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USB-C hubs and my slow descent into madness (2021) (overengineer.dev)
1144 points by sneakymichael on April 4, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 513 comments

If you want a decent dock you have to spend a bit of money. I went through this pain before accepting the cost and buying a CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub[1]. Run's two 4k displays at 60Hz, any peripheral and charges my laptop.

So good I bought a second.

1. https://www.caldigit.com/thunderbolt-4-element-hub/

I’d just like to chime in with the Kensington SD5700T [1]. I’ve tried a CalDigit TS3 Plus, an Anker PowerExpand 13-in-1, and the Kensington has by far been the most reliable.

It doesn’t have built-in HDMI/DisplayPort out, but it’s easy to buy the appropriate cable to connect to your monitor (I recommend Club3D [2]). Especially if you’re trying to use an HDMI 2.1 or DisplayPort 1.4 display, as I’ve found most built-in ports on these hubs don’t support these latest standards or have weird issues with them.

It also has a nice mounting bracket [3] that lets you hide the cable mess under your desk or behind your monitor.

[1] https://www.kensington.com/p/products/device-docking-connect...

[2] https://www.club-3d.com/en/cat/cable/usb_type_c/1606/301/

[3] https://www.kensington.com/p/products/device-docking-connect...

See, that's crazy, because Sonnet "makes" an identical board. Same case too. Only difference is the logo.


And $40 cheaper than the Kensington branded one.

So even though it's thunderbolt and it works for you - it really is the same thing TFA is talking about.

I've found https://dancharblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/usb4-tb4-docks/ has a nice comparison of the many very similar (only slightly differentiated) thunderbolt 4 docks.

It notes that the Kingston, Sonnet, and others are rebrands of the Goodway DBD1100.

And updated yesterday to boot. This is awesome, thank you.

And it still costs as much as a computer.

As has often been said, that dock really is a computer.

I don't think that's a good thing though. No adapter/hub should be this complex IMO. I don't know how the ubiquity of USB got us to this point, it seems worse than before.

Because it's not USB it's Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt taps directly into the PCIe bus where USB doesn't. It only makes sense it is going to be much more than just a USB switch/hub. It's basically one of those PCIe expansion chasis that allowed extra expansion cards when your case only had 3 slots. Except, this is a nice neat little box on top of your desk.

> Customers: "We want one cable that does everything, super fast!"

> Engineers: "Okay... but it's going to be expensive and complicated..."

> Apple: "Money is insignificant next to the power of user experience."

> Intel: "Oh, people are actually using this thing we created?"

> USB-IF: "But us, b..."

> Intel: "So the USB won't let me B. Or let my TB be USB, so let me C."

> USB-IF: "You are again our hearts' delight."

> Customers: "Why is this so complicated? Remember when one connector meant one kind of cable? Those were great days."

And that's how we got here.

The original LaserWriter had

> Motorola 68000 CPU running at 12 MHz, 512 KB of workspace RAM, and a 1 MB frame buffer.

vs the Mac 128K with

> Motorola 68000 microprocessor running at 7.8336 MHz, connected to 128 KB RAM shared by the processor and the display controller



> As has often been said, that dock really is a computer.

No it isn't, lol. Thudernbolt/usb-c docks are a solution to a made-up problem.

It is absolutely possible to have all the necessary ports on a modern slip laptop.

Just look at the Dell Latitude 7390:

- https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/dell-latitude-7390

- https://www.notebookcheck.net/Dell-Latitude-7390-i5-8350U-SS...

I have a Dell Latitude laptop. It absolutely doesn't have enough video ports for the monitors on my desk. And while it's got enough ports for my USB peripherals (barely), it's certainly a lot more convenient to connect one cable than to connect 5-6, when I bring it back from using it as a laptop.

Which is great on the road. When I'm in the office using my laptop as a desktop I want one plug for everything and that is what usb-c gives me, so it is easy to grab just the laptop and go. (On my current laptop it is two usb-c plugs on one connector as usb-c doesn't allow enough power or data for one port to work - I have to use their official hub which who knows how long they will make).

Made-up problem? Maybe if you use your laptop as a desktop and never take it anywhere. I don’t want to plug in a dozen cables whenever I come home or go to work, or after each and every meeting.

Yeah, after buying a macbook pro I decided to buy an earlier generation of macbook air with some usable ports on it, there is no way I'm going to go around with an additional box. People complain MS is user-hostile but Apple does the same, just in their own way.

I’d like to chime in to highlight how totally underrated the Blackmagic eGPU series Apple collaborated on was.

They are virtually silent, have capable, reliable TB3 hubs. Outside the Mac Pro line, the BM eGPUs offered graphics capability to macs going back years that was only surpassed with the recent ASi MBPs.

They are remarkably stable and ultimately a great value.

Strongly agree with this! I have the now discontinued eGPU Pro and it rocks. Is normally completely silent and it functions as an actual thunderbolt dock. It’s one of the few eGGUa with a secondary thunderbolt port you can use with a Thunderbolt monitor. (It also supports USB-PD for fast charging an iPad). Half the USB-A ports are 5 Gb/s. I do wish it had etherneT though.

I also recommend the TS3 Plus, though it’s not as rock solid. Mine sometimes has a high frequency noise issue when the DP port is in use, though your resolution changes the hum’s volume. Also it freezes up occasionally, but I used it for 2 years without many troubles.

Yeah, I have a Razer Core X eGPU that works really great

Can second this recommendation for an M1 Pro MBP. Expensive, but I've been very happy with mine. A single cable in and out of my laptop to cover power (at a full 95W) plus monitors, USB-A peripherals, network, and everything else, super amazing.

If you were to install monitor control, can you adjust the brightness of both monitors or just one?

I've had really bad luck with TB3 docks including the OWC and CalDigit. It seems that having a stiff TB cable on a non-locking port isn't that great of an idea. I ended up rigging up some cardboard and lots of tape to reinforce and stabilize the dock side of the connection on the OWC, and connecting to it would work only about half the time, and even then my dual external monitors would usually be swapped L/R.

The best solution to this I've seen is on Angelbird’s SD Dual Card Reader which uses a sadly proprietary shaped molded USB-C connector that goes DEEP into the reader, but it is very snug and wiggle-proof. I haven't tried, but I'm confident that I could swing this thing around by the cable and not hurt it or have it disconnect at all. It really does feel like the piece of pro-level kit that would be at home on a DIT cart like it was designed for.

The Lenovo TB3 Workstation dock worked relatively well for docking an X1 Extreme, and that too has a proprietary connector which combines Lenovo's charging plug with a TB3 connector. It's secure and doesn't wiggle much, but it's short and flexible but not terribly so (large bend radius).

Lastly, I'd just like to complain about how lame it is that there are so few docks with >1 HDMI or [preferably] DP connectors. On the OWC dock, I was literally using 1x MiniDP to DP adapter cable for one monitor, then a USB-C DP alt-mode dongle plugged into HDMI to the other monitor. Plugging a dongle into a dock is serious product-level cringe. Surely I'm not the only person in the world who wants to close their workstation-class laptop and use it with dual 4K60 32" monitors, yet there seem to be so few products that work like that. I don't want to dasiy-chain one over TB either. I understand the bandwidth limitations and hope that TB4 makes this an easier sell.

My Ideal TB4 dock: - LOCKING connector, somehow. Build a cage around it like they do for some IECs or mold in a deep strain relief or something. - 3X DisplayPort 2.0 (since they lock, unlike almost all HDMI that isn't on rackmount pro gear that news stations have)...DP 2.0 has been out since 26 June 2019. - 25G SFP slot that can take a 10GbE GBIC, DAC, or fiber. I'd settle for 10G SFP. - 2x downstream TB4 ports that can fall back to USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (ugh, really not a fan of USB IF naming conventions) - 4x USB 2.0 type A on a hub to plug in all the stuff that doesn't need much bandwidth, like keyboards / mice / phone charger / bluetooth dongle / YubiKey. - 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A ports for fastish devices like external HDDs that came out before Type C. - Pass through the entire 100W and make that actually work with MacBooks. I've plugged into so many docks that can't actually charge the larger MBPs. They'll give 45w or something, which doesn't cut it for MBPs, let alone mobile workstation class laptops. 100W would at least keep a laptop with a 45W TDP CPU and at least as powerful GPU afloat. I'm talking about stuff that comes with 200w+ power bricks here. I don't mind terribly plugging in the power adapter separately, just don't make me do what Lenovo did and plug TWO POWER BRICKS INTO THE DOCK. That's a bit much. - No damn 3.5mm headphone + mic jacks (extra audio chipset that is inevitably worse than the one built in and much much worse than a proper external pro interface), built-in wifi, bluetooth, built-in m.2 / 2.5" SSD...I love the SD card reader personally but make it a damn good fast one or just give me another couple of USB ports instead.

