bought my first, nice Mac, a MBP 13/2TB, with 2 TB-3 ports. I already hate the TB dongled-stuff. I have had operational issues with it, and I have to play musical chairs with what I have plugged in. I really would like more TB ports, and normal USB-A/3.x, and Ethernet.
    Well, you could have had more TB3 ports — you just chose not to buy that model of MBP.
    fastasleeppscooter63
  • Reply 14 of 16
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,193member
    neilm said:
    jrc said:
    I just bought my first, nice Mac, a MBP 13/2TB, with 2 TB-3 ports. I already hate the TB dongled-stuff. I have had operational issues with it, and I have to play musical chairs with what I have plugged in. I really would like more TB ports, and normal USB-A/3.x, and Ethernet.
    Well, you could have had more TB3 ports — you just chose not to buy that model of MBP.
    Sure they could have. Doing so would not change their need for dongles though, which is their other irritation.
    edited May 2020
  • Reply 15 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,836member
    dysamoria said:
    Apple keeps cutting down on ports, pushing tiny compact computers (or plutocrat-level expense for an actual power machine), and people keep excusing it by saying “just get a dock if you need more ports because most people don’t”...

    ...and here we have a dock that will actually cause battery drain because the laptop needs to feed it... even when both are powered.

    And we are supposed to not criticize Apple over this?
    I feel like this has been pointed out to you before, but you are completely missing the real use case for these. You plug everything on your desk into this box – your monitor, hard drives, audio interface, whatever else. You then have only a single cable to attach to and detach from your MacBook when you come and go. These aren't meant to be used on the go.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,836member

    jrc said:
    I just bought my first, nice Mac, a MBP 13/2TB, with 2 TB-3 ports. I already hate the TB dongled-stuff. I have had operational issues with it, and I have to play musical chairs with what I have plugged in. I really would like more TB ports, and normal USB-A/3.x, and Ethernet.
    Welp, you did it wrong. You bought the low-end 13" MBP which is really a hobbled model with half the ports of all the other models of MBP. You also don't really need slow USB-A ports for anything, and MacBooks haven't had ethernet for nearly 8 years now.
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