Plugable USB-C Triple Display Docking Station with DisplayLink USB Graphics, Alt Mode Video Output, and PD Charging
Note: If considering an upgrade to macOS Sierra (10.12), please read our blog post here about why we suggest waiting to install if possible.
USB 3.1 Type-C is set to revolutionize connectivity. We’ve designed our USB-C Triple Display Docking Station to showcase what this new standard is capable of with flexibility and scalability in mind. More features, less compromise.
Utilizing cutting edge USB 3.1 technologies in conjunction with the tried and tested features of our best-selling UD-3900 docking station, the Plugable UD-ULTCDL Triple Display Docking Station provides up to three additional display outputs via a combination of USB-C DisplayPort Alternate Mode (“Alt Mode”) and DisplayLink USB graphics. The dock provides up to 60W of power via USB-C Power Delivery (“PD”) standard to charge your host computer while adding Gigabit Ethernet, audio input/output, and expanded USB device connectivity with 4 USB 3.0 Type-A ports and a single USB 3.0 USB-C port. All through a single USB-C cable.
The UD-ULTCDL (nicknamed our “Ultimate” docking station) is the first device of its kind to combine these three powerful, unique, and complementary technologies to unleash the potential of your computer.
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The dock’s main HDMI port utilizes USB-C DisplayPort Alternate Mode which has a direct pipeline to the host graphics processor (GPU), and the connected monitor will perform as if natively attached to the system. Video and photo editing and other resource-intensive tasks are possible assuming that the system’s GPU capabilities are sufficient for the application being used.
The 2nd and 3rd graphics outputs (HDMI, DVI/VGA) are powered by DisplayLink USB graphics technology which leverages the host GPU & CPU to render the image. These outputs are recommended for web/productivity software; not recommended for gaming or HD video.
Operating System and Driver Details
- Windows and Mac users can download DisplayLink drivers here. Windows drivers can also be installed by Windows Update (with existing Internet connection).
- DisplayLink-attached displays do function in Mac OS X, but with reduced performance compared to Windows systems.
- DisplayLink support on Chrome OS is currently limited to select devices running an Intel Broadwell CPU and beta build R51 and above.
- Updated USB 3.0/3.1 host controller drivers and graphics drivers suggested for best performance and compatibility.
Fully Compatible Systems (Alt Mode, PD, and DisplayLink)
USB-C is a new standard with much versatility. As a result, compatibility information is complex. Some USB-C systems support Alt Mode video output, while others do not. Some can be powered and charged via USB-C PD, while others do not.
Some of the best examples of systems which currently support both Alt Mode and PD are the MacBook Retina 12″ 2015 / 2016, Razer Blade Stealth and Dell XPS 13″ 9350, Dell XPS 15″ 9550, Dell Precision 5510.
Partially Compatible Systems (Supporting Alt Mode, PD, or DisplayLink, but not all)
Many current USB-C systems which do support Alt Mode video output do not support charging via USB-C. Systems such as this will output video from the dock, but will still need their proprietary OEM chargers.
Conversely, while some USB-C phones and tablets may accept charging via PD, most do not support Alt Mode video output.
- Not compatible with the Google Chromebook Pixel 2015 after the latest firmware update to the UD-ULTCDL docking station. All docks currently selling on the market will be incompatible.
- Not compatible with potential future ARM-based Windows RT/Surface RT systems.
- No Android phones or tablets currently support Alt Mode video output.
- ASMedia USB 3.1 controllers as they do not support Alt Mode video output.
- Cannot be mixed with non-DisplayLink USB graphics adapters and drivers (e.g. MCT, j5, or SMSC).
USB-C Power Delivery Charging Compatibility
The included power supply can charge compatible host systems with up to 60 watts of PD power. Charging speed is host dependent but behaves as if laptop/tablet were connected to it’s stock charger.
USB ports on the dock function as a USB hub only; no special charging functionality for charging tablets and smartphone devices.
USB-C Alternate Mode Video Compatibility
Alt Mode video is supported on the MacBook Retina 12″ 2015 / 2016, Lenovo P50 / P70 mobile workstations, the Razer Blade Stealth, the Dell XPS 13″ 9350 / 15″ 9550, Dell Precision 5510, and Alpine Ridge based Thunderbolt 3 motherboards.
When attached to a supported system, the Alt Mode HDMI port supports display resolutions up to 3840×2160@30Hz (4kp30) as per the HDMI 1.4 specification. Lower resolutions such as 2560×1440 support 60Hz.
The DisplayLink outputs on the dock can each support a single display up to 1920×1080 (1080p60). The DisplayLink HDMI output supports up to 2560×1440@50hz (1440p50), but only when using a single DisplayLink attached HDMI display (the Alt Mode HDMI is independent and does not affect this).
DisplayLink video functionality is provided by the DL-3900 chipset, which manages dual graphics and audio and gigabit Ethernet functions.
Driver support available in Windows (10, 8.1, or 7), Mac OS X 10.11 (with reduced performance compared to Windows systems), and Chrome OS version 51 or later on supported Chrome systems.