The closest I can get to this today is the Lenovo workstation dock, which they now make in a TB4 flavor featuring: 1 x 3.5mm Audio combo Jack 4 x USB-A 1 x USB-C 1 x HDMI 2.1 2 x Displayport 1.4 1 x RJ45 (gigabit) 1 x Thunderbolt (for Host connect) 1 x Thunderbolt (for Device connect)

Although this solution doesn't really solve any of the fundamental issues with cable rigidity and easy to unplug usb-c/tb ports or the continuous "add another abstraction layer" problems of the ever expanding complexity of do everything on a single cable standard, OWC sells a ClingOn adhesive backed usb-c/tb lockable connector which prevents my cables from unplugging constantly when the wind blows and triggering the "why the hell does my accessory not work oh it's unplugged loop". For a mere $5 each!

I did see those a while ago! They sadly weren't out when I got the original TB3 dock from them when that first came out, so no idea how well they work, but seems like they might help. IIRC the dock itself tended to generate a fair bit of heat, so I wonder how well that adhesive really holds up. It'd be great if this was just built into the dock, maybe removable in some way if one wanted to use a TB3 cable that didn't fit.

My caldigit came with the flimsiest TB3 cable I’ve ever used. No issues at all. Even my much stiffer Apple TB cable works fine.

It is missing Ethernet, which seems to be important to the author.

Having heard positive things about caldigit, I got their USB-C Pro Dock and I get frequent screen blanking with my M1 Mac, and often some of the USB ports fail to work. I don't use the ethernet port, but I think it is a Realtek (so likely the same thing the author is complaining about)

I have spoken to caldigit support and so far they have replaced the dock once, and now have gone pretty quiet.

> It is missing Ethernet, which seems to be important to the author.

CalDigit's TS4 has Ethernet (2.5 GbE). I've been a happy TS3 user for years.


I'm running a CalDigit Connect 10G on a relatively high-end NUC and it's great for a quick little Plex box that also sits on my 10G network segment next to a TrueNAS box doing 2x10G on DAC cables with LACP on a Chelsio T6225-CR.

I had bad luck with the QNAP QNA-T310G1S and Sonnet Solo 10G SFP+ (surprising as their stuff is usually rock-solid) -- both based on the AQC100S chipset and the aQuantia AQtion driver just didn't work for me under LTS Ubuntu.

I have a TS3, but it’s been hard to get a second or a TS4 lately.

I have a TS3 for work and looked into the TS4 but it's been out of stock everywhere.

Does it have an audible coil whine?

I've tested 5+ TS3 Plus docks, and all of them have a coil whine, which can be heard in a quiet room, without playing any music.

Sometimes I like to work in silence, and the coil whine really bothers me.

So, this is really random, but if you can open up the case and figure out what is whining, folding up tinfoil neatly in half about a dozen times will make a really effective shield and cut like 95% of the whine. I found out about this trick from an open-source synth (PreenFM 2, incredible little frequency modulation synth) that had some whine due to the display. Sticking the thick piece of tinfoil between the display and the PCB boosted the SNR an almost unbelievable amount. Give it a shot, it only costs time and tinfoil! Be sure to stick some electrical tape around anything it might contact though, so you don't short anything out.

I've had my ts3 for a couple years now. I just noticed a pretty bad coil whine on mine lately. I'm not sure if it's always been there and my environment's changed or the device just suddenly started making the noise.

I usually can detect coil whines to an annoying degree, but I don't hear one in my TS3 Plus. Maybe your ears are more sensitive than mine!

Coil whine is about the only time having tinnitus works in my favor.

I have two 3x4k display Startech hubs, and one developed a very audible coil whine, the other did not. It was so bad it landed in a drawer.

Otherwise both worked fine allowing me to drive 3 screens on the OG M1 mbp. They each cost around 350 eur though.

That sounds like exactly the issue I've just described when I plug a USB C display into mine. I actually notice it, albeit to a much lesser degree, when I move a USB mouse connected to the dock.

Probably time for a change I guess.

I hear nothing from mine, but this may well be an example of me being 52.

I got a thunderbolt 4 dock from Razer[0] that has all the bits and bobs (and it looks really nice). Almost bankrupted me, but as the GP says, this is just the reality at this point.

[0]: https://www.razer.com/gaming-pc-accessories/razer-thunderbol...

The port arrangement on the front/back of that looks identical to the Kensington and Sonnet docks mentioned upthread, so I'd suspect that Razer are another vendor of a skinned reference design. (Though they're on the cheaper end of the spectrum so far, unless someone turns up the Aliexpress version.)

For the Ethernet I enjoyed the fact the dock was clean and unopinionated, just providing USB ports so I could use a USB-C-to-Ethernet adapter.

Your comments about the Screen Blanking sound bad and are are likely correct, I only have an Intel Mac to compare.

I have used the dock with windows and Linux machines and seen solar issues btw. So I would expect the same with an Intel mac

The screen blanking with M1 was driving me crazy. I went through untold amount of cables, and ended up with miniDP (on the dock) to DP (on the monitor) that doesn't blank, but only flickers occasionally.

The funny thing is that 2015 Intel MBP (with Apple TB2->TB3 adapter) with the same dock and same monitor didn't blank or flicker. I guess it is something about the new Apple TB implementation in M1.

I’ve got the TS 3 Plus dock (which has Ethernet) and it has been working flawlessly on my 2020 MBP (Intel) the entire time. I _think_ there was a firmware update in the early days that unlocked the 85 or 90 watt charging. I had heartburn about the price, but it’s been worth every penny.

I’m not pushing 4K though, so mileage may vary. I’ve got a 27” TB2 Apple Cinema Display via TB2 to USB-C and a Dell via Display port.

As a guy working with Raspberry Pi and 3D printers a lot in my free time it is SO NICE to have the card reader right up front and easy to access. I also love un/plugging just one cord when I’m on the go.

I have the TS3. It's been great BUT.... the Mac has not been great with it in the following ways.

(1) I keep my MBP closed. It take 10-30 seconds for it to wake up on keypress. That's so long that I often have no way to tell if it noticed I pressed key.

(2) If XCode is debugging and the screen sleeps then MacOS 12 never recovers unless I disconnect the cable, open the lid, get it wake up on the laptop monitor, and then plug it back in and finally close the lid.

I get why #2 is rare and therefore not fixed but still (T_T)

Yeah, I kept running into docking problems trying to keep the lid closed as well. It seemed like it worked less than half the time. Worst-case I'd have to restart. Sometimes it'd wake up with no mouse or kbd working, other times my dual 4K60 monitors would be switched left/right, many times just...nothing...

Pretty lame that one of the "best" laptop mfgs in the world can't make docks work right with one of the biggest CPU / IP mfgs in the world. Laptop sleep states were a problem back in the early 90s on Linux...some things really never change.

By the way, there were bad problems with the TS3+, Intel MacBook Pro 13" 2020 and macOS 12.2 (no USB or Ethernet until reboot after unplugging and re-plugging), which were fixed in 12.3.

I'm using OWC TB3 dock, it has the same (1) problem. In the past, I've used Kanex TB2 dock and it was the same.

So for the feedback on keypress, I'm using devices with backlight. Both keyboard or mouse work fine, once they light up, you know that it is waking up.

I keep my lid closed as well and I’ve never had it not wake up. Though, with the latest is version it has seemed slower to wake at times.

Their TS3 dock supports ethernet. I've had mine for well over 3 years now and it still works great. Can't say the same for the 5+ other docks I had before this one.

You can get them on the cheap as you can buy enterprise Dell/HP USB-C/TB for like $50-70 on EBay…

Do not waste your money on high end consumer stuff, the enterprise stuff is better and the market is flooded with disposed units…

Those Dell ones that come with the XPS caused us endless problems at work. Higher res screens would just not work properly. The only one that consistently just worked was the apple HDMI/USB-A/USB-C charging dongle.

Sounds to me that you for some reason got the older USB-C 3.1 / Gen 1 docks those are limited to 5gbps which means no 4K@60 the Gen 2 USB-C / TB3 docks work quite flawlessly as long as you ofc plug them into a Gen 2 or TB port…

They should be able to get 4k@60 with the older docks. I have such an older monitor which works fine. It's just that the usb 3 ports work at 480 Mbps.

With USB->DP adapter yes. With a hub offering USB3 ports, mostly no. Once both lanes are in DP-alternate mode (needed for 4k@60), there's no bandwidth for USB3, only the separate wire for USB2. So here it depends how it is internally connected, and whether it can switch USB3 ports to USB2 or not. Many hubs can't do this.

This echos the same problem that I had with the older Lenovo "docks" (hub). The newer ones work without an issue.

I'd second this.

Work in a large F50 and all the enterprise grade ones we've had are decent.

This is the current model they are giving folks:


I've been running an Intel MacBook Pro (last intel version I think) on it the last few months with 2 external HP displays, keyboard, mouse, and it is a solid performer.

Yes, those displaylink docks are fine for office productivity work, but not that suitable for gaming or media consumption because of the cpu load. On the other hand, I plugged my m1 air into one at work and the cpu load was reasonable even while videoconferencing, so I suppose eventually the overhead of displaylink gets small enough not to be a problem.

