Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 100W docking station (review)

Plugable TBT3-UDC3
SBA
10
Great

You would be a mugable if you did not consider Plugable TBT3-UDC3 for your next Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 96W docking station. Its new range of Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) docks with Intel’s Titan Ridge Chipsets are standout performers.

Sorry for the rhyming pair; I think it got your attention. Plugable is not a well-known brand in Australia, but it should be.

I had not heard of Plugable until I reviewed its Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C (TBT3-UDC1) – a new breed of Gen 2 dock and I was hugely impressed.

That is not to take away from excellent docking stations from Bellin, Kensington et al. It was my first review a dock using the latest Intel Titan Ridge Chipset (JHL7440 – it’s a PDF link so check downloads). It offers 100% cross-compatibility between USB-C 3.1/2 and Gen 1/2 and Thunderbolt 3 20/40Gbps. And now TB4 and USB-4.

In many respects it is similar to the TBT3-UDC1 except that it has 98W passthrough power for big thirsty MacBook Pro’s etc.

First, a word on Thunderbolt 4

Intel Project Evo laptops with 11th gen Core CPUs have TB4. It supports 1x8K, [email protected] displays and the new USB-4 standard.

There is no downside to using a Plugable TB3 dock on a TB4 device. The Plugable TBT3-UDC3 meets most of the TB4 standards, including upstream power.


Second, a word on why to use a dock

Most modern laptops come with either a USB-C 3.1/3.2, Gen 1/2 (5/10Gbps) port, and some have TB3 or 4 (40Gbps).

Typically, an intelligent, powered dock can split the 5 to 40Gbps full-duplex signal into USB-A, USB-C, card reader, 3.5mm combo audio, Ethernet and HDMI/DP. These also supply upstream power to the device and downstream power to attached devices.

A dock is different from a dongle that splits the signal into limited devices and can pass through power from a wall charger.

Australian review: Plugable TBT3-UDC3  Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 100W docking station

  • Website here
  • Price:  $309.95 with free Australian delivery
  • From: eBay USA Plugable store or Amazon AU
  • Warranty: 2-years
  • Elevator pitch: TB3 dock done the right way with TB4 support
  • Country of manufacture: Thailand
  • Plugable (website here). Redmond, Washington, USA. It has a wide range of products sold worldwide and is consistently in the ‘Top 5’ global docking station market. Would you buy a dock from such a diverse group – I would!

Thee TB3 dock with TB4 aspirations

This is a next-gen TB3 dock that already supports 99% of TB4 and USB-3x and USB-4x standards. The 1% it does not support is Intel VT-d based DMA protection built into 11th Generation Intel CPUs to stop the dock being an attack vector from attached devices. In other words – no biggie.


To do this, it uses the Intel Titan Ridge chipset that offers manufacturers the choice of two discrete display ports (DP 1.4 and/or HDMI 2.0) or one port and one downstream 20Gbps TB3 port.

Ports

  • Ethernet
  • USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps
  • 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (data only – no Alt DP)
  • Display Port 1.4  and Display Stream Compression (DSC) – also comes with a DP to HDMI adapter
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 2 x USB-A 3.0 5Gbps
  • 2.5mm combo audio
  • Upstream TB3 port
  • Power in 20V/8.5A

Plugable elected to use the second channel to support two monitors instead of a second 20Mbps TB3 port. I think that is the right call for a few reasons.

  • First, many TB3 and TB4 laptops have two 40Gbps ports.
  • Second, two monitor configurations are more common
  • Third, you can use a USB-C port for an extra monitor.

Dual monitors – Windows – yes, Mac M1 – hmmm be careful

The two ports can support 2 x [email protected] (or 1080p). The CPU/GPU determines the maximum number of displays – usually three with the laptop.

The new Mac ASRM M1 mini can only support one display via HDMI and one via USB-C. The MacBook Air/Pro only supports one external display. It appears that you can use DisplayLink Version 1.2 for macOS 11 Big Sur or later to enable dual external monitors.


Power

Plugable uses a big 170W brick supply (RCM certified). It delivers 20V/4.8A/96W certified to an upstream device. It will provide whatever the PD device negotiates,

Tests (Windows HP 13” Spectre 2020 Thunderbolt 3 65W and Windows Surface Pro 7 2020 with USB-C 3.2 Gen 2)

This is highly techy, but you can take our word that it all passes with flying colours

  • 2 x USB-A 3.0 5Gbps (625MBps): PASS with a Samsung T7 SATA 6 SSD (reached speeds expected of this interface).
    • Voltage out: 5V/.9A – PASS
  • 1 x USB-A 10Gbps (1250MBps): PASS with a Samsung T7 SSD
    • USB-A BC 1.2 port 5V/1.5A – PASS
  • 2 x USB-C 10Gbps (1250MBps): PASS with a Samsung T7 SSD
    • Voltage out: 5V/1.5A: PASS
  • 1 x Thunderbolt 3 upstream: PASS on both devices (we can’t test above 65W and it delivered that nicely)
  • Ethernet 1Gbps – PASS
  • DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.0: 2 x [email protected] – PASS with HP Z38C 3800×[email protected] and HP Z34C 3440 x [email protected] and 2 x Samsung LC27F591 1920 x [email protected]
  • 3.5mm port – 16-bit 48Khz PASS. it is a combo four-pole (L+R+Mic+Ground)

Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 100W docking station (review)
GadgetGuy’s take
Plugable TBT3-UDC3 is perfect for Windows, fine on Intel Macs and seems to work on M1 Macs within their limits. It is extremely well built, and the 100W model will handle pretty well every laptop. I prefer Plugables two monitor ports over a slower dedicated TB3 downstream port. Now you have a dock that will last many years, handle TB4 and USB-4 devices and run dual [email protected] monitors. What’s not to like?
Features
10
Value for money
10
Performance
10
Ease of use
10
Design
10
Positives
Plugable is a very responsive company
Well made and good warranty
Handles TB4 and USB-4 as well
Separate HDMI 2.0 and DP 1.4 ports for dual [email protected]
Comes with DP to HDMI Active Adapter for duakl HDMI use
Negatives
The power brick is bigger than the dock
TB3 upstream port in on the front
10
Great