DisplayLink-based video outputs do not support HDCP, and will not allow for playback of encrypted Bluray disks or copy-protected content. Also, the Ethernet connection provided by the DisplayLink chip requires a full-duplex connection. (Most modern Ethernet switches and cables meet these requirements but some switches and cables as well as all Ethernet hubs do not.)
The UD-UD-ULTCDL relies upon new functionality introduced with USB 3.1 and as such is not recommended with USB 3.0/2.0 legacy systems. If you have a legacy USB-A (3.0) system we would recommend our UD-3900 or UD-5900 instead.
If attached to a legacy USB 3.0 system using a Type-C to Type-A adapter cable, the dock will have limited functionality. Only the ports controlled by the DisplayLink chip (two video outputs and ethernet) will be functional; the Alt Mode video output and USB Power Delivery/Charging will not function on legacy systems. Please take caution if purchasing a Type-C to Type-A adapter cable as many cables on the market do not follow proper USB Type-C Power Delivery signalling and could potentially cause damage to your system or dock!
The Plugable Ultimate USB-C Universal Docking Station features:
- One HDMI 1.4 (USB-C Alt Mode) 2K @ 60Hz / 4K @ 30Hz
- One DVI/VGA (DisplayLink-based) 2K @ 60Hz
- One HDMI 1.4 (DisplayLink-based) 2K @ 60Hz
- One Front USB 3.0 Type-C port (with 1.5A Power Delivery)
- One Front USB 3.0 Type-A port
- Three Rear USB 3.0 Type-A ports
- Gigabit Ethernet (Full-duplex required)
- Audio In/Out (3.5mm TRS “headphone” jacks)
- 60W (20V, 3A) Power Adapter
In the Box
Plugable UD-ULTCDL dock with stand, 1m USB-C to USB-C cable, DVI-to-VGA passive port adapter, 60W (20V, 3A) power adapter.
Docking Station Setup Instructions
How to connect your accessories to the docking station.
- Connect the docking station to it’s included power adapter and connect the power adapter to an AC outlet. The blue light on the front of the dock should illuminate
- Connect the included USB-C to USB-C cable to the rear USB-C port labeled “TO HOST”. This cable will later be connected to the USB-C port on your system
- Decide which monitor you want to use as the primary screen and connect this to the HDMI port labeled “4K HDMI” as this port uses USB-C Alt Mode and will provide the best performance
- If you have additional monitors you should then connect them to the “2K HDMI” and “DVI” ports which are provided via DisplayLink USB graphics
- Connect any additional accessories such as keyboard, mouse, headset/speakers, and Ethernet
Driver Installation Instructions
Windows 10 / Windows 8.1 / Windows 7
- The most recent drivers can be downloaded here
- Navigate to your Downloads folder and launch the DisplayLink installation program
- Connect the dock when prompted to do so during installation. (If pre-installing drivers before receiving the unit, click “Skip” when given the option during device detection.)
NOTE: Monitors may blink during driver installation and system may need to be rebooted
- Configure your displays
Mac OS X 10.11.x
- The most recent drivers can be downloaded here
- Navigate to your Downloads folder and open the “DisplayLink USB Graphics Software for Mac OS X 2.5.1” DMG file
- The DMG file will “mount” to the desktop as “DisplayLink Installer”. Open the folder and then launch the “DisplayLink Software Installer.pkg”
- Follow the on screen prompts and when finished reboot the system
- After the reboot connect the docking station
- Configure your displays
No driver installation is required, however, DisplayLink support on Chrome OS is currently limited to select devices running an Intel Broadwell CPU configured on the beta channel with R51 and above.
Q: Why is my docking station not charging my laptop?
A: Verify if your system supports PD over USB-C and also identify which port has this functionality if multiple USB-C ports are available.
Q: I have confirmed my host machine is compatible with this docking station but one or more functions of the dock doesn’t appear to be working.
A: Resetting the docking station is a good step to take if one or more portions of the dock aren’t functioning:
- Disconnect docking station from host machine and power adapter
- Leave unplugged for 1 minute for power to dissipate
- Connect docking station initially into power only and confirm blue indicator light is on
- Connect docking station to host machine using USB-C cable and test for functionality
- If the above steps do not change the behavior, rebooting the host system may restore functionality
If none of the indicator lights are lit or you are still are having problems, please contact us at email@example.com.
Q: What do the blue LED and the green LED on the Plugable UD-ULTCDL indicate?
A: The blue LED indicates that the Plugable UD-ULTCDL is being powered by its power adapter. The green LED lights up and stays steady when a device is connected through any of the 5 USB ports on the dock. If no devices are connected to the USB ports on the Plugable UD-ULTCDL, the green LED only lights up for around five seconds when the dock itself is connected to the upstream system.
Q: What do the green and amber LEDs on the Ethernet port on the Plugable UD-ULTCDL indicate?