As another commenter stated, bleh to DisplayLink. Also, what monster designed it so 1! of the 4 USB-A ports is upside down? This is why we cannot have nice things.

Remind me to never buy a laptop without a healthy array of dedicated external ports. This is lunacy.

I swap between three different computers. Everything is attached to the same dock.

I just need to swap the USB-C connector between the three and I get the same displays and peripherals.

Doing this with a "healthy array of external ports" would be a huge pain in the ass.

You could do it the same if you had an array of ports (as long as one of them is USB-C). You would just also have the possibility to use the other ports without a hub.

This guy gets it, more is always better.

Yup when you see both the price and the size of these docks, you gotta wonder why even bother with buying a laptop in the first place. If the goal is to hook up two 4K monitors, I'd rather have, say, a desktop computer powered by a threadripper.

> why even bother with buying a laptop in the first place. If the goal is to hook up two 4K monitors

That might not be a full-time goal. Some want a machine that works on the move but can be expanded to bigger screens and such when at certain locations (office and/or home). A laptop and dock allow this compromise.

It is a compromise, not one suitable for all. But it is the list inconvenient option for many.

> Some want a machine that works on the move but can be expanded to bigger screens and such when at certain locations

I wouldn't say "some". Probably 90% of developers I know require exactly this, in fact off the top of my head I can't think of any who don't. Even the permanent, full-remote, no-really-there-is-literally-no-office types want to sit in a different room sometimes or work from a coffee shop.

It's pretty rare to have a "workstation" setup that cannot be moved.

I guess I'm one of those devs that you can't think of then. Main rig for remote work at home, laptop for the occasional trip to the lab. Honestly I can't imagine using a laptop for anything too demanding, the shitty thermals make me cringe.

Personally I like having a laptop for on the go and a desktop that’s always in one place and use syncing to make it pretty seemless to switch between them.

That's a good solution, but it comes with its own set of compromises. I think the argument here really is:

'... where we came in. Having to buy an external dock is such a compromise! I want to have all the ports on my laptop!'

'But if all your peripherals are connected directly, you need to connect and disconnect them every time, so you have to compromise on mobility. Isn't this...'

And different variations on this same spiral.

Yeah, the thing too about desktop vs laptop is not just core count but TDP. An Intel 12900K on an OC can draw like 400W ( https://wccftech.com/intel-core-i9-12900k-overclocked-to-5-3... ) vs a laptop that will get you a max of like 115w for turbo (<10 seconds at a time) and 45w under normal circumstances ( https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/132215/... ).

And good luck getting anything close to RTX 3090Ti performance in a laptop. It'd basically be a toasted oven on your lap.

Desktops can just sink a ton more heat, and as process shrinks and die size increases have gotten us less and less additional performance each year, we're just pushing power up to the point now where a TOTL gaming desktop is pulling close to 1KW. A laptop will never come close. If you really do want to try a literal desktop CPU in a laptop, there are mfgs like Eurocom and Sager that will sell you one, just don't expect it not to throttle a lot under actual heavy workloads.

To be honest I see this as a win for laptops nowadays. I still work from home most days of the week and I prefer not to have a power hungry workstation turned on all day, especially with current electricity prices. Because of unfortunate timing of when my contract expired I already pay around 800 euros per month for energy

>>Because of unfortunate timing of when my contract expired I already pay around 800 euros per month for energy

Wait, what? Are you like cryptomining or something? That's actually insane. I charge two electric cars at home, work from home using a powerful workstation, and my electricity is about £100/month. How do you manage to spend 800 euro a month????

No I am not crypto mining. Please mind I said 'energy', it includes gas. Electric is about 175 euros

Curious where you are? I run a threadripper workstation with a 3070Ti and 2x 1440p monitors for ~10 hours per day, and my household's electricity bill is ~£40/month.

Presumably people have a dedicated workstation that they use most of the time, but not infrequently want to have a portable computer that they can take places (cafes/trips/transport/co-working spaces/etc).

I find it surprising that the appeal of the above would be confusing for anyone.

Well, I mean, 2 4k monitors is possible on a laptop in laptop configuration these days (4k internal + 4k add-on attached slide-out), so I don't see why it's an unreasonable thing to have where you dock a laptop.

Sure, you could buy a separate desktop for that, but if you also go portable, don't want to bother with some kind of online sync solution, and want to move between laptop mode for on the go and something docked to big monitors and a no laptop keyboard/mouse for when you are at your primary workspace, getting a good laptop plus a dock rather than spending more for a laptop plus a separate desktop which makes you have to compromise on syncing somehow makes a lot of sense.

(Obviously, if you need desktop processing power, thermal envelopes mean that laptops aren't going to be competitive. But if that's your need, you aren't going to be looking at laptops, and how to connect peripherals isn't going to be your limiting factor.)

I have multiple desks. Each of them has their own docking station.

The only things that move around are my laptop and I. I don't want to carry around a desktop computer and plug in power, screens, and USB hub every time I switch desks.

Yes, but companies keep wanting me to use the corporate laptop, not my much more capable desktop on a dedicated drive. So technically a good dock is not a bad investment in that scenario since you aren't paying for the laptop.

Because of the crazy pricing of CPUs nowadays, I'm still going old school with a slightly older ThinkPad and a ThinkPad docking station that decidedly does not connect via USB and uses a proprietary port underneath the laptop. For the most part, everything works well and has been doing so for years.

I get around this by using a desktop computer. I appreciate without wanting the engineering that goes into modern laptops; but they're solving for a problem that I just don't have.

USB remains, of course, a donkey circus. Everyone involved in USB ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I'm not denying your application need, but I only plug in power and sometimes an external monitor. I don't think I've plugged anything else into my computer in years.

So it might be lunacy for you but it's not necessarily lunacy for others. And given the amount of market research these guys do I suspect the "never plug anything else in" crowd is pretty significant.

I’m with you on this. I’m a FAANG software engineer who does hardware stuff too and I have a 2020 MacBook Air with 2 (two!) USB-C ports. One for charging, one for other stuff. In my two years of owning the device I have not once ever been frustrated needing the third port. I do quite often use both of the two ports, but even needing three seems to never happen in my use case.

I don’t use external monitors with that device which probably makes a difference but IMO the point still stands - I think there is a silent majority of people who don’t want or care about more ports.

You seriously never needed to plug in a plain common USB-A flash drive or any other peripheral? Or flash an sd card or anything of the sort? Interesting.

Nope. I pass data around over the network, either via cloud or P2P. If I plug into an external display I use BT kbd/trackpad. And I do have a waterproof/shockproof camera with an SD card but I don’t use it every day, or even every week; I use my phone.

Flash drive? Hardly ever used one; networking existed before they were invented.

Yes, but so rarely does that use case actually happen. It has been fine with a dongle and not ever been a space issue. I carry a USB-C to A dongle with me at all times wherever my laptop goes. It basically lives with the laptop. Works just fine for every use case I have and it’s often the thing taking up my second slot. A bit annoying, but a fact of life. All SD card stuff happens on my desktop - anytime I need an SD card to connect to a computer I’m always at home - I’ve never once had that requirement on the go. External keyboards just don’t get used at all - I paid a bunch of money for a nice keyboard built into my portable machine, in fact one of the reasons I purchased the 2020 MacBook Air was because they got rid of the butterfly keyboard - so I don’t really use external peripherals with it.

Or just an external keyboard...

I'm using a BT mouse explicitly not to bother with a stupid "2.4GHz USB Receiver" and keep one (USB-A!) port free.

Im a non-FAANG developer so i cant comment on what all the sheep/ad devs are doing;

but I can comment on what a polygot cross-platform cross-cloud software engineer who supports a plethora of native portable devices integrations require, and thats USB hubs with ports coming out the ye-ha - otherwise im constantly playing musical chairs.

I commented that I didn’t have a need a lot of ports with my use case and you commented that you did with yours. Good HN discussion.

But why did you have to begin your comment with the condescending “all the sheep/ad devs”? It makes you look insecure and I only read beyond that because your comment was so brief.

There are machines with lots of ports and machines with few and someone’s choice of which to use is not a moral judgement.

I’m not a FAANG dev either, but no need to disparage them. That seems inappropriate and mean spirited.

The thing about a plain old USB hub is that it only costs $20-30.

It's a nice way to avoid the lunacy here.

My laptop has enough ports. But I don't want to plug them all out and in again when taking it from one desk to another one.

This thread is making me think there is some breed of programmer out there that has 8 work desks in their house and switches between them sequentially every 5 minutes.

You don't need 8 desks to switch every 5 minutes.

MacBook Air with two USB-C ports:

One for USB-C to Ethernet adapter.

One for Apple adapter that I plug USB-C power into, plus HDMI, plus a mouse.

Always works. Though it can’t prevent me forgetting to plug the Ethernet adapter in and realising I’ve been on wifi all day.

I love my USBc with hub setup.

Sure this is relatively new and a ton of hubs are shit but this will only become better.

I can use my Anker mini dock on my laptop, switch and Samsung s22.

It's weird how people want to plug lots of things in at home, but not very many when traveling, isn't it?

Caldigit is junk just like most of the others.

