Chrome OS Now Supports Certain USB Docking Stations

USB docking stations have become extremely popular on Windows. With a single USB cable back to your PC, they provide an all-in-one solution for an extra display, wired network, audio, and several powered USB ports. Basically everything you’d typically want to turn your laptop or tablet into a powerful desktop replacement.

Six months ago we started seeing support for our USB 2.0 display adapters and docking station (which are based on the DisplayLink DL-1×5 family) in the Chrome OS development channel. While interesting, it was not ideal for the for the daily Chrome OS user in terms of stability since the development channel not only changes quite frequently and features can also be removed without notice.

Recently, Google brought forward this functionality into the stable channel (except for Nyan board devices). So we naturally tested our USB 2.0 display adapters and docking station with the Chromebook Pixel 2015, ASUS Chromebox CN60, and HP Chromebook 11 and would like to share the experience with you.

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One item mentioned previously is still very important today. Chrome OS cannot support more than two active displays. You will not be able to add a third display to any Chrome OS device. The Chromium OS team has indicated that the ETA for the two plus monitor feature would be in Chrome OS at version 49. As the stable channel is currently on version 45 it could be quite some time before this feature is available. However, Chrome OS does not crash if you keep adding monitors which is an improvement over our previous test results.

For best practice we recommend connecting the monitor/peripherals first to the display adapter and or docking station and then to connect to your Chrome device.

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By default, Chrome OS extends the desktop but you can also mirror your desktop if you wish. The beauty of Chrome OS is the ability of a true Plug and Play experience. You connect your desired device and you are up and running in seconds. Our best example is the UD-160-A docking station whereupon plugging it into the Pixel or the HP Chromebook 11 you instantly gain an Ethernet port, headphone port, microphone port, external monitor and a four port USB hub.

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So the question is: Does it make sense for me to acquire a docking station or display adapter for my Chromebook or Chromebox? If you want single-cable docking for your extra display, keyboard, mouse, network, and headset then the answer is yes. You have a true Plug and Play experience and the docking station is especially nice if you are a Chromebook power user.

Important to note is this support is currently only for USB 2.0 generation USB docks (like the one below). Support for USB 3.0 generation docks may be coming in the future, but won’t work yet.

Any questions you have are welcome in the comments below. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

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21 comments on “Chrome OS Now Supports Certain USB Docking Stations”

  1. Jason Reply

    Is anyone aware of a list of supported docks that are compatible with ChromeOS? I have tested the Targus ACP51AUZ to no avail with multiple CrOS hardware platforms.

    • Gary Zeller Reply

      Hi Jason — We’re only able to speak to the functionality of Plugable’s devices, as we haven’t seen any documentation regarding other brands/models that are supported. So unfortunately we don’t have any additional insight at this point.

  2. TomBA Reply

    Well, one important function (charging) is without docking connector os USB-C a problem. Hopefully in near future google (and hardware manufacturers) supports also this feature.

    • Patric Neumann Reply

      We will be bringing a USB-C docking station to the market that will support USB-C PD/charging in the near future. The problem with Chrome OS however is that there is only support/functionality for the USB 2.0 based DisplayLink chipsets. All USB-C based docking stations from hereon out will be based on the DisplayLink USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 chipsets which do not have support in Chrome OS.

  3. Kevin M. Reply

    Hey Patric, thanks for the post; it’s very helpful. I’m looking at the Plugable 160 for use with a Chromebook Pixel 2, and maybe you can answer a question. In your testing of this combo, how did you actually connect the monitor(s) to the docking station? It wasn’t obvious from the post. Thanks in advance!

    • Patric Neumann Reply

      Hi Kenvin,

      The UD-160 docking station houses one DVI port (http://dxg49ziwjgkgt.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/UD-160-A-Back-Facing-Left.jpg). When using the Chromebox, I used one of the native built-in video ports and tested with either a display adapter or the docking station (please remember up until Chrome OS version 49 we are limited to two total displays). When using the Chromebook, I used the laptop’s screen and the external monitor was either connected via the display adapter or the docking station. I hope this answers your question.

