USB-C hub with display? Why it might be the perfect thing-ExtremeTech

2021-11-13 08:53:44 By : Mr. Michael Xu

Until recently, I thought that a USB hub was a very simple device. Of course, some have power, some do not, and of course there are USB 3.0 versions, and some USB 2.0 versions still exist, but in most cases they are traditionally boring. Now, with the introduction of USB-C hubs, all this has changed. These hubs can handle high-resolution displays and high-speed peripherals, and even distribute power to your gadgets.

Until recently, determining whether a hub is compatible with your device has been a simple but not very scientific process, which is to plug it in and see what happens. DockCase has begun to change all of this, providing information about its status on the LCD through a programmable "smart" hub and supporting multiple configuration options. Well, when I first heard about it, I thought it was a bit too much, but that was before I bought two USB-C hubs, I couldn’t make them reliable with my Dell laptop and my device Local work connects during teaching every day: Ethernet, 4K Dell monitor, mouse and keyboard dongle, USB headset, and sometimes external webcam.

None of these devices are peculiar or unusual, they all work perfectly when connected directly to my Precision 5540 laptop. Unfortunately, the 5540 has only one USB-C port, two USB-A ports, and no Ethernet jack, so I really need a docking station. In addition, unplugging all these wires multiple times a day is definitely a hassle. With the DockCase Smart Hub, which is estimated to retail for $150, you need to pay for all these features, but if you often rely on laptops and docking stations, the price to pay for consistent performance is small.

DockCase Smart Hub perfectly handles all the various dongles I have tested, this is definitely not some other hub I have used

One problem with most terminals is that you cannot really understand what they are doing and why they may not be able to use a piece of equipment. In the case of a monitor, this may be a bandwidth issue, power limitation, or some other incompatibility issue. Smart Hub uncovers the mystery by providing a lot of useful status information on its LCD. You can see how much power it consumes and where it goes. You can also see the bandwidth it can achieve on each port and the type of connected device. For example, it is difficult for me to get my Dell 4K monitor to work with two other hubs. The smart hub is not instant, but the LCD helped me complete some options, and I found that I can easily maintain a stable 4K/30fps by adjusting a few settings. 4K/60fps is more challenging, but it finally works fine after I change the HDMI settings. Also, please keep in mind that the docking station is running a beta version of firmware and will not be released until January 2022, so I think it will continue to improve.

When using my previous docking station, I was almost out of luck when the adapter did not work properly. In addition to trawling on the Internet, basically trying different networks. In the case of debugging my 4K monitor, it accurately shows what is happening on my HDMI 2.0 cable. So it let me know that I was experiencing stability issues at 4K/60fps and suggested that I reduce the frame rate by changing the HDMI setting of the dock to "balanced" instead of "limit". The only thing that didn't work was that when my 4K Dell monitor was plugged directly into the USB-C port of the docking station, I couldn't use it. But it is easy to switch to an HDMI cable.

Use a single button to control the parameters of the hub. Short press to advance through options such as the Tab key, while long press to select an option. As you can imagine, this is not the UI you want to use all the time, but once you get the hang of it, it is simple enough to change the configuration regularly. You can set the power that the hub will consume, the parameters of the embedded fan, and the HDMI and USB settings. There are some preset combinations that can be used to prioritize data, video, or charges, but you can also customize your own combinations. Some setting changes will only take effect after you unplug and plug in the hub, but this is what you need to know.

Another interesting feature of the docking station is power management. It accepts up to 100 watts of power through one of the USB-C ports, and can be set to deliver 5 watts of power to connected peripherals, leaving 95 watts of power to charge the connected computer, or it can be used for peripherals The device provides up to 25 watts of power, such as an SSD that may require more power. Or, if your computer is plugged in and can be powered by USB-C, the docking station can use it.

Compared with the previous model, one change that not everyone will like is that the card reader has been replaced with an additional USB-C port. Obviously, this provides more flexibility because USB-C can be connected to various devices, but for those who lack a card reader on a laptop, it will add a dongle to your list. On the bright side, the company added a small fan that is basically silent to solve some of the heat issues in the previous model.

DockCase estimates that the product will be priced at $150 when it ships in January. In the meantime, you can learn more, or buy a discount they offer to supporters on the project’s Kickstarter website.

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