I just had to get IT to swap mine out at work last week.

We have hundreds of CalDigit and OWC docks.. tons have failed. I had an OWC one fail a couple years ago as well.

And yah, these things cost as much as a Chromebook or a cheap windows notebook.

CalDigit's TS3, TS3 Plus, and now the TS4 are all incredible products.

I have used them with my MacBooks over the years as well as my gaming PC (ASUS ProArt B550 motherboard), and they are the most reliable part of my desktop setup. They are not just reliable, but reliably fast. I get full gigabit ethernet speed, fast USB transfer speeds, and fast SD card reading, without fail, every time.

To note, “a bit of money” is 250$ on amazon right now.

Two of them would buy a complete Ryzen mini-PC, which could be another way to convey how hard it must be to make a “decent” thunderbolt dock.

>how hard it must be to make a “decent” thunderbolt dock.

I’d been thinking about this and want to add to the evidence that even though MacBooks were USB-C only for years and years Apple never shipped a dock they only shipped single port dongles.

No way would Apple not sell a $500-$800 dock that could “solve the usb-c problem” unless there was a good reason and I think the reason is this solution is inherently janky for some unsolvable engineering reason and only single port cables are reliable to the level Apple was happy with.

AMD is joining Intel in having Thunderbolt4/usb4 ports on their upcoming mobile chips. Would be great to have an io up alterntive part that has 4, 5, 6 or more ports.

Opened this for the express purpose of plugging caldigit. A device that improves on these other devices with a massive upgrade in engineering. Full teardown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8f6Zs1JyZBQ&ab_channel=Camer...

The thunderbolt 4 element hub is causing kernel panics on M1 devices running in RAID 0. It is unnreliable and requires additional cooling to keep my mind safe. I in fact created this account just to warn you.

I had two of them with 3 Sabrent Thunderbolt SSDs each. So when you setup a RAID level and then copy data from A to B, it did crash for me each time. For copy I used "Carbon Copy Cloner"

In fact I go so far to say Thunderbolt is not reliable at all for 24/7 use, as it gets much hotter and currently would require active cooling to prevent throttling.

I’ve been very happy with this OWC thunderbolt dock. No monitor outputs, but as someone who is juggling so many hard drives for video/audio projects - mostly running 3-2-1 backup protocol for my salaried job AND freelance clients AND personal work - the large number of ports and wall power are critical. I had so many problems with bus powered drives drawing too much and then randomly ejecting because I have too many plugged in. This thing solved it immediately.

On my M1 Mac mini, between the OWC dock and another dongle (bus powered) and the remaining ports on the Mac, I can run 10+ drives with no problem plus multiple peripherals. That may seem excessive, but when you’re juggling between drives trying to find old projects for people or trying to build a demo reel, it speeds up the process immensely. It also enabled me to consolidate a bunch of old 1 to 3 TB drives onto a couple of master 16 TB drives with everything in front of me at once, saving a ton of time, stress, and double checking.

Frankly it’s just nice not having to unplug something two or three times a day just to be able to plug in something else. I always have an available port now and it’s got me so much better organized.


For the sake of anecdata, I found that even the Caldigit docks fail to work on the Intel Macbook Pros (I only have a single data point about the M1s and they didn't work there either). When I hook even basic things like my keyboard and mouse up to the USB A ports, things work for about 20 minutes or so (varies widely) and then the USB A ports go dead requiring a reboot to restore.

This is a known failure mode, but it doesn't hit everybody. It is solely an Apple software fault as older OSs do not exhibit it. I really wish I knew what the issue was.

On the plus side, I found this so infuriating that I finally threw all in and switched to Linux full-time (Lenovo X1 Carbon with a ThinkPad dock) and haven't looked back since.

Side note: practically every thunderbolt dock I have works fine with every x86 laptop I have running either Windows or Linux (including the Caldigit!). YMMV.

My entire team and a few other developers I work with have had zero issues with CalDigit TS3 on Intel Macs. At least 10 TS3s over the period of several years.

I found a random USB-c monitor to be a decent hub (I used a cheap Lenovo, was great). No ethernet cable, however wifi is usually good enough, if not faster.

If it needs to be Thunderbolt and money is no object, there is the Apple Studio Display with 3 USB-C ports.

I'm a huge fan of the Dell WD19TB. Works great on my MacBook Pro M1 Pro (did I mention it's for Pros) and my gaming PC. The only issue I have with it is that the PC will only run video over Thunderbolt if I use YCbCr 4:2:2 with chroma subsampling - so instead I wired my PC monitor directly to the GPU and use the WD19TB for everything else (including video on my Mac laptop over HDMI).

Gets a solid 980Mbits symmetric on the ethernet port, 90W of power delivery, etc. It's a lifesaver swapping just the one cable between my PC and laptop.

Works in USB-C mode too.

I have been using this one for years, it used to drive two 4k displays at 60 Hz. But since half a year or so, I can't get the second display to run at 60 Hz any more. I think it's a regression in the Linux kernel, but it's basically impossible to debug. A few times it suddenly did recognize it can do two displays at 60 Hz, but it seems to depend on the phase of the moon :/

Dude video over these hubs - even the good ones - is so hit and miss. It's really frustrating actually.

I did the same thing, seeking a "one plug" setup with my Macbook Pro. I have a different CalDigit (the TS3+), but same conclusion: to do this right, you have to throw a little money at it.

With this dock, I was able to run:

- 2 4K monitors - Gigabit Ethernet - USB-A - Audio connection for speakers - Power

all on one USB-C cable to the laptop. It also has an SD slot and a front-facing USB-A port for thumb drives, etc.


As I was scrolling through the article, I was hoping to see the TS3 amongst the docks torn down.

I was happy with mine until I started using an extra display with it recently. The main display is hooked up via DisplayPort. The problem arose when I added a second display over USB C.

For some reason, when I plug the monitor into the dock, there's a faint electrical noise. If I plug the monitor into a USB C port on the laptop instead, it's perfectly quiet. Maybe I should attempt HDMI instead. Either way it's frustrating.

I ended up getting a Lenovo USB-C Gen 2 hub a couple of years ago, and it’s still on sale. Also very satisfied.

I’m able to switch my personal (Lenovo) and work (Dell) laptops, mostly without issue. I say without issue because the Dell/Intel only supports HBM2 so won’t do two monitors if one of them is more than 1080p.

I settled on using the HDMI out from the laptop to split the difference in frustration and convenience.

I ended up getting a Lenovo USB-C Gen 2 hub a couple of years ago,

It works fine on ThinkPads. Unless you are using Linux, where 4k@60Hz does not work due to lane misconfiguration (maybe this is fixed by now?). On Macs, I have found this Dock to be a complete disaster. It would often not charge unless you plug/unplug the Dock several times. Also Ethernet often doesn't work (it uses a Realtek NIC). I had two and sold both of them, because they are practically unusable with Macs, and replaced them by Startech Thunderbolt 3 Docks, which work great.

There have been a couple of firmware updates over my couple years of ownership. I had a couple of issues with the dock simply not connecting to the non-Lenovo computer, but this was fixed with the fw update early last year.

These issues were with the firmware updates early last year (I think the last update I tried was from April 2021). I see that they finally provided a new firmware update March this year. Too late \o/.

And hence the slow descent into madness!

I've recently received my https://frame.work laptop (64 GB RAM 2 TB NVME) and with its expansion card system I can have 4 usb-c, or 2 usb-c and HDMI and DP on it, and if a connector fails the replacement expansion card is 10-20 EUR.

Don’t you mean “so good you bought the company”?

For everyone under 40, there was a shaver ad that flooded the airwaves of our youth where some guy (Victor) would say, "I liked it so much I bought the company".


Good to see you again Victor!

How is 50-90€ not a "bit of money" for a dongle already?

My work gave me this. I have a 2019 16” i9 MacBook that crashes in every other unplug plug of this dock. Here’s the most amazing issue with this dock yet: it somehow resets my router through the ethernet port I’m using to connect to the router. No other device has this issue. Other than this dock, nothing else causes any issue working with my router.

I went through 2 of these and finally bought generic usb C hubs and run 2x usbc->HDMI for 2x displays.

I don't like the idea of having to chain multiple dongles(I know the advantages, being able to choose a good network adapter, etc.) but I'd still pay decent money for a single device that I can leave on my desk with everything plugged in without the need for additional interconnects. (I do see that they make actual hubs as well, might check those out.)

While there certainly is something nice about plugging in a single cable, I just use a usb-c hub with a usb ethernet and a usb switch with my peripherals and then connect my screen directly

This is cheaper in the same way I don't use a KVM and instead change the inputs in my monitor (Also, I'd have to figure out what DP KVM supports G-Sync and 1440p 165hz).

Same here. I can’t really use a monitor that’s less that 120Hz, even for engineering work. 60Hz monitors give me eye strain.

It’s impossible to find any KVM at any price point that works with 120Hz, and certainly not 120Hz@3840x1600. Forget about G-Sync.

