Everyone — everyone — involved in the USB consortium with decision making authority should be tried for crimes against computing in The Hague.
The amount of banging my head against the table for various Android system engineering-debugging USB-C related endeavours, combined with much feared abbreviations like OTG and HNP is on the level of trauma that the movie ‘Falling Down’ seems reasonable – even if a bit on the mild side. In a not entirely unrelated manner, anyone know of a USB-C “dock” that >only< provides aux power and DP-alt mode (pref. full DP out connector)?
This rant makes me feel a little bit better about having overpaid for the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 dock. It felt insanely overpriced at $200ish when I got it in early 2018, but it’s still going strong. And the occasional software flakiness that I see with it has always been resolvable by disconnecting and reconnecting the dock. That seldom happens, though.
(I didn’t do it because I knew anything… I was buying a Thinkpad at the same time and that was the lowest-hassle option.)
I have a work-provided Surface Dock 2 and it’s one of the few pieces of hardware that doesn’t make me sad. My home office has an old (‘80s) amplifier that I use for audio output, and so I need a decent headphone output. There’s a tiny bit of electrical noise on the line from the dock, but less than from the laptop. The USB-C video out connects directly to my monitor and works great. The rest of the USB ports are fine. It provides power to my laptop and disconnects with a simple magnetic catch, so it just falls away if I pull the laptop off the desk.
The fact that this makes me happy is, itself, a bit sad because I’d expect that to be the basic minimum for a dock. Sadly, my expectations were carefully managed. At the start of the pandemic, the supply of these things couldn’t keep up with demand and so we were sent a third-party dock (which retails for more than the Surface Dock 2!). It provided power over USB and was so electrically noisy that it made a very loud hum through the speakers, even if I connected them to the laptop’s 3.5mm jack (the noise went away when I unplugged the dock). Apparently I was lucky: some other people reported that these docks fried their laptops’ motherboards.
In a world where ‘doesn’t fry my system’ is the bar that some things fail to meet, I guess it’s pretty easy to look spectacular.
Yeah, this is also why I bought the Apple Type C adapters. I’d trust they can probably get it right without being a cheap rebrand. My buddy calls this entire ecosystem of AliExpress/Amazon sludge “sixletters”, due to the constant rebranding under names that look like keysmashes.
I had a different experience with this dock. This 200$ dock integrates a crappy USB ethernet chipset that caused random freezes on my Lenovo X15C, and no firmware update was able to fix that. Also, it was very inconvenient that only the TB3 port on the backside was able to charge the laptop. Would not recommend or buy again.
I completely forgot about that. It did cause a similar symptom on my T480 as well at first. The ethernet would stop working the first time the machine went idle after about an hour of use. The system would seem to freeze as a consequence as things would block on the network. Especially if I had a network drive attached.
That turned out to be a software problem for me, and adding it to TLP’s USB_BLACKLIST
solved it for good on my system. (For those who don’t use TLP, that blacklist controls whether TLP tries to put the device to sleep. Other power saving mechanisms are likely similarly afflicted if you use something else.)
The T480 does, thankfully, charge from either TB3 port… the behavior you mention would annoy me to no end.
I think we might have a different dock, mine was the v1 version of the thunderbolt dock: https://support.lenovo.com/de/de/solutions/acc100356-thinkpad-thunderbolt-3-dock-overview-and-service-parts
That one could not charge a laptop with the front port, the back one also has a laptop symbol printed besides the port.
That’s the one I have… I just misunderstood your comment. I thought you were referring to the ports on the laptop. The T480 has a front and a back port, and both work for charging. I’ve never tried to plug anything into the front thunderbolt port on the dock. I suppose I just got lucky there. I plugged the laptop cable into the back and never had a reason to move it.
I seem to remember something along the lines that any device marketed as “Thunderbolt” has to be tested and certified by the… Thunderbolt people (Intel?). USB is essentially a free-for-all, although there is some kind of optional certification process as well.
Thunderbolt devices are ludicrously expensive compared to their USB counterparts though. I wonder if that’ll gradually change with PCIe tunnelling now in the USB 4 standard.
(My OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock from 2015 still works fine with a TB3->TB2 adapter. I also have WD Black D50 which includes a 2TB SSD. This one unfortunately also comes with the infamous Realtek 8153 Ethernet chip, which so far hasn’t caused trouble, though I don’t use that specific component much.)
I used a few of these crappy hubs over the years and always had problems. Tried a Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 dock as mentioned by another commenter, but maybe the one I had was bad because I had issues with it as well.
Finally gave up and bought the CalDigit TS3+ for a ridiculous amount of money (even used off of ebay) and I’ve had zero problems since. This thing is rated one of the best for a reason and now that I never have to mess with these again I’m happy I spent the money.
Unfortunately if you want a portable option, the CalDigit TS3+ does not apply. It’s solid enough that I’d consider their other devices though.
I’ve been looking into docs recently, and don’t know much about them. Should I be considering Linux compatibility? Do you know if the CalDigit TS3/4 specifically is compatible with Linux?
I can only speak to the the TS3. It works just as well on my Linux Thinkpad as it does with a Mac. I swap back and forth almost daily with no issues. I’ve used a few distros but am settled on Arch.
If on Linux, watch dmesg --follow: I got a Belkin USB-C hub, apparently also with the infamous RTL8153B, and it spams dmesg every 3-6s with this message:
r8152 4-1.4:1.0: load rtl8153b-2 v1 10/23/19 successfully
I haven’t had problems with it, though it’s as good as new. It gets fairly hot, though.