Review: MacBook users should consider the IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station, MacBook Pro owners need not apply

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The IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station with Power Delivery Pass-Thru is a port-replacement peripheral for USB 3.1 type C gear, but isn't ideal for Apple's entire portable line.

The IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station with Power Delivery Pass-Thru is intended for USB 3.1 generation 1 Type-C gear like the MacBook. Given the Thunderbolt 3 spec, it can also be used on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro, and the 2017 iMac line.

We tested it on a 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro, a 2016 MacBook, and briefly, a 2017 20-inch 4K iMac.

The GUD3C03 has a plethora of ports absent from the MacBook and Thunderbolt 3 MacBook Pro. Three USB 3.0 type A ports and a 2.5mm headphone and microphone jack are on one thin side of the assembly. The next side has a HDMI port, a VGA port, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Mini DisplayPort. One more rotation brings a microSD card slot, a SD card reader, and the USB-C power pass-through port capable of providing 60W when connected to an external power supply — which you need to supply yourself.

The HDMI and Mini DisplayPort leverage USB-C Alternate Modes, and can push 4K resolution, but only at 30Hz, which may be a deal-breaker for some. In our testing, 1080p was a full 60Hz, and we found that to be much more palatable for use — but your mileage and eyes may vary.

Build quality

The device is driver-free, and requires nothing in the way of software installation. Related, there's not much to say about the ports as a whole. They operate as-intended with no random disconnects or other problems.

From an enclosure construction standpoint, the GUD3C03 is solid, and well built. We've been beating on it over our examination period both on the test bench and out in the field, and it's emerged mostly unscathed.

We aren't big fans of the integrated USB-C cable, as we've already found it to be uncomfortably short. Furthermore, we remain concerned about what happens with long-term use, given its portable nature — a we've already given it a nasty kink while getting jostled about on the Metro. We'll see how this holds up with time, and will report back.

Strange to say, but 5 gigabits per second is not a lot

There are some limitations of the USB 3.1 type C connectivity, given the limited bandwidth. During our first look, we hadn't yet felt-out how much, but we've got a pretty good idea now.

One USB 3.0 SSD in a UASP-compatible case capable of 500 megabytes per second on when connected to a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro hit about 300 megabytes per second when connected to the dock with no other peripherals attached.

Attaching a keyboard lowered that to about 275MB per second. Connecting a 1080p display at 60Hz without the keyboard cut that to 180 megabytes per second, and tossing on a 4K display instead of the 1080p one brought that even lower to just over 100 megabytes per second. So, clearly, the GUD3C03 isn't intended for mass storage plus a bandwidth-sucking display connected at the same time.

Temporary pain, long-term gain with USB-C

USB-C connectors are the future, assuming the industry can work out a way to deal with what's what, and communicate that effectively to the user. Like it or not, Apple's all-in on them on their portables, and we'll be very surprised if we see a return of any old ports to any refreshed MacBook or MacBook Pro going forward.

The IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station with Power Delivery Pass-Thru isn't really intended to be a desktop docking station. It just doesn't have the bandwidth to support multiple devices simultaneously, like a Thunderbolt 3 dock provides. But, it doesn't try to be, and that's both good and bad.

We're not sure that MacBook Pro users will have a lot of use for it. Even if you do a lot of presentations, you're better served getting a USB-C to HDMI cable inexpensively or an Apple TV to connect to a projector, and using AirPlay.

More full-featured Thunderbolt 3 docks with eight times the bandwidth and an included charger are now available for as low as $199. Users of Apple's larger portable line would be better served going that route, than dealing with the GUD3C03.

For those users, despite the GUD3C03 doing exactly what it says it will, there's just too many compromises to deal with, and not enough to offer in exchange. For MacBook Pro owners, we give the GUD3C03 two stars out of five.

2 out of 5

Don't even bother if you own a Thunderbolt 3 iMac — there's just no need at all.

However, for the MacBook, that's a different story. The one USB-C port isn't presently Thunderbolt 3, and is USB 3.1 generation 1 capable of 5 gigabits per second. Instead of being compromised, for MacBook users it brings an assortment of so-called "legacy" ports back for a small cash outlay, from a reliable vendor.

For the MacBook user, the IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station with Power Delivery Pass-Thru earns a:

4 out of 5

The IOGear USB-C Compact Docking Station with Power Delivery Pass-Thru, model GUD3C03 retails for $99.95. It can generally be purchased slightly cheaper directly from Amazon.


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