USB-C/Thunderbolt Dock Megathread

I ended up ordering this:

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B09CKTSSZ2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Just like all the other dual HDMI docks, except a few dollars less.

I’m not expecting much from it, I’ll only be using it occasionally. Which is why I didn’t want to spend a whole lot on it.

I’ll test it thoroughly, every port. In Linux, I bet lspci or lsusb will show exactly what chips it uses.

It’s supposed to arrive the day after my Framework, but they usually deliver early.

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That’s how I “save” space too… though I’ve used a mix of bamboo dish racks and those designed for phone/tablet/laptop storage.

WARNING OCD TRIGGER BELOW

OCD TRIGGER

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@Alec_Jurisch
The LDC-G2 works great with my Lenovo Thinkpad, but not with the Framework. (Both Win 10)
Under the display advanced settings, the two monitors show up, but there’s no video on them. How did you get it to work? Thanks.

Hey folks! I have a desktop that I really like at home and mostly use for gaming. It’s hooked up two 1440p monitors (one ultrawide) over DisplayPort and puts out 120 Hz G-Sync to both. It has been great!

Now, I’d like to introduce my new Framework into this setup. I’d love to be able to “dock” it with a single USB-C cable and have it charge, put out 1440p 120 Hz (G-Sync, ideally – but the desktop must still be able to do that), and use the desktop’s one keyboard and mouse with these two monitors.

So, the solution is a KVM, right?

That’s what I’ve been thinking… but it doesn’t actually seem like there is a whole lot out there that meets my needs!

After a bit of research, I initially thought I had a partial solution with the Sabrent USB-C KVM that’s about $100 (as a new community user I can’t post a third link, so just imagine with me :smiley:).

But… I got burned! Turns out my monitors can only accept 60 Hz (50 Hz on the ultrawide!!) over HDMI, and I need to go for DisplayPort if I want the high refresh-rates. Plus, it was only ever single monitor, so not a complete solution (but almost an inexpensive and convenient one!) That one needs to be returned.

So, here’s what I’m thinking now:

The pipeline would be:
Framework → Monoprice –

Desktop PC ------> KVM → Keyboard, Monitors, Mouse :slight_smile:

Does this seem like a solution? Am I missing anything too obvious here? The cons of course seem to be price (order of magnitude more than the Sabrent) and clutter.

Appreciate any advice!

@scottretro I have the Level 1 Techs KVM you’re talking about, or more specifically the 2 computer 1 monitor version. TL;DR - I’d recommend it for you.

My setup is fairly similar to yours:

KVM’s I/O is one LG 1440p/144Hz display, with my mechanical keyboard, Razer Viper 8K mouse, a macro pad I use as a game pad, and a Sennheiser GSX1200 DAC. DisplayPort 1.4 and USB 3.0 A to B cable to my gaming PC and another pair of those to my Anker PowerExpand Elite TB3/USB-C dock. The only “strange” thing is I have to plug the Razer mouse into the shared USB3 ports on the KVM, NOT the HID ports, to get full functionality.

With my gaming PC, I get the full 1440p/144Hz with Freesync/G-SYNC compatibility working. On my Anker PowerExpand Elite dock, I plug in a second older Asus 1080p screen as my second screen. I only use it with my laptops for productivity. The docked computers don’t get the full 1440p/144Hz display output, though. My second screen runs at 1080p/60Hz, and my main runs at 1440p/100Hz in Ubuntu. In Windows it’ll go to 1440p/120Hz. This is a limitation of bandwidth/system compatibility more than anything on the dock itself, not the KVM. For your other computer, the desktop, presumably with independent video outputs, it should be fine. Same for myself: If I plugged the dock straight into the monitors, by-passing the KVM, it would have the same lower refresh rate problem. That said, I only really care about the high refresh rate on my gaming PC, so it’s a wash to me.

Really, you’re just looking for a KVM that does DP1.4 well. I’ve tried ~5 different KVM’s advertising DP1.4/USB3 compatibility, and the Level 1 Techs model is the only one that’s worked decently.

I’d personally much prefer if I could get a ConnectPro, though. I’ve used their KVMs for years and they’re fantastic, but their support for DP is still really hit or miss. They have a series now, for you it’d be this one, Dual-Monitor USB/DP/Audio 2-Port KVM Switch UDP2-12AP-KIT - ConnectPRO - DisplayPort 1.4 KVM switch - The Best DisplayPort KVM, that I have ordered and had to cancel. Their Customer Support is great, still, because they reached out, ran through what I’d be plugging in me with, and told me my dock (at the time a Dell WD19TB) wouldn’t work well with it. Docks with MST for the displays just don’t work well at all with their switching technology. They suggested the CalDigit TS3+, but I had tried that dock previously with my old XPS 13 and work laptop, and it was not a good experience (USB dropped ~2 times an hour, had to unplug everything and plug it back in). Anyways, depending on what dock you get, it might be better for you. The main reason I like ConnectPro is they do full EDID emulation, so the computers don’t know that the monitors have been “unplugged” when you switch, and the use USB DDM, so a very similar thing happens for USB HID devices. The Level 1 Techs is what I’d call “more universal” but lacks the advanced feature set.