I resorted to just keeping short USB and DP or TB->DP cable extenders plugged into the computer ports and have a “cable zone” where I just unplug and replug all the cables to switch machines. The short extensions are to protect the ports in the machines from wearing out.

It’s way cheaper than any KVM and it actually works.

What kind of visual components are visually different between 60 and 120hz?

I do dev and browsing work at 30hz and the only thing I notice is the little gaps when moving the mouse fast.

The mouse is a big problem for me. I didn't used to care either, but started using a 144Hz monitor years ago and now it's hard for me to go back. Even my TV is 120Hz.

I just notice discomfort when my monitor isn't >90Hz or so. On Windows it occasionally will reset to 60Hz, maybe due to video card driver updates? I could probably re-adjust back to 60Hz in a few weeks but I don't see the point of going through the discomfort, especially when I occasionally do play games where the higher frame rate makes a much more drastic difference.

Depends on the type of scrolling you use. Smooth scrolling feels a lot better with higher refresh rates, but obviously step-by-step scrolling doesn't really get any benefits.

I've had good success with a 1x4 KVM from Level1Techs. I use it paired with a Alienware AW3418DW 3440x1440 120Hz G-Sync monitor. My PC has a NVIDIA 2080 and G-Sync+120Hz works fine through the KVM. I also have my MBP connected, via a CalDigit dock, and it can push 120Hz to the monitor too.

Level1Techs a small shop that I discovered via their YouTube channel. While they don't manufacturer the KVM themselves (all to common, see the OP link), they look to have done rigorous testing and compatibility analysis. They claim it works up to 3840x2160@120hz because it supports DP 1.4.


Thanks. I've heard good things about them, but they were sold out for a long time.

I actually did many days of research into assembling my own KVM. HDMI is surprisingly straightforward but DP is a nightmare of nested standards. Just one example: There is support for running i2c tunneled through another protocol. The biggest issue is the link speeds that a DP1.4 cable runs at. The chips needed to do the switching are expensive and pretty much need to be machine assembled. When you get to those frequencies the trace design and board composition even become a factor.

After all that I don't find the $299+ for a good KVM to actually be that excessive. It's surprising how difficult it is to electronically do "I unplug cable and plug another one in".

I don't even need stuff like display spoofing, etc, since I only use one machine at a time and don't constantly switch, but it was just way too much work to put together. If you only need slower link speeds it's doable.

This is true, though Ethernet seems to be an endemic problem. I have a ~$300 Dell WD19TB that works flawlessly to drive a couple displays, audio out, USB hub, and card reader, but the Ethernet died after a few months.

So now, comically, I have to have a type-C Ethernet adapter connected to the back of my Thunderbolt dock...

For the sake of anecdata, I have a CalDigit TB3 dock that's been working reasonably well for a few years now, which is actually pretty high praise given the competition, and I'll probably stick with CD when I get around to replacing it.

While we are recommending, I’ve been very happy with my purchase of Dell’s docking station. “Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt Docking Station”, to be specific. Works well with MBP.

It has some Windows specific features that don’t work with Apple machines. So DYOR.

Some CalDigit docks have this fun issue where if you plug the wrong sort of adapter into the wrong sort of USB-C port it will brick the port if not the entire device on the other end.

While I agree that's a great dock, IIUC, it's not technically a USB-C dock, it's a Thunderbolt dock. I know it's the same cable but IIUC it's not USB-C?

USB-C is the connector type, so yes Thunderbolt 4 uses USB-C. The transport standard is USB-[some number], current gen being USB-4 (which is actually based on the TB3 standard).

No Ethernet? I would stick to the TS3 plus. I love mine.

+1 to Caldigit Thunderbolt. I bought a TS3 Plus almost two years ago and have been living the single-cable lifestyle since. Works great.

Basically one of the few that actually does what it says on the box reliably.

Even the OWC brand one I had was flakey, at similar $200-400 price point.

Yes. Avoid anything with displaylink.

what if i don't want a decent dock, or two 4K screens, i just want to plug in a hard drive and a mouse at the same time?

is there a USB-C option for me, or is my best bet a USB-A hub, a USB a-to-c adapter, and a usb c-to-a adapter.

you can get small USB-A <--> USB-C adapters. I picked up a few of these since I got a new MacBook and finally had to deal with the nightmare of USB-C and its really helped: https://www.anker.com/ca/products/variant/usbc-to-usb-30-ada...

What network controller does it have? Is it the same realtek ?

Replying to myself. From a tear down it seems like the TS3 plus version uses an intel network controller!


My kid wanted a USB hub, so I got this at the local $5 store. Have not heard any complaints. I am sooo lucky.


That's USB 2 though - it's literally a USB-A hub with the connector swapped for a USB-C one. This speaks volumes about the beauty of USB 2.0 and the USB-A specs that they withstood decades of unscrupulous manufacturers; they're so simple that it's literally more effort to screw it up than to do it properly, so even the cheapest option will typically work.

I know that, and you know that, and by the time my kid figures it out....

I'll have saved enough to send him to College.


Top 5 usb C hacks that your kids don't want you to know.

Hack 1. Gas light your children ...

While I don't approve of gaslighting, I endorse the use of appropriate technology.

Since "real" USB-C hubs seem to be garbage, why use one?

> It honestly feels like no matter what you buy, you get more or less the same hardware, and you’re most likely getting a heavily overpriced product just because some company printed their logo on it.

Isn't this like a known thing? Almost all peripherals on Amazon will have dozens of the exact same form-factor with different logos on it. You just buy the one that is the perfect intersection of costs, positive reviews, and shipping time. The assumption is that they all come from the same factory in China anyways.

I have mostly stopped buying small electronics on Amazon, going to AliExpress instead. You get the same thing for much cheaper. The value Amazon has is in shipping time, but you pay a hefty premium for that.

It is important to note that the cheapest, unbranded (or counterfeit) products may actually miss components. Looking at the PCB, you may see an empty slot where a MOV or a filtering cap should be, underspecced components or blatant counterfeits (no, that cap is not a Nichicon!). They may be from the same factories, but brand names usually don't get that low, and they have people on site making sure the factories don't pull these stunts on their batch.

The most frustrating part is that I want no logo. It’s the worst of both worlds; no brand reputation, yet still covered in ads.

My friends laugh when i buy *anything, as the first thing i do is black-marker (i generally only buy black stuff) over any logos. For me, those little flashes of logo are just distracting.

While not the ideal solution to your needs, I've found that Brasso does a great job of removing logos from electronics with a little elbow grease.

I've used it on my LG television, my Levoit air cleaning machines, and other devices.

Or acetone a.k.a. the pure form of nail polish remover.

Yeah no, that'll dissolve those ABS cases in no time.

The Apple dongles have no branding on them. Other than their distinctive design language I guess.

Just curious.... why?

I live in a world overrun by capitalism and inundated with ads. The inescapable consumerism is sickening. That it’s the norm to run ads on practically every consumer product is absurd, and I feel gaslit that apparently everyone else is comfortable with it. We pay to remove ads from many services—why does my thousand-dollar bicycle still have a permanent billboard on the side? Have I not paid enough? Removing a logo from my life is one small reprieve from the dystopia.

I also try to cover up logos when I can, but that's the thing: to many, it's not seen as an ad, but rather a form of expression. Having an expensive brand might signal to other cyclists that one is supposedly more experienced, or more serious of a cyclist than people with cheaper bicycles (in reality, the skill is what counts, but the brand focus is what the companies want you to believe). So, it's supposedly a feature.

More examples in the winter fashion industry: supposedly, to wear a Patagonia jacket says you care about sustainability; to wear a Canada Goose jacket says you have a quality coat and can afford it; while to wear Arc'teryx means you're a pro outdoorsy bloke prepared for extreme weather. A lot of the price comes from people wanting to communicate stuff about their identity.

(Slightly off-topic, but the cheapest and most functional way to stay warm isn't a parka, but wearing multiple layers, e.g. a base layer, a puffer jacket, and a waterproof windbreaker.)

> The inescapable consumerism is sickening.

Well, where do you buy USB hubs in a world w/o capitalism and consumerism?

Communist China, just like we do in this world.

But the real China is full of capitalism and consumerism. Unfortunately, there is no place for communist in this world.

If only that were true, it would be a truly good thing.

Nah, I think a really, really, really sophomoric take on "how do we end world hunger" starts with "communism!" Then you snap out of it.

I mean, human nature is a shame right?

I mean, communism was one of the leading causes of hunger in the 20th century.

> Removing a logo from my life is one small reprieve from the dystopia.

And a great way to advertise to your peer group that you're comfortable and wealthy enough to be able to choose to disengage from the capitalist rat race!

Why should I pay a company to advertise for them?

Amazon Basics logo (or other generic company) looks a bit tacky

I'm not the same user, though I also prefer no/minimal logos on devices or clothing.

The practical advantage of no logos is that this avoids judgement. People may look down on you for spending so much to get an item from a brand, while other people might look down on you for spending too little. You could just not care about others' judgement, though other people could still treat you differently. Separately, there is the ethical issue of whether one frames visible logos as 'free advertising,' which might not be desirable to do.