A: The green link LED on the Ethernet port on the Plugable UD-ULTCDL is an indication that the Ethernet cable plugged into the port is live and it stays steady as long as the live cable is plugged in. The blinking amber activity LED is an indications that data is transferring through the port. Both these LEDs will not light up when:
1) The drivers for the dock have not installed properly or is corrupted
2) The Ethernet Cable plugged in is not live or is faulty
3) The port has failed
Q: When I plug an Ethernet cable into the dock, none of the LEDs light up, and I do not get assigned a valid IP address. What could be causing this?
A: The Ethernet controller in the docking station requires a full duplex connection. Half duplex connections are not supported.
Often, the issue is caused by older Ethernet hubs and/or cabling that do not support full duplex connections.
Q: What’s the difference in USB-C ports on the front and rear of the docking station?
A: The USB-C port located on the back side of the docking station is designed to charge your host computer as well as connect the docking station to the host machine. The front facing USB-C port is for device connectivity only and is part of the built-in USB 3.0 hub on the front facing USB 3.0 (type-A) ports.
Q: Can I hook up another USB-C Alt Mode video adapter to the USB-C port on the front of the dock?
A: No, for a couple of reasons. USB-C systems only support one “Alternate Mode” output, and for a USB-C port to support this feature it must be physically wired to the graphics processor (GPU) in the host system. The one available Alt Mode connection from a host system is being used by the docking station to provide its HDMI output. Additionally, the USB-C port on the front of the dock is not wired in such a way to support this functionality.
Q: Does the UD-ULTCDL support DisplayPort monitors?
A: No. While we appreciate DisplayPort technology, we chose to implement HDMI and DVI/VGA ports for compatibility with the widest number of monitors. Please note that DisplayPort to HDMI cables (as with any cable involving protocol/signal conversion) are not bidirectional adapters. Such cables will not allow an HDMI output port (such as those on the dock) to function with a DisplayPort input on a monitor.
Q: Does the HDMI port support 4K resolution at 60Hz?
A: No. The port complies with HDMI 1.4, and as such 3840×2160 is only achievable at 30Hz. 2560×1440 and all lower resolutions will display at 60Hz.
Q: How do I play audio through the headphone jack on the dock or though my monitor attached to the dock?
A: First check if the docking station is set to be your primary playback device in your sound setting’s control panel/system preferences. If you wish for audio to play through the headphone jack on the dock, select “Plugable Audio” as your preferred playback device in your operating system. If your HDMI monitor has speakers or its own headphone jack, you should see your monitor listed as a selectable playback device in your operating system.
Q: My laptop/tablet won’t wake via docking station’s attached keyboard or mouse. Is this expected behavior?
A: This behavior is system specific. Many newer systems will not wake via an external keyboard or mouse. (This behavior can be confirmed by connecting a USB keyboard or mouse directly to a USB port on your system rather than the dock. If the system is unable to wake from a direct-attached USB device, it will not wake from a keyboard or mouse connected through the docking station.
Q: Why does the “Display Color Calibration” tool in Windows seems to have no effect on the display(s) attached to my dock?
A: The DisplayLink GPU does not support color calibration functionality. Most monitors have built-in controls that can be used to adjust the characteristics of the display, though we realize this approach may not be ideal in all cases. For environments that necessitate near-perfect color reproduction and display calibration capabilities via software, a dedicated graphics card is recommended.
Q: When I right-click in the Chrome browser, the context menu opens on a different display than the application is on. What causes this?
A: This behavior has been known to occur in rare instances, and is a known bug in the Chrome browser being tracked by the Chrome developers. Please see this Chromium Issue for the most recent updates.
Q: After a recent update, when I use Chrome on my Mac or Windows system with a USB graphics device, the window looks distorted. Is there a workaround?
A: Some versions of Chrome have had regressions which cause graphical distortion when Chrome windows are in use on USB-attached monitors.
Usually this issue is fixed promptly in the next Chrome release, but if it persists the best current workaround is to disable hardware acceleration in the Chrome settings. To do so: Click the Chrome menu header -> Preferences -> Settings -> Show advanced settings -> Scroll down to “System” -> Uncheck “Use hardware acceleration when available”.
To help make Google aware of the issue so they can properly prioritize fixing it, affected users can report the regression to Google using the built-in bug reporter: Preferences -> About -> Report an issue
Q: Can I connect my Apple SuperDrive to the dock?
A: Some devices such as the Apple SuperDrive look for Apple-specific signaling and will not work when connected through any USB hub. See Apple HT201788.
Q: Why does my wireless mouse or keyboard appear sluggish or not work properly when used with the dock?
A: Most USB receivers for wireless mice and keyboards operate in the 2.4Ghz band. When connecting the receiver to any USB 3.0 port there is potential for interference that can affect the devices performance. The most effective method is to add a short USB 2.0 extension cable between the dock and the receiver to mitigate the effect, and many wireless keyboards and mice come with such a cable for this reason.
Intel has a technical whitepaper on the behavior for those interested here:
Q: Can I use this USB-C docking station with an Intel Thunderbolt 3 capable system?
A: Yes, here is a diagram to help understand the differences between the different USB generations and Thunderbolt 3:
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