Kensington's got its eyes fully focused on the future with the SD4600P dock. The $200 Kensington SD4600P takes advantage of USB-C's best features, works reliably and doesn't need any drivers, thanks to Alt-Mode. But it doesn't do much to innovate, and it doesn't have any support for legacy ports.
The Kensington SD4600P has a fairly boring design: a horizontal, black, plastic rectangle with curved edges. That's a shame, considering the minimalist, two-tone design of the HP Elite Thunderbolt 3 dock. It'd be nice if dock makers would put in more of an effort instead of pumping out cheap-looking, yawn-inducing products.
At 8.5 x 3.7 x 1 inches, the SD4600P is about the size of a small clutch purse. Unlike the upright design of Plugable's USB-C Triple Display Docking Station, Kensington's horizontal orientation makes it easy for you to slip it under your monitor and free up space on your desk. And it doesn't slide all over your desk, thanks to four small feet on the bottom.
The SD4600P has all the ports you need for a future-proof setup, but it lacks compatibility with older laptops, monitors and equipment. The majority of the ports sit at the back of the dock, including the power jack, a USB Type-C port to connect to your laptop, a USB-C port for peripherals, a DisplayPort, HDMI output, and Ethernet jack, and two USB 3.0 ports. There's another USB 3.0 port on the front, as well as outputs for headphones and a microphone. On the left, you'll find a lock slot for (you guessed it) one of Kensington's own locks.
If you're using an older monitor that has DVI or VGA interfaces, you'll need to invest in some adapters. Unlike the Plugable Triple Display Docking Station, Kensington didn't package one in the dock. (You can, however, find one under $10 on Amazon.) The SD4600P does, however, come with a USB Type-C cable.
The HP Elite offers four USB 3.0 ports, compared with the SD4600P's three, and features a VGA port for compatibility with older monitors. The Plugable Triple Display Docking Station has the same number of USB ports as the SD4600P, but has a DVI port and comes with a DVI-to-VGA cable to support older monitors. However, the Plugable doesn't offer DisplayPort support.
To test the SD4600P, I needed a laptop with a USB Type-C port that supports charging and video output. I went with the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 with a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-6100U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD; it's a fairly low-end business laptop with specs consumers would find in entry-level notebooks.
The biggest benefit to using USB Type-C was that it charged the laptop while outputting video to displays. Laptops with USB-C ports (especially those with video support and charging) are still in the minority, but we're seeing a slow increase in their numbers over time.
When I connected the SD4600P to a laptop and one monitor with either HDMI or DisplayPort, it output at 3840 x 2160. (Kensington claims that the max resolution is 4096 x 2160, but we don't own monitors at that resolution.) With two monitors connected, the HDMI output maxed out at 1080p, while the DisplayPort still showed off 4K resolution.
With no programs running, we found that 12 percent of the CPU was taxed with the dock attached. That number is fairly average for CPU usage in our dock tests, and I noticed no performance issues while I was using it. I was able to play a local 4K video, browse the web and take a typing test without any additional lag.
The SD4600P uses Alt-Mode over USB Type-C to output video, which means you won't need to install any drivers on your computer to use the dock.
The only sizeable problem I encountered was that the laptop seemed to think that the SD4600P was a USB speaker (it's not), so I couldn't hear my video. I had to dig into Windows 10's settings and switch it to the laptop or my monitor to get my sound back.
The Kensington SD4600P costs $200 and supports two monitors and charging over USB Type-C.
There is one other model of this dock, the $180 SD4500, which is physically identical, but doesn't charge over USB. That means that you'll have to use your laptop's power brick as well as the dock, but it also saves you some money.
The Kensington SD4600P isn't beautiful by any means, but it's perfectly functional and stays out of the way. Support for USB Type-C and 4K monitors make this a dock that's suitable for your current laptop as well as your next one.
Unless you're using DisplayPort, though, you should take a hard look at our top choice: Plugable's $179 USB-C Triple Display Docking Station, which has the same number of USB 3.0 and Type-C ports for a lower price, and also supports three displays simultaneously (only one at 4K). Unfortunately, it's only available in a vertical orientation. Plugable relies on DisplayLink technology, so you'll have to install a driver, unlike the SD4600P, which uses Alt-Mode.
If you need more than one monitor running at 4K, the HP Elite Thunderbolt 3 dock will support two monitors at that resolution, has support for VGA and is the best-looking dock. It doesn't support HDMI, however.
But if you're looking for a horizontal dock that works reliably and is easy to put out of sight and out of mind, you can rest assured that the SD4600P will work fine with your shiny-new USB Type-C laptop (as long as the port supports charging and video).