The sociology text "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" by Paul Fussell also explores why some people deliberately wear brands, while others avoid them.

On a (potential over-analysis) of why some people deliberately have branded items: ""Legible clothing" is Alison Lurie's useful term to designate things like T-shirts or caps with messages on them you're supposed to read and admire. [...] When proles assemble to enjoy leisure, they seldom appear in clothing without words on it. As you move up the classes and the understatement principle begins to operate, the words gradually disappear, to be replaced, in the middle and upper- middle classes, by mere emblems, like the Lacoste alligator. Once, ascending further, you've left all such trademarks behind, you may correctly infer that you are entering the purlieus of the upper class itself."

"Brand names today possess a totemistic power to confer distinction on those who wear them. By donning legible clothing you fuse your private identity with external com- mercial success, redeeming your insignificance and becoming, for the moment, somebody. [...] And this need is not the proles' alone. Witness the T-shirts and carryalls stamped with the logo of The New York Review of Books, which convey the point "I read hard books," or printed with portraits of Mozart and Haydn and Beethoven, which assure the world, "I am civilized."

On why some people deliberately avoid logos: "X people are independent-minded, free of anxious regard for popular shibboleths, loose in carriage and demeanor. [...] Since there's no one they think worth impressing by mere appearance, X people tend to dress for themselves alone, which means they dress comfortably, and generally "down." [...] If the Xs ever descend to legible clothing, the words-unlike BUDWEISER or U.S.A. DRINKING TEAM-are original and interesting, although no comment on them is ever expected. Indeed, visibly to notice them would be bad form."

The TL;DR of the whole hypothesis by Fussell is that some people avoid having brands on their physical stuff because they don't want others to see a logo on an item; connect the logo to values of a corporation as part of that corporation's "brand identity"; and make assumptions about that person's personal identity based on that brand identity.

>costs, positive reviews, and shipping time

Yes, this. There are a few exceptions, thing like ssd drives, ram, sd cards, etc which I buy from companies that I know manufacture their own. For random peripherals, I just make sure it's Amazon Prime so there won't be any hassle if/when I need to return them.

I make an exception for earphones. Unless you're buying off-brand, you can be pretty certain that you're not getting white labelled. I'm listening to an audio book on Shure TW2's w/ se215 heads attached... not much chance that's white labelled. Same for the lower quality but also lower profile Galaxy Buds Live that I use as well.

Amazon is just the dollar store on the internet where every product has 4+ stars.

A lot of the time, sure, this is exactly what happens. But other times, there is a distinct difference in quality. How do you know when you’re in situation A or B? You can’t trust the reviews. You can’t even trust that the seller will send you the advertised product half the time.

Just to expand on this: I suspect and have been told that almost all powertools follow this model. The markup for most tools in the same class is essentially branding only.

It’s _mostly_ kinda sorta like that. There are broad groups that are basically the same; Craftsman and Dewalt being owned by Black and Decker, for instance. But it’s a crazy web depending on particular tools or features it goes from a couple root manufacturers to a dozen or so. But there’s a lot of BS.

Pro Tool Reviews did a big break down [0] a while ago that was very eye opening for me. It could easily be out of date by now but I had no clue how deep the groupings went at the time.

[0] https://www.protoolreviews.com/power-tool-manufacturers-who-...

This is mainly because power-tool quality across the board has greatly increased - once you're into a "band" they're much the same, though there are differences it's usually one of "focus" not of quality.

If you're dealing with off-brand or no-brand tools, you can still end up with something entirely usable but crappy. The prices usually tell most of the story.

"Project Farm" on YouTube does really great tool reviews with zero BS. There are differences between major tool brands and it's not just a matter of same factory, different brand sticker like with a lot of electronics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpjBJ8aQ3NE is a good example. It's pretty hard to go wrong with any of the major players these days, more about what color you like or their tool ecosystem. I'm into Milwaukee and like a whole lot of their tools, so I ended up getting about a dozen of them over the years. Milwaukee tends to be on or near the top in terms of performance, and while that might not be necessary for occasional non-professional use, I have done a few things with them where I was glad to have the extra power or just have a well-designed tool that is easy to use. Festool is even more premium but when I started buying Milwaukee they didn't have any or maybe only very few cordless tools, and they were too expensive for me at the time. Home Depot does pretty awesome holiday sales on Milwaukee if you keep an eye out, and eBay also has great deals on "tool only" once you have some batteries in your ecosystem of choice, as people do things like buy combo packs and sell the individual tools they don't want. Milwaukee also has excellent batteries that while pricey, are again relatively easy to find deals on if you keep an eye out.

Hand tools are sometimes more about feel than actual performance differences, but over the years I've come to appreciate (and be able to easily afford) the nicer stuff. It's nice not stripping Phillips head screws now that I've got really nice drivers with excellent sharp grippy tips in all the different sizes to properly fit. I grew up with the poorly-made fake chrome set of "jewelers" screw drivers that I'm sure many of y'all also learned on. I guess it makes me appreciate Wiha / PB Swiss / Wera / Felo / Klein MIUSA / custom boutique stuff (check out Scout Leather Co and CountyComm TPSK for some of the best precision multi-bit drivers I've used) more now.

On hand tools, Project Farm reviews those too, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP4uECoH8cc for torque wrenches.

I admit that there are some made-up Chinese brands that are just slapping a random name on stuff coming out of the same few factories and selling on Amazon (then changing the name if they get bad reviews) for tools, but that's only really at the bottom of the market. Mid and top-tier tools do actually have measurable performance differences in many cases. Whether that's worth it to you is for y'all to decide. I just really hate ruining a project / breaking stuff because of bad tools that can't do the job, and I dislike supporting companies that make knock-off designs (i.e. they don't pay for their own R&D) out of cheaper, weaker metals then selling look-alikes at still-too-much-for-what-you're-getting prices. There's actually a name for this in the bicycle world: "bike shaped objects".

I wish that most screws and hand screwdriver heads (I have more electronics than mechanical experience) were designed to not slip/strip in the first place. Torx is great, Phillips is not, I hear that there are alternative cross-shaped screw heads which don't strip, and I don't know if they work on Phillips screws or not. Though I don't have expensive hardened screwdrivers, and most products' screws aren't expensive and hardened either.

>It's nice not stripping Phillips head screws now that I've got really nice drivers with excellent sharp grippy tips in all the different sizes to properly fit.

Life hack: use a better screw. Pozidriv is 60 years old!

Wera bits are so worth it

In a competitive market someone would (supposedly) see the need and create a competitively priced product that is higher quality, but maybe doesn't have the brand recognition. But that doesn't really seem to happen. I think part of it is that gaming amazon reviews is cheaper than actually making a higher quality product.

if you go for cheap, you might get someone selling stuff with manufacturing defects

Usually you will see that in the reviews. Depending on the defect rate, stars will drop accordingly I find.

Problem basing on reviews is that people mostly only review when they receive and test the product for the first time.

Not many will bother finding the item and review it n months ago when the bad capacitors dies or they gave up frustrated by a recurring but intermitent issue.

I've gone through a number of Thunderbolt docks over the last few years. I tend to prefer docks to hubs because you tend to use your laptop at several fixed positions, each of which might have 1 or more monitors, a network cable, accessories (eg keyboard, mouse, camera) and so on. It's easier to just plug in one cable from the dock to the Macbook that'll do everything including power it.

A good example of this is the Caldigit TS4 [1]. All the ports you could possibly want. Here's what I've learned.

First and foremost, you'll be surprised at how many issues come down to a given cable being bad. It's gotten to the point that whenever I buy any sort of cable I typically buy 2 or even 3 at the same time because I assume 1 will be bad or will go bad.

Second, also to do with cables, don't use any cable to connect from your dock to your laptop longer than a foot. These cables that can take power and full bandwidth for displays and accesories are the most technically demanding. Keep them as short as possible. And again, have spares.

Third, while I'm a traditionalist and like a wired connection (and thus an Ethernet port), it's really optional now, particularly at home where you have some control over the network. Like I can get easily get 500+ Mbps over Wifi at home. This of course assumes a sufficient Internet connection but if you don't have that then Ehternet is even less necessary.

If you have flickering display in particular, your first instinct should be to blame the cable.

[1]: https://www.caldigit.com/thunderbolt-station-4/

I mostly agree with this, but not necessarily the part about the Ethernet connection. If you do a significant number of meetings with video conferencing, you'll be much better off with a wired connection where the latency and jitter are both lower than over the typical WiFi. It's one of the easiest things you can do to improve how your face and voice appear to your colleagues.

I've had some mediocre luck with USBC cables, paying premium for stuff that has the same below-spec performance as the bulk I got from monoprice a few years ago at a fraction of the cost. How do you evaluate 'nice' cables before shelling out money for garbage?

Ensure the certification is legitimate, for starters.

I also prefer docks to hubs, for the same reasons you mentioned. There are still some pretty big gaps which need to be addressed before we can use a single cable for everything.

First, Mac OS still doesn't support DisplayPort MST. If you have two or more non-Thunderbolt monitors, you'll need to use more than one port.