  4. Matthew Hubbard Reply

    Version 49 is now out in DEV.

    Can you guys test the DEV channel with the dock and see if the third monitor works now? the Google channel is not very informative to this.

    I am not so much interested in 3 monitors as I am in 2 external monitors. I could care less if the internal monitor could be shut off to allow 2 larger external monitors when at my desk.

    • Patric Neumann Reply

      Just confirmed, v49 is in the Dev channel of Chrome OS. Adding a third monitor does not crash the system, but it is still off limits. The third display will show the wallpaper as well as the icons on the bottom but you cannot reach the third display nor manipulate the monitor layout (as soon as you remove the third display the monitor layout function comes back). 49 is still in the Dev channel and we will have to wait for full functionality until the 15th of January when this version is the stable channel -> http://www.chromium.org/developers/calendar.

    • Patric Neumann Reply

      The short answer is, it will in the near future. I just double checked and switched my Chromebox to the Dev channel which is on version 49. Functionality is built in for 2+ monitors but you cannot configure- or reach the third monitor. I am sure google is working on the final touches as we speak/type.

  5. Garland Duvall Reply

    I suppose to get the dual monitor experience, one is plugged into the dock and the other into the Chromebook?

      • Garland Duvall Reply

        Ah. The setup I really want is to use the two 27″ monitors on my desk and skip the Chromebook’s monitor when “docked.” If I shut the lid of the Chromebook it turns on “dock mode.” I wonder if that would allow it to work with the two monitors on the desk properly?

        • Patric Neumann Reply

          Theoretically you can do this if the Chromebook is in docking mode. You might have to additionally install an extension to keep it from sleeping since closing the lid automatically puts a Chromebook to sleep.

          • Garland Duvall

            Worked all day yesterday with the lid shut. The Chromebook recognizes that an external monitor is connected and does not sleep the Chromebook when you close it. My Acer wireless keyboard and mouse continue to work as well which means the USB is still alive and well when the Chromebook is closed. Maybe I should purchase one of these docks and give it a try.

          • Garland Duvall

            Continuing with this discussion…

            I purchased this dock and tried it with Chrome 48 with the lid closed on my Chromebook with no luck.

            I held on to the dock until I got Chrome 49. Now I have both of my external monitors working:
            – One plugged into the Chromebook’s HDMI port.
            – One plugged into the dock.
            – The Chromebook’s lid must be shut. If I leave it open, I have a desktop on all three displays, but the monitor plugged into the dock is not usable.

            So, I am where I wanted to be and I am happy enough.

            So far, there are 3 items of note:
            – Mouse movement and window drawing on the monitor connected to the dock is not smooth. I can live with it, but there is a marked difference between that monitor and the one connected directly to the Chromebook.
            – When displaying this page (so far) on the dock connected monitor and moving the mouse, streaming music becomes choppy. It is fine when displaying this page and moving the mouse on the directly connected monitor. It has been ok displaying both Gmail and Google Play Music on the dock connected monitor and moving the mouse.
            – When I display this page on the directly connected monitor, the “Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in” area below this comment box is light gray. On the dock connected monitor it is definitely pink.

            Again, nothing I can’t live with to get my two big monitors working.

          • Patric Neumann

            Are you connecting the docking station via VGA or DVI to the monitor? If using VGA, please test with a DVI cable. If you are already using a DVI cable, please use a different- or new DVI cable. If we yet again end up with the same pinkish problem, please contact me directly at support@plugable.com so we can arrange a replacement.

  6. Matthew Hubbard Reply

    I got this dock to try, and the mouse movement on the doc is horribly jittery (just using it instead of HDMI for second screen).

    It is so jittery as to be unusable. Does not seem like a very good solution.

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