Thanks for the super-detailed analysis, @JP_Powers!

I can see how the dock specifically can add quite a bit of complexity to the chain when it comes to display refresh, so I mainly want to ensure then that the KVM will treat my desktop right, as you say. I can probably live with 60 Hz out from the Framework (though of course, the higher refresh rate there would be a nice perk too).

Of course, I felt pretty foolish after posting, because both the L1T KVM and Monoprice dock are completely out-of-stock for the foreseeable future :man_facepalming:

So, I’m thinking about something like Lenovo’s TB3 dock:
https://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-ThinkPad-Thunderbolt-40AN0135US-Capability/dp/B07M6S81CM

This seems to have some good compatibility from others in the thread and has two DP outputs advertising 4K60, so that seems like a potential option. That said, I’m still a bit unsure about the KVM. I may ask Wendell from L1T to do a custom order, otherwise I may check out the ConnectPRO you recommended.

Or perhaps this one… which practically looks like a reskin of the Monoprice??

https://www.amazon.com/Certified-Cable-Matters-Thunderbolt-DisplayPort/dp/B07HB7LBZK?psc=1

Monoprice for comparison:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084HPLQ6T/

You’ll find that there are a lot of devices like that which are essentially, if not absolutely, identical. It’s easy to say, “That’s Chinese manufacturing for you!” but it’s more complex than that.

As simply as possible, when you spot virtually identical products, they are probably physically manufactured by one company, lets say company A. Company A is probably based in Shenzhen, China. They sell their product in a stall/kiosk in one of the incredibly, unbelievably massive electronics markets. You can walk in and just buy one or two, or you can walk in and sign a contract with them for thousands. So, for the sake of simplicity, company B went to company A and ordered a bunch of units. Company B can then package it/brand it how they like, provide what level of support, customer service, warranty, etc., that they see fit. Depending on the type of product, Company B may either work with Company A to develop custom firmware for the device, or in some cases cut Company A out of the firmware/software entirely and write and flash their own. Company C could do the same thing, but could work out a different deal with Company A on price, Company C may offer different warranty support, any other differences that just go along with it.

A good example is Wyze Cam. The Wyze Cam v1 and v2 were “just” rebranded Yi Home cameras, Yi being a Chinese manufacturer. However, Wyze completely rewrote from the ground up (according to what I read a while back, at least) the camera’s firmware. They built in a ton of cloud based functionality the Yi camera didn’t originally have, they offer quality American based customer support, etc., etc.

Anyways, the reason I say all that, you could get either of those and both could work identically, both could fail/not work as you want identically, or one will be great, good enough, or something else while the other is just crap. Physically, internally, they may be identical, but that doesn’t inherently mean they are identical. That said, in my experience… they usually are identical enough that I’d get which ever is cheaper and assume the other is basically the same.

ALL THAT SAID (it’s a boring/quiet Saturday, I’m apparently quite happy to ramble today), back to the KVM: I spent ~2 years shopping for a quality DP1.4 KVM. What I found, and this is a matter of personal preference, but any DP1.4 KVM I could order fast on Amazon or likewise was crap. Almost immediately I’d find something wrong with them. The only ones worth looking at are the ones on back order. The solution I landed on for a while was separate USB 3.0 switches and changing the monitor’s input. It sucks, but it works well enough while you wait for a back order to be fulfilled.

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That definitely makes sense! The rebranded/re-shelled hardware is ultimately probably a win for me, the consumer!

So then, I finally ended up with:

@JP_Powers, after you recommended the ConnectPRO, I took a closer look. This sounds like it also meets my specs, and since it’s the one I can actually order, I jumped into the ~7 week backorder queue! I’m not seeing mention of MST on the dock (there is a mention of DP 1.2, so I guess it’s a dice-roll), so we’ll see how they play together. I may also consult with the customer service team at ConnectPRO while I’m in their queue.

I’ll jump back into this thread with results as the pieces arrive. The dock should be first, and I can add my results to the OP wiki post.

Added Anwike AI500-CA 12 in 1 Docking Station to the list, as working! It’s probably the cheapest one here, just a generic Chinese OEM design.

Note: when I tried to add my user name @Fraoch I could not save the edit, the system replied “you can only mention 10 users at a time”. So I omitted the “@”.

Anyway, everything on this dock works! Power delivery, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, microSD, SD, USB 3.0. I could not get more than one external monitor to work at a time though, but that seems to be a Linux limitation. It tries and sometimes will see both external monitors but it can’t seem to use them both. Just buggy. I was unable to test the dual HDMI outputs, I will once I replace one of my monitors, but I’m keeping this dock and waiting for Linux to catch up.

Tested 86.6 MB/s read/22.4 MB/s write on a microSD (UHS 1), 22.6 MB/s read/9.3 MB/s write on an older SD (“30 MB/s” speed class 10).