Second, many companies require their employees to use tokens such as Yubikeys, which are USB devices plugged into a laptop operating on human touch. Even if you dock your laptop, you will need to keep it within arm's reach so you can touch the Yubikey. You could remove the Yubikey from the laptop and plug it into your dock, but that defeats the purpose of docking.

Ultimately, I just want more desk space, and I consider both the dock and the laptop to be clutter.

>If you have two or more non-Thunderbolt monitors, you'll need to use more than one port

Is this still true with TB4? TB4 docks can have 3 downstream Thunderbolt ports and afaik each of them can power a single DisplayPort display without MST being involved, and without the display having to be a 'Thunderbolt' display, which I think just meant that they had a TB3 hub in to allow daisychaining.

> If you have flickering display in particular, your first instinct should be to blame the cable.

Any recommendations? I'm very happy with Monoprice's TB cables (https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=24721), which start at $27 but are a lot cheaper than Apple's.

So for things like iPhone cables, I just buy whatever nylon-braided cable Anker is selling now. I've been using Anker cables for years now and they've been reliable.

But for things like TB and DP cables, I don't have any particular brand recommendations. I'm not sure it matters. I just find something with a good rating on Amazon and buy 2 of them. Whatever gets labelled as Amazon Basics has thus far seemingly worked well enough.

When I was having major issues with my first 5K displays I bought a few of the CalDigit cables (https://www.caldigit.com/thunderbolt-4-usb-4-cable/).

Not cheap, but, they work great.

Hmm, so out of curiosity I looked up both, Apple’s are actually cheaper per centimeter than MP, but don’t sell shorter overall cheaper options if that’s what you can use.

I hear you on the cable. Even with the dock I got working, I was still banging my head against the wall for a bit until I tried a different Thunderbolt cable.

> All the ports you could possibly want.


True. Personally, I never use HDMI but YMMV. You can of course use a USB-C to HDMI cable however.

Ah, of course, but dongles >:

they said a usbc to hdmi cable, not a dongle. I dunno why people are still so stuck on buying dongles+cables as if that's the only way to do things.

I wonder how much e-waste this USB-C bullshit idea generated. It's not even a one-off, "early adopter" problem, considering that even now it's hard to buy something that actually works and you have to churn through many attempts before getting lucky.

In contrast, I can't remember the last time I bought a USB-A, HDMI or Ethernet cable/peripheral that didn't work, partly because those specs are self-contained and simple enough that even the cheapest manufacturer will typically do a good enough job.

Big picture, USB-C is set to considerably reduce ewaste given that more and more consumer electronics products are standardizing on it as a charging solution, eliminating custom chargers and letting manufacturers get away with not including a charger. This is likely to be accelerated by regulations in the EU. The last time we had this level of standardization was probably the AA battery. Not saying things are perfect (because they obviously aren't) but computers - and especially finicky docks and high performance cables - are just one part of a much much bigger market for USB-C.

Meanwhile, so many USB-C hubs don't actually have any USB-C ports despite the writing on the wall and it only being a matter of time.

"Big picture, USB-C is set to considerably reduce ewaste"

In 20 years once they atoned fir the dongle sins, I have 6 usbC adapters around the house

I still get the same issue with HDMI cables when you want to do more than 4K (like 4K60 4:4:4) with a cable that's more than half a meter long. Cable length apparently significantly impacts throughput.

It's even worse on Amazon when a seller will list multiple lengths of the same cable, as there'll be reviews about how this works great for (e.g.) Dolby Vision on an Apple TV 4K, but that was for the short cable. That doesn't imply the longer version of the same cable will work for the same application.

Yeah, a perfect example are all the people in this thread recommending Thunderbolt devices while a bunch of us sit here and type away on our Ryzen or Threadripper powered machines.

USB-C has been such a massive disappointment.

ASUS has Thunderbolt 4 motherboards for Ryzen.


Unfortunately I've never really needed USB-C for my desktops/servers - primarily my laptops.

I have a laptop that is powerful as a Ryzen 5x00, which is quiet and uses very little power. I can take it with me in my backpack and hook it up to my three workspaces by plugging one Thunderbolt over USB-C cable. (I use a Startech Thunderbolt Dock, which hasn't had any issues, except the dislikable Realtek NIC.)

I don't want to go back to the workstation tower life. Unfortunately, I still have to keep around a Ryzen machine for CUDA. But it is loud (even with Noctua fans), eats large amounts of power, and is completely non-portable.

What do you mean Thunderbolt over USB-C. You can find converters? Link me please Senpai.

The real disappointment is Intel who have kept an iron grip on Thunderbolt for way over a decade and prevented everyone from distributing Thunderbolt without an Intel CPU for no technical reason at all.

Ironically, my older USB-A (2.0 and 1.1), HDMI and Ethernet cables and hubs all work fine, but every time I buy a new version (consumer/retail) there is always something wrong with them.

Bought a USB-A hub because I needed a few extra ports for low speed devices; didn't work... turns out all the D+ and D- lines had a very high resistance to the point there the USB protocol just wouldn't work. HDMI cable, didn't work for anything beyond 720p. Ethernet cable, didn't work beyond 100Mbit, turned out to be a crappy CCS/CCA cable, said copper on the packaging, had copper in the connectors. Cutting the cable showed it was just a clad cable and the ends were dipped so you can't see it in the connector.

And returning them, the replacements almost always had the same issue because it was a bad design in the first place and you just had to get lucky that you got the "least broken" one in the batch. It wasn't a price point thing either, all of them are just crap until you get to the "we cannot afford to shit on our brand name" products.

Once you go over 1080p, I found that most (>50%) HDMI cables that advertise HDMI 2.0 (or even 2.1) either do not work at all, or have constant cutouts at 4K@60. Also I found that there is no correlation between how nice cables look, how expensive they are and how well they work.

The only HDMI cables that I had 100% success with, were the ones that came bundled with A/V equipment, even if some of them look like bottom shelf stuff.

USB-A: there are so many crap usb-A cables around that either a) don’t charge b) don’t reliably send data or c) work, but with massive voltage drops leading to very slow charging.

HDMI: HDMI will silently degrade to lower versions of the spec over bad connections, so it might just be that the bad cables are invisible.

One piece of e waste I had was an entire MacBook Air which was bricked by a USB-C hub with power delivery which Dane highly recommended. Apple fixed that problem by updating their firmware. Apparently even Apple has trouble with USB-C.

> I’m slightly concerned about the fact that some of the products use electrolytic capacitors. Those hubs get pretty warm, even if you’re not routing your laptop’s power through the hub, and electrolytic capacitors don’t like warm environments, and that’ll significantly shorten their life. However, that’s probably negligible, since lots of resistors are also designed just barely around their load ratings, all the chips run amazingly hot, … it just feels like another product family intended to be used barely one year until it dies, just to end up in the landfill.

Drying out of electrolytic capacitors is a single largest cause of failure of electronic devices these days (apart from physical damage). My friend is in the business of restoring vintage tape recorders and audio amplifiers (from 80s and 90s) and what he does is he just replaces all electrolytes without even looking at them. This usually brings these machines back to life immediately. Resistors usually can handle the heat for extended periods of time: even if some of them bear marks of overheating, they are mostly fine.

> he just replaces all electrolytes without even looking at them.

He must burn himself a lot. It's hard enough to solder components when you are looking at them.

without testing them I meant. But no, it is NOT hard to solder them when you ARE looking at them. Just need some practice.

> Ah, so it’s a Realtek RTL8153! I always found Intel NICs to be way more reliable and stable, but okay, that’s a reasonably popular chip.

Intel doesn't make USB ethernet controllers, they only do PCIe. Realtek has a near monopoly on USB Ethernet, the only other supplier I can think of is SMSC/Microchip LAN7500, and I'm not sure it's any better.

> There’s also a second USB hub, but only a 2.0 one, same vendor, but 0x2817 as the product ID. That slower hub was used for the SD and microSD card reader.

That's the same hub, USB 3.0 just bolts on to USB 2.0 additively & the USB 2.0 world exists in parallel. Both hubs are contained in the same physical chip.

the only other supplier I can think of is SMSC/Microchip LAN7500


On the desktop, on Windows, the RTL8153 hasn't given me an issue. However, I've heard bad things. My last upgrade had an Intel I225-V, so unfortunately, I cannot report on longevity. The Intel NIC, however? Thumbs up.

My main pain point with USB-C is all the confusion and missing specs. Often, advertising uses Thunderbolt and USB-C interchangeably. It is not. Don’t label my USB-C + DisplayPort hub “Thunderbolt” when it isn’t.

And then there’s the specs. Which DisplayPort version does my laptop support? The answer may surprise you. I have experience with Dell laptops. Rather recent devices still only support DP 1.2 over USB-C. How can this be? GPU and everything supports DP 1.4, and have been for years.

Because most DisplayPort over USB-C equipment only carries two DP lanes, using DP 1.2 massively limits the possible display configurations. Adapters that forego USB SuperSpeed+ for more DP lanes are extremely rare. Finding them is next to impossible too, because who puts that in the specs?

