Until recently, I had never used a docking station before, but when Plugable reached out to me to offer the USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station (UD-ULTC4K for short) for review, I was intrigued. This is a revised version of the previous dock with the same name, but it’s no minor refresh. This new model comes with some big improvements both inside and out.
The big selling point of the Plugable UD-ULTC4K is the ability to drive three 4K displays at 60Hz at the same time. Not only that, it can do it without using a Thunderbolt connection. But what you might find even more impressive is the triple 4K displays are supported even on the M1 and M2-based Macbook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. Plus, it has USB Type-A ports, it can charge your laptop and your phone, and more. It’s a very versatile dock, and it’s still cheaper than most Thunderbolt-based offerings.
Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Docking Station: Pricing and availability
- The Plugable UD-ULTC4K is available on Amazon and various other retailers
- The MSRP is $279.99, which is significant for a non-Thunderbolt dock
Plugable launched the refreshed Triple 4K Display Docking Station in the second half of June 2022, and it’s available at Amazon and a variety of retailers. The MSRP is still $279.99, despite increasing manufacturing costs.
That price tag still puts it in the range of some Thunderbolt docks, though it’s still a little cheaper. That may seem like a little too much, but the capabilities offered by this dock aren’t that far off from many Thunderbolt solutions, and it has the benefit of working with AMD-powered laptops or Apple Silicon Macs just as well as with Intel- based PCs.
Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station (UD-ULTC4K): Specs
|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 in)
|Weight||1.38 lbs (626 grams)|
|Connection to host||USB Type-C – 10 Gbps, 100W Power Delivery (96W certified)|
|Display resolutions||3x 4K (3840×2160) @ 60Hz|
|power adapter||135W (20V 6.75A) power supply|
|What’s in the box||Plugable UD-ULTC4K Docking Station
135W power supply
USB-C to USB-C host connection cable
Display outputs: Three 4K displays on almost any PC
The refreshed Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station comes with some big improvements over the previous generation, and the big focus is the displays. The previous version also had three display outputs, but they were two DisplayPort Ports and one HDMI port. This meant you might need adapters depending on your setup. Now, Plugable has done the best possible thing, and you get three HDMI ports and three DisplayPort ports.
The HDMI and DisplayPort outputs are paired up, so you get a total of three displays, but you can freely choose what cable to use for each and every one of them. That gives you fantastic flexibility right out of the box, and no matter what 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 in my home are HDMI, so having the ability to go that route is great, but I know many others will prefer DisplayPort.
Now, one of these pairs of ports is powered by a DisplayPort Alt Mode signal, as is the case with most docks like this. However, the other two use DisplayLink, a technology that allows display outputs using conventional USB connections. This requires you to install special DisplayLink drivers (Windows PCs should grab them from Windows Update automatically, but macOS requires manual installation from Synaptics’ website), but once that’s done, you get a total of three display outputs, all supporting 4K video at 60Hz at the same time. I don’t actually have that many 4K displays, so I couldn’t try it out, but I could use a 4K display alongside two Full HD ones. I had to move my entire setup next to my living room TV just to test it, but you can see it below.
And the best part about it is that you don’t need Thunderbolt for this, nor do you need specific hardware features like Thunderbolt on your PC. What that means is that if you have a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Apple M1 or M2 chip, you can have a total of three external displays connected at the same time, instead of being limited to just one. The same goes for AMD-powered laptops, most of which still don’t have Thunderbolt or USB4. You do need a USB-C port capable of DisplayPort Alt Mode for the third display, but most modern laptops support that already.
One thing I want to mention, even though it might be basic knowledge for some, is that docks like this aren’t designed for high-refresh-rate displays. Because there are a lot of signal conversions from your GPU to the display outputs on the dock, latency starts adding up, and the signal can become too unstable for high refresh rates. I feel like I need to mention this because my primary monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate, and it would always appear black despite being detected by my laptop. I managed to get it working at 100Hz, but officially, only 60Hz monitors are supported. Above that, your mileage will vary.
Design and ports: Faster charging and other upgrades
The display outputs aren’t the only thing Plugable upgraded with this new model of the 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 delivery to your laptop, but now, it’s been bumped up to 100W (certified for 96W). Docking stations can’t actually negotiate power at 100W due to potential spikes in power going above that, so the dock is certified for 96W.
And speaking of charging, the USB Type-C port on the front has also been upgraded, and now it has 20W Power Delivery and faster 10Gbps speeds instead of 5Gbps. That gives you a way to charge your phone, too, and it’s a decently fast charger at that. To accommodate these new charging capabilities, the dock now ships with a 135W power adapter.
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 may not always be the most convenient, but you’ll probably have your peripherals connected all the time anyway. In its place, there’s now an SD card reader on the front, another brand-new addition with this model. You also still get Gigabit Ethernet and separate 3.5mm audio jacks for audio in and out. All in all, there’s a slew of upgrades here that make this a much more versatile docking station.
It’s not a thunderbolt dock, though, so you don’t have 40Gbps of bandwidth, and you won’t be able to use all of these ports at full speed at the same time. The host connection has 10Gbps bandwidth in total, and if you connect a lot of high-speed peripherals, you’re going to hit that barrier quickly.
The Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station is mostly made of plastic, so that’s one potential downside. It doesn’t really feel all that premium, but that doesn’t bother me all that much for a device I don’t handle 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 to be used horizontally. You can technically remove the vertical stand, but the cooling vents are on the sides, so if you use it horizontally, there’s a higher risk of overheating. Also it doesn’t look that great when it’s 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 have multiple displays connected to their laptops, as long as they’re not gaming monitors. It’s especially great for AMD laptops and Apple M1 or M2 Macs, since this is the only way you can connect three 4K displays at once. And it is cheaper than most Thunderbolt docks, so even if you have a Thunderbolt-enabled laptop, this may be a solid alternative.
You should buy the Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station if:
- You have multiple 4K monitors you want to connect to your laptop
- You have an Apple M1 or M2-powered Mac and more than one external display
- You want to connect multiple peripherals and charge your laptop and phone all with one device
- Thunderbolt docks are a little too expensive or your laptop doesn’t support them
You shouldn’t buy the Plugable Triple 4K Display Docking Station if:
- You want the full bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 for fast storage and other peripherals
- You’re looking for a premium design or you 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 to be used horizontally. But if you want a lot of ports, especially display outputs, and you don’t need those high speeds, this is a great docking station.