For anyone interested in which chips it uses, lsusb lists (aside from the Framework components):

Bus 003 Device 018: ID 2109:8888 VIA Labs, Inc. 
Bus 003 Device 019: ID 0c76:153f JMTek, LLC. 
Bus 003 Device 017: ID 1a40:0801 Terminus Technology Inc. 
Bus 003 Device 016: ID 2109:2817 VIA Labs, Inc. USB2.0 Hub             
Bus 002 Device 015: ID 058f:8468 Alcor Micro Corp. 
Bus 002 Device 014: ID 0bda:8153 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8153 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
Bus 002 Device 013: ID 2109:0817 VIA Labs, Inc. USB3.0 Hub      

Oh and I’ve had it plugged in for almost an hour. It’s warm-to-hot but not bad, I measure 37.9°C in the centre towards the front with the main USB cable.

Incidentally my USB 2.5 GbE adapter works perfectly in one of the USB 3.0 ports, so I’m using that too.

I’m pleased!

The beauty of Linux is they don’t have to support them, as long as they use hardware that is supported in the kernel things “just work”.

This isn’t always the case, but any dock certified for Chromebooks also is VERY likely to work great in Linux since under the covers ChromeOS is Linux, and Google has made efforts to upstream drivers and fixes as much as possible because it ends up saving them a ton of work down the road to say “just pull mainline” instead of “checkout this WIP branch from 2017 and may the gods have mercy on your soul trying to integrate that with the latest kernel”.

That said the Plugable TBT3-UDZ which is a TB3/USB-C “hybrid” dock is working great with my Framework (as soon as I found the option in Brunch to allow “untrusted” devices, which Thunderbolt docks typically are due to their direct PCIe access capabilities).

I haven’t put it through the paces with dual 4K monitors (there are 2x HDMI and/or 2x DP available) hopefully soon the gigabit network port will get some use, but so far it is working perfectly for charging (96W capable) and offers plenty of USB-A (1x Gen 3.2 10Gbps front charging port for phones/tablets plus a front Gen 3.2 USB-C and 5x Gen 3.1 5Gbps rear ports, clearly labeled) and both microSD and full size SD card slots and a headset port. I’m actually using a 100w rated 40Gbps magnetic adapter with the dock so I can quickly grab the Framework and go, but I haven’t found a good way to benchmark the transfer speeds yet.

And this is exactly what made Plugable’s dock so… ugly.

Is it silent? This is my next war - I want a dock that is totally silent (if such a thing exists), but so far all I’ve tested are almost as noisy as the laptops themselves.

The dock has a metal body and no fans, so pretty quiet unless you drop it on your foot.

It’s out of stock everywhere… sucks a bit, I have 2 more weeks to return the Anker one, which BTW is OK but I can definitely hear a fan (and when there’s no fan, some kind of static)

Is the static coming from the dock or speakers/a monitor plugged into the dock or the Framework?

Sometimes there is a “coil whine” from PWM (pulse width modulation) controlled fans or screens when powering a device. The Dell XPS series had this pretty bad a while back, they moved some components around and it has gone away in more recent generations.

Following up on this dock - it arrived this week. On up-to-date Arch, seems like the Framework drives a 3440x1440 and 2560x1440 dual-monitor setup at 120Hz each (limits of the monitors); sweet!

GNOME tells me the battery is not charging, though it seems to charge my 13 inch MacBook Pro reasonably well.

Here’s the output from acpi:

scott@framework ~> acpi -V
Battery 0: Not charging, 99%
Battery 0: design capacity 3572 mAh, last full capacity 3536 mAh = 98%
Adapter 0: on-line
Thermal 0: ok, 42.8 degrees C
Thermal 0: trip point 0 switches to mode critical at temperature 210.0 degrees C
Thermal 0: trip point 1 switches to mode hot at temperature 190.0 degrees C
Cooling 0: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 1: TCPU no state information available
Cooling 2: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 3: x86_pkg_temp no state information available
Cooling 4: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 5: TCC Offset 0 of 63
Cooling 6: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 7: INT3400 Thermal no state information available
Cooling 8: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 9: SEN5 no state information available
Cooling 10: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 11: iwlwifi_1 no state information available
Cooling 12: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 13: intel_powerclamp no state information available
Cooling 14: Processor 0 of 10
Cooling 15: SEN3 no state information available

FWIW, it doesn’t really seem to be decreasing from 99% yet. I’ve only had my hands on this for a bit and the laptop was charged to full before I plugged it in. Will spend a bit more time with this before adding the entry to the table. Anyone know anything else I can try?

Ok… it’s charging now! I ran down the battery to 94% and plugged it back in. I guess it just needed to be below a certain threshold to enter the “charging” state. That makes sense.

USB ports are working well, Gigabit ethernet is working well…

I think that means this dock is working :smiley:

Actually “coil whine” is what perfectly describes the sound, and it does come from Dock.

I bought this one:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B075M1XHCK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

From Pluggable. Not the same model you mentioned since that’s sold out but this seemed good enough.

It’s totally silent, but it doesn’t have a power button! For me that makes it unusable, how do I turn on the laptop when it’s in clamshell mode if the Dock is always on?

I have a Dell U2421HE USB-C hub monitor. Any idea if this is supported by the Framework laptop?