With DP 1.4 you can easily power two 1440p DP 1.4 displays using one USB-C connection and still have USB SuperSpeed+. How nice that would be. I don’t need expensive Thunderbolt devices!

USB-C can do everything and it works well. However, for consumers, it’s just a big bag of incompatibility and opacity.

> My main pain point with USB-C is all the confusion and missing specs.

Worse is that, to a search engine, every USB product is exactly the same. Search engines take very specific queries and overgeneralize them to the point of uselessness. In the case of USB cables, basically every conductor fits--yes, even the god damned Romex. Some hyperbole sure, but it's hard to find a cable that can do more than charge a phone. "Smart" search engine "AI" has "learned" that SuperSpeed = USB = Wire = Romex. Auh god it's hard to put down the bitter sarcasm.

Having to click hundreds of product pages to look for specifics that a search engine stripped away is hell. It's not even like it's limited to USB. Try finding memory... surprise! Just like everything is a USB.... everything is a DDR. ECC, the very specific thing you need, is DDR. It literally doesn't matter if you put ECC in your query. Because DDR = DDR.

Specs don't help sell the product because search engines will take all of that spec sheet and decide it's exactly "USB."

And don't get me started on bad product pages that claim to sell "SuperSpeed 480 Mbit/s charging cables" Yup, Optimized. What does a search engine learn about that product page? Some people buy it therefore: relevance +9999. "I was tricked" never makes it back to the engine. You can't even flag a product page as inaccurate anymore.

I'm so exhausted that I don't want to buy anything anymore. Search engines were better when they gave you two results for some queries. At least then you knew that the engine wasn't capable of servicing the query in a useful way. You used to be able to hone your "search skill." No longer. You don't need to because now we have learning machines that... can't tell the difference between "gave up in futility" and "found what I was looking for."

What a spectacular failure search is today.


If you use a laptop with an external monitor, a better idea is to get a premium monitor which handles charging, video, and data transfer of USB devices connected to the monitor for you. This allowed me to get rid off the wonky USBC hubs, but before my employer got me a Dell monitor I didn't know that a single USBC connection can deliver all three.

> If you use a laptop with an external monitor, a better idea is to get a premium monitor which handles charging, video, and data transfer of USB devices connected to the monitor for you.

I made this mistake, and I ended up with a grossly overpriced monitor which fails to charge a MacBook Pro and whose video through USBC support is hit-and-miss, in the sense that it doesn't always work.

Look for monitors which advertise thunderbolt and a charging wattage. If it still doesn't work then just return it since it's defective.

> Look for monitors which advertise thunderbolt and a charging wattage.

I have no idea what led you to believe that someone searching for monitors that charge MacBook pros with thunderbolt did not checked if the monitor charged MacBook pros with thunderbolt.

I've been using a Dell U38118DW monitor for maybe 8 months[ed: purchased it in July 2020 so closer to 20 months!] now and quite content with it. It has an internal USB hub that can be switched between two USB-3a and USB-C depending on which display input is active. I have my desktop attached to one of the 3a and HDMI, and can plug my frame.work laptop in to the USB-C to get 60hz Display Port alt-mode, charging, and all the usb peripherals swapping over.

though of course my laptop's intel GPU + mesa drivers tears drawing to the screen, but i generally don't care and don't watch video or play games on the laptop

So both computers and all your peripherals are connected to the monitor, correct?

And you can just swap between them by switching the active input source?

Yup, and I can swap between them by plugging my laptop in to the USB-C while it's turned in, input autodetection handles the rest.

That's awesome! That monitor is a 38" 3840 X 1600 display, right? What do you think of it overall?

(I am not the poster you were replying to) - I wanted to add that I have the 40" 5K2K version (U4021QW) and I'd recommend it very highly.

I do the same input switching he mentioned, and it works very reliably.

It also has support for pbp mode, where it can display each computer on a portion of the screen.

That is also a model I've looked at very closely. Good to know that it can do that!

Currently I have a 34" 3440 x 1440, and with two separate docking stations (one for each laptop) and a USB hub for my peripherals that is connected to both docking stations. It's a lot of extra mess on my desk that ideally I would like to cleanup with having everything connect directly to the monitor.

BTW, how is the resolution on the 40"? Can you use it with native resolution, or do you have to do any scaling? Having all of that extra screen real estate would be awesome

I use a different monitor but can confirm PBP is great for using multiple computers.

For most peripherals, there are software solutions. I ditched any kind of KVM, and my monitor does not have USB ports. However, I use my monitor to switch inputs and use barrier to use the same keyboard and mouse on multiple systems (up to four). It works well and when traveling I also use it to work on my work laptop, with my personal laptop off to the side for reference materials, calendar etc.

I went this route. I have a supposedly good Dell monitor where one of my devices will connect via video but not recognize attached USB devices 4 out of 5 times so I need to plug and unplug a bunch of times every day. It can take over 15 attempts on a bad day. Never again.

These are great if you just have a laptop. I use the Dell S2719DC and I love being able to just get everything by plugging in one cable. However, I switch between a laptop and desktop, so I wound up buying a separate USB switch for peripherals, and it gets kinda confusing:

KB/mouse -> switch -> desktop/monitor

Monitor <-> laptop (usb-c)

Desktop -> monitor (HDMI)

The downsides are that it only supports 45W charging, and you can't really use dual monitors.

Ideally I could use a KVM so everything is switched in one device. But USB switching is cheap and reliable (my switch cost $25 and has been rock solid), whereas the cheapest KVM I could find to do this cost $150, doesn't support 144hz, is stuck on hdmi 2.0, etc.

I switched to a 32:9 ultra wide instead of 2 monitors and it really works nicely for having multiple computers. Like you, I also use the monitor itself to switch inputs. I use software (barrier) instead of a KVM though.

Depending on my needs I can run one of my computers using the full width, or run 2 at half width each.

My experience is similar. I also "burned out" a couple of USB-C hubs (including a very similar Anker branded unit) so eventually upgraded to a decent monitor with integrated USB-C hub. Being able to switch between all the laptops in our household and my PC with only one cable has been really great. Although, we often find our Apple laptops have problems recognising the connected devices so we have to connect and re-connect a few times to ensure everything is working as it should. No such problems with the PC!

This is the real life hack, no more dongles nor docking stations, but all of the benefits of just having to plug in 1 cable.

This route doesn't have to be expensive either, my 1440p, 27 inch Philips docking monitor cost $270, basically the price of mediocre level docking station.

Elgato Thunderbolt Dock does it perfectly and doesn’t limit your display options to just a handful of very expensive thunderbolt displays

I had several dongles and wires handing from my laptop until I read your comment just now. thanks!

This doesn't help for travel.

If you're purchasing something to use permanently at your desk, it's worth spending more for a Thunderbolt dock. Most USB-C hubs are total crap.

You'll get far faster transfer speeds, more ports, charging (and at full speed), proper display output (dual 4K/60hz) and better components/reliability. The CalDigit TS3 Plus[1] is what I've used for several years - first with a 2019 Intel MBP and now with my new 2021 M1 Pro MBP. It's pricey compared to a USB-C dongle, but rock solid.

[1]: https://amzn.to/38sFDZk

I think that Thunderbolt is not a particularly good solution for anything. You get 99% of the things it can do in USB-C, and the things that it can't either don't work on Apple machines (eGPU) or are needlessly high performance (I'm fine with my external SSDs being limited to just a couple 100 MB/s).

In exchange you get a lot more expensive hubs, stiff, expensive cables, and a much more limited computer compatibility.

I went through 2 CalDigit TS3 docks previously, and returned both of them. They had a good number of ports and seemed reliable for the few weeks I had them. But both of them had audibly noisy capacitors, resulting in a tinnitus-like 16KHz tone that would get louder when moving the mouse or when connecting an external monitor to the dock.

What did you replace it with? Having the same problem with mine and looking for an alternative.

We have three StarTech docks since November or December. No coil whine so far, except for the Realtek NIC (which works out-of-the-box on Macs, but is meh otherwise), we didn't have any issues with it.


I bought two identical 3x 4k docks from Startech, and used them for M1 and M1 Max macbooks. One of them developed a very loud coil whine. No other problems, but it was too loud to be used alongside a dead silent laptop. The other is fine.

Docks are always a hit or miss thing. I had Dell docks before, also ~350 eur or so, and they consistently failed to wake up the external screens on resume from sleep. Same screens worked just fine on the Startech.

Their entire product line seems to be "currently unavailable" on Amazon.

Looks like they hope to be back in stock late this month. They've got some availability notes on their website: https://www.caldigit.com/an-update-on-ts4-availability/

I imagine they're being hit by the chip shortage that impacted so many other companies. I'm still waiting on a Raspberry Pi, myself.

I suspect the difference is more between manufacturers than between USB-C/Thunderbolt. I bought the old CalDigit USB-C dock years ago for my 2016 rMacBook (no Thunderbolt support), and it’s still working fine today with my M1 MBA.

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