IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

StarTech, Belkin, and ATEN USB-C Docks

These USB-C docks and accessories can turn a laptop into a desktop workstation and more. By James E. Gaskin

YOUR THIN, lightweight laptop is great while traveling, but back in the office you may need a larger monitor (or monitors), a better keyboard, and other features that increase laptop usability, such as an Ethernet port (missing on many of the newer, sleeker machines). That’s where docking stations from vendors like StarTech.com (Thunderbolt 3 Dock with USB-C Laptop Compatibility, Dual 4K DisplayPort) and Belkin (Thunderbolt 3 Dock Mini for Dual 4K Monitors) come in. Not to mention handy accessories like the Belkin USB-C MultiMedia Hub and Multiport to HDMI Digital AV Adapter and the ATEN 2-port USB-C Dock Switch that connects both your laptop and some Android smartphones to the same peripherals.

StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dock with USB-C Laptop Compatibility

The StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dock (pictured above) provides so many ports, including dual 4K monitor DisplayPorts, that we doubt any user could need more connections than this. Also onboard are three USB-A ports (one fast-charging), two USB-C ports (one fast-charging), a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a 3.5 mm audio/mic port. The USB-C port on the front connects to, and charges, the host laptop (or PC).

Need screens? Add two 4K externals to your default laptop screen. Add external storage to one or more USB ports. Need wired Ethernet? Got it.

The power brick is darn near as large as the dock, and heavier, but you can leave it on the floor. Plugging the dock into a Windows 10 laptop for the first time activates a Thunderbolt device driver dialogue. Three connection options appear: Do Not Connect, Connect Only Once, Always Connect. We chose “Always Connect” for our tests.

Our Acer TravelMate P6, in here for an upcoming review, started charging and created a new Ethernet port in Network Connections. SpeedTest.net told us we had full wireline speeds limited by our internet service, not the StarTech dock.

Using the two DisplayPorts on the back of the dock, we connected two external monitors (unfortunately, only one was 4K). Our test Acer’s video chipset only supports one external monitor, meaning we could have only two counting the laptop display. We tried a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 and powered all three monitors. Note that if you use a USB-A port to link to the laptop, only one monitor can be 4K (3840x2160) and a resolution of 1920x1200 for the second monitor. Blame the USB-A port limitations, not StarTech.

Other USB ports on the dock can be used for keyboards, pointing devices, and external storage. Plug your mixtape USB drive into the back and your headphones into the front and rock out privately.

Rock party aside, the StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dock with USB-C Laptop Compatibility acts like a Swiss Army tool for monitors, accessories, and headphones. One plug, no drivers to add, with flexibility.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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