Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station Review: Three displays without Thunderbolt

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Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station Review: Three displays without Thunderbolt

Until recently I had never used a docking station, but when Plugable contacted me to offer the USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station (UD-ULTC4K for short) to review, I was intrigued. This is an overhauled version of the previous dock of the same name, but it’s no minor update. This new model comes with some great improvements inside and out.

The big selling point of the Plugable UD-ULTC4K is its ability to run three 4K displays simultaneously at 60Hz. In addition, it can do without a Thunderbolt connection. But what you might find even more impressive is that the triple 4K displays are even supported on the M1- and M2-based MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. It also has USB Type-A ports, can charge your laptop and phone, and more. It’s a very versatile dock, and it’s still cheaper than most Thunderbolt-based offerings.

    Pluggable USB-C 4K triple display docking station

    The Plugable UD-ULTC4K is a versatile USB-C docking station with triple 4K display outputs, plus Ethernet, USB Type-A and 96W power delivery.

Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Docking Station Pricing and Availability

  • The Plugable UD-ULTC4K is available from Amazon and various other retailers
  • MSRP is $279.99, which is significant for a non-Thunderbolt dock

Plugable launched the updated Triple 4K Display Docking Station in the second half of June 2022 and is available on Amazon and a variety of retailers. MSRP is still $279.99 despite rising manufacturing costs.

That price still puts it within the reach of some Thunderbolt docks, although it’s still a bit cheaper. That might seem like a bit much, but the capabilities this dock offers aren’t far behind many Thunderbolt solutions, and it has the benefit of working just as well with AMD-powered laptops or Apple Silicon Macs as it does with Intel – based PCs.

Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station (UD-ULTC4K): Spec

Size (WxDxH) With vertical stand: 73 x 200 x 136 mm (2.87 x 7.87 x 5.35 in)
Without stand: 35 x 195 x 95 mm (1.38 x 7.68 x 3.74 inch)
weight 1.38 pounds (626 grams)
connection to the host USB Type-C – 10Gbps, 100W power delivery (96W certified)
ports front

  • 1 x USB Type-C (10 Gbit/s) with 20 W power output
  • 1 x Full Size SD Card Reader
  • 1 x 3.5. Audio input
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio output

back

  • 4 x USB Type-A (5 Gbps)
  • 2 x HDMI 2.0 / DisplayPort++ 1.2 (DisplayLink)
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0 / DisplayPort++ 1.2 (DP Alt Mode)
  • 10/100/1000 Gbps Ethernet
  • USB-C host connection
  • AC power on
display resolutions 3 x 4K (3840 x 2160) @ 60Hz
power adapter 135W (20V 6.75A) power adapter
What’s in the box UD ULTC4K pluggable docking station
135W power supply
USB-C to USB-C host connection cable
Price $279.99

Display outputs: Three 4K displays on almost every PC

The updated Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station offers some big improvements over the previous generation, and the big focus is on the displays. The previous version also had three display outputs, but it was two DisplayPort ports and one HDMI port. This meant you might need adapters depending on your setup. Now Plugable has done the best, and you get three HDMI ports and three DisplayPort connectors.

Detailed view of the display output connectors on the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station

The HDMI and DisplayPort outputs are coupled, giving you three displays in total, but you’re free to choose which cable you want to use for each one. This immediately gives you fantastic flexibility, and whatever monitor or TV you have, you can connect it to this dock. I’ve always used HDMI (just because that’s what my first monitor had), and most of the cables I have around my house are HDMI, so being able to go that route is great, but I know many others prefer DisplayPort will.

If you have a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Apple M1 or M2 chip, you can connect a total of three external displays at once.

Now, one of those port pairs is powered by a DisplayPort alt-mode signal, as is the case with most docks like this one. However, the other two use DisplayLink, a technology that allows display outputs over traditional USB connections. This requires you to install special DisplayLink drivers (Windows PCs should automatically get them from Windows Update, but macOS requires manual installation from Synaptics’ website), but once that’s done you get a total of three display outputs, all 4K video at 60 Hz support at the same time. I don’t actually have that many 4K displays so I couldn’t try it, but I could use a 4K display alongside two Full HD displays. I had to put my entire setup next to my TV in the living room just to test it, but you can see it below.

