Laptop Mag Verdict
Top-tier performance, the fastest ports around, and Thunderbolt 4 certifications. Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 & USB 4 Docking Station is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to striking the balance between price and performance. But a whole lot of performance means a whole lot of price.
Phenomenal TBT4/USB4 speeds
Good variety of ports
Up to 96W of Power Delivery
Super-fast 2.5Gbps Ethernet
Included USB-C > HDMI adapter
Front-facing host port
A little pricey
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Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station (TBT4-UDX1) shocked me in two ways. First with its blistering speeds, and then with an alarming case of deja vu. Have I not reviewed this before?
The differences between Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station and Plugable Dual HDMI Docking Station seem so narrow at first that I was beginning to question the effectiveness of my filing system.
However, not only are they different products, but the Thunderbolt 4 USB4 HDMI Docking Station actually improves on Plugable’s former effort in many ways – cleverly building upon one of the best docking stations I’ve reviewed this year. But is every change made for the better? Let’s find out.
Plugable TBT4 & USB4 HDMI Docking Station review: Price and availability
Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station is available for $289.95 from Amazon, with a $15 launch coupon available for a limited time.
Comparing this to the aforementioned Plugable Dual HDMI Docking Station for $199,95 highlights just how much Plugable’s new dock needs to outperform in order to justify that $90 increase in price. Both docks are USB4 capable, but only the newer dock is Thunderbolt 4 certified – meaning its cleared the checks and balances by Intel to ensure optimal user experience and top-flight 40Gbps speeds.
Plugable’s newest dock also offers more ports, including two dedicated Thunderbolt 4 connections. However, things are less optimistic when it comes to video output, with the new dock unable to match up to the Dual HDMI dock’s 120Hz refresh rate or 8K capabilities at 60Hz.
For a more direct comparison we would need to look towards something like Anker’s $299.99 Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station. This similar Thunderbolt 4 compliant dock features an almost identical array of ports, though falls short on their speeds.
Meanwhile, every port the Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station has to offer is supercharged for maximum throughput, ensuring the utmost data and internet speeds for users.
Plugable TBT4 & USB4 HDMI Docking Station review: Design
I’ve been reviewing docking stations for so long now that I’ve forgotten all about the crime I must’ve committed in order to deserve this infernal punishment. Though, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a convert to their profound usefulness.
I just wish there were more products taking chances with design to keep things a little bit more interesting. As it stands, you can spot a docking station from a mile off. Close your eyes and picture one right now and you’ve successfully envisioned 90% of the metallic market.
Does the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station break that mold? Not exactly. Much of Plugable’s line-up can be relied upon to offer slick, modern stylings, but they’re all joined at the hip to a business-friendly aesthetic that robs them of too much character.
What you can applaud is their premium build, and this dock is no exception. With its anodized aluminum silver chassis and contrasting black faceplate, every inch of the TBT4 & USB4 dock looks and feels impressive. It also adds enough weight (15.8 ounces) to the dock in order to prevent any unwanted travel, further aided by four rubber feet on the base of the device.
The dock's design is function over form, with the aluminum chassis offering protection and some heat dissipation. Especially from the radiator-like grills on the dock’s left and right sides – the docking station’s equivalent of a “go-faster stripe.”
Though I will point it out as I always do, Plugable’s TBT4 & USB4 dock has made the frankly unforgivable design sin of putting its host port at the front of the device. Bernie (Plugable founder), if you can hear me, two words: Cable. Management.
Plugable TBT4 & USB4 HDMI Docking Station review: Ports and connectivity
Plugable’s docking station is compatible with any USB-C capable laptop, though for maximum performance you’ll preferably want to connect it to a Thunderbolt 4 port. This plug-and-play dock is a simple install that affords you ten additional ports and a boatload of charge for keeping things in top form throughout the day. Let’s see what’s on offer.
The front of the docking station houses the following ports:
- (Host) Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port (40Gbps, up to 96W of Power Delivery)
- 1 x Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 2 port (10Gbps, BC1.2 Charging)
- 1 x SD card reader
- 1 x 3.5mm combo audio jack
And the rear of the dock has the following to offer:
- (Power) DC-in (20V, 7.5A)
- 3 x Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (10Gbps)
- 2 x Type-C Thunderbolt 4 ports (40Gbps, 15W of Power Delivery, 4K@60Hz / 8K@30Hz)
- 1 x HDMI 2.0 (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x 2.5Gbps Ethernet (RJ45)
For setups of most sizes this is a fine selection of ports and a noticeable improvement over Plugable’s Dual HDMI Docking Station – resolving one of its very few negative points.
Display support is limited, but Plugable is kind enough to supply you with a USB-C to HDMI adapter in-box to help bridge the gap if you don’t own a USB-C monitor. Beyond this, you’re looking at one of the overall fastest docking stations on the market, with a flawless array of top-tier ports.
Plugable TBT4 & USB4 HDMI Docking Station review: Performance
I’ve been letting the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 Docking Station manage my setup for much of the last week and I’m happy to say everything is as advertised. My typical 39W laptop, mechanical keyboard, wireless mouse, external mic, and 4K monitor setup has been running flawlessly.
Better still, the increased 40 Gbps bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 has allowed my more powerful laptop to transfer files back and forth from external storage in mere seconds. Plus, I’m a huge fan of the stability offered by Plugable’s adoption of the 2.5Gbps Ethernet port when it comes to internet connectivity.
Even while using a more power-hungry device, Plugable’s docking station kept things topped up nicely with its 96W of certified Power Delivery – even if it did grumble about being connected to a lower charge than recommended.
Plugable’s dock excelled at every turn. Even with two monitors connected and an array of peripherals, performance was unfaltering with no visual lag or hiccups to take note of, and no issues with overheating to gripe about.
Maybe those radiator fins do something after all, as Plugable’s dock maintained a reasonable temperature throughout my testing – never once daring to terraform my work area into the surface of Mercury.
Plugable’s dock caused me next to no trouble during my review, aside from that front-facing host port, maybe. Did I miss the buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rates offered by Plugable’s doppelganger dock? Yes and no. 60Hz is more than comfortable enough for a workday and honestly, as a lifetime console gamer, 60Hz is more than enough to keep me happy at the best of times when it comes to gaming.
If the Plugable USB4 Dual HDMI Docking Station was a jack of all trades and a master of none, then the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station is at the very least a master of some.
Plugable’s Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 HDMI Docking Station is a fantastic addition to the brand’s catalog, and showcases some impressive progress over previous efforts – including a cutting-edge dock that hasn’t even been out for half a year.
Performance is paramount when it comes to this dock and you’d be hard pressed to find someone dissatisfied with what it has to offer. The biggest hurdle most will face when it comes to laying hands on one will be the inflated price of this device.
However, docking stations are expensive accessories, and in this case I can comfortably say you’re getting what you pay for.
Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.