A laptop connected to the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station

Best of all, you don’t need Thunderbolt or any special hardware features like Thunderbolt on your PC. That means if you have a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Apple M1 or M2 chip, you can connect a total of three external displays at once, rather than being limited to just one. The same goes for laptops with AMD, most of which still don’t have Thunderbolt or USB4. You’ll need a USB-C port that supports DisplayPort alt mode for the third display, but most modern laptops already support it.

One thing I want to mention, while it may be for some basic knowledge, is that docks like this aren’t designed for high refresh rate displays. As many signal conversions take place from your GPU to the display outputs on the dock, latency adds up and the signal can become too unstable for high refresh rates. I feel I need to mention this because my primary monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and it always appears black despite being recognized by my laptop. I managed to get it working at 100Hz, but officially only 60Hz monitors are supported. In addition, your mileage will vary.

Design and Ports: Faster charging and other upgrades

Display outputs aren’t the only thing Plugable has upgraded with this new model of Triple 4K Display Docking Station. There are also some big changes to the rest of the ports, starting with the host connection. The previous model provided 60W of power to your laptop, but now it’s been boosted to 100W (96W certified). Docking stations can’t really negotiate performance at 100W as potential power spikes go beyond that, so the docking station is certified for 96W.


A laptop connected to an external monitor and various peripherals via a docking station

Speaking of charging, the USB Type-C port on the front has also been upgraded and now features 20W Power Delivery and faster speeds of 10Gbps instead of 5Gbps. You can also charge your phone this way, and it’s a decently fast charger. To enable these new charging capabilities, the dock now comes with a 135W power adapter.

The host connection has a total bandwidth of 10 Gbit/s.

The dock has also been made slimmer and taller, so the four USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports are now all on the back, which might not always be the most convenient, but you’ll likely have all your peripherals connected by the time anyway . In its place is now an SD card reader on the front, another brand new addition to this model. You also still get Gigabit Ethernet and separate 3.5mm audio jacks for audio input and output. All in all, there are a number of upgrades here that make this a much more versatile dock.

Rear angle view of the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station showing all rear ports

It’s not a Thunderbolt dock, though, so you won’t have 40Gbps of bandwidth, and you won’t be able to use all of those ports at full speed at the same time. The host connection has a total bandwidth of 10 Gbps, and if you’re connecting lots of high-speed peripherals, you’ll quickly hit that limit.

The Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station is mostly made out of plastic, so that’s a possible downside. It doesn’t really feel premium, but that doesn’t bother me that much for a device I don’t use that often. It sits there and does its job, which is all I really need. A more serious downside is that it’s not really designed for horizontal use. You can technically remove the vertical stand, but the cooling vents are on the sides. So if you use it horizontally, there is a higher risk of overheating. Also, it doesn’t look that great laying on its side.

Should you buy the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Docking Station?

I’m pretty confident in recommending the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Docking Station for people who want to connect multiple displays to their laptops, as long as they’re not gaming monitors. It’s especially good for AMD laptops and Apple M1 or M2 Macs, as it’s the only way to connect three 4K displays at once. And it’s cheaper than most Thunderbolt docks. Even if you have a Thunderbolt-capable laptop, this can be a solid alternative.

You should buy the Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station if:

  • You have multiple 4K monitors that you want to connect to your laptop
  • You have a Mac with an Apple M1 or M2 and more than one external display
  • You want to connect multiple peripherals and charge your laptop and phone with one device
  • Thunderbolt docks are a little too expensive or your laptop doesn’t support them

You should not buy the Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station if:

  • You want the full bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 for fast storage and other peripherals
  • You are looking for a high-quality design or want to use it horizontally

The only major downside here is that you don’t get Thunderbolt 4 bandwidth, so you can’t connect as many high-speed peripherals, and the dock isn’t really meant for horizontal use. But if you want lots of ports, particularly display-out, and you don’t need those high speeds, this is a great docking station.

    Pluggable USB-C 4K triple display docking station

    The Plugable UD-ULTC4K is a versatile USB-C docking station with triple 4K display outputs, plus Ethernet, USB Type-A and 96W power delivery.

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