Anyone who has used a MacBook or any USB-C only laptop is probably familiar with “dongle life”. While we wait for the rest of the world to make everything USB-C-enabled, we often have to resort to a range of adapters to support our older or less compatible peripherals and displays.
Many M1 Mac users also had the unfortunate headache that their multi-monitor ambitions were thwarted because Apple limited the M1 chip to just a single monitor (in the case of the MacBook) or two displays (if they have an M1 Mac Mini). .
While I recently unveiled a Thunderbolt 4 dock from Accell (Thunderbolt is a very fast and versatile type of USB-C) that can solve all of these problems for Windows PC users, this excellent device was still missing the one feature which could have made it versatile for M1 Mac users.
This option from Ugreen addresses that deficiency by adding DisplayLink support and allowing your M1 to do things even Apple never intended. Let’s take a look at why this combination of features makes the Ugreen USB-C Multifunction Docking Station an ideal companion for your Mac or Windows PC.
The Ugreen Multifunction Docking Station Pro offers a total of 12 ports between its front and rear connectors. Like most USB-C docking stations, you can quickly turn your laptop into a full-fledged desktop workstation by just connecting one cable.
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The front-facing ports (shown above) include the single 10Gbps USB-C port, which you’ll most likely use as a connection point for your laptop. However, you also have quick access to a headphone/microphone combo jack, an SD/TF card reader, and an additional USB-A port for those pesky mice, keyboards, or other peripherals that stick to the older standard.
On the back, the docking station contains the following connectors:
- Two 5 Gbps USB-A ports for peripherals such as mice, keyboards, webcams and printers
- One USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps port for connecting a laptop or other device on the back
- A backwards compatible PD 3.0 20V/5A power delivery port that allows you to connect your laptop’s included USB-C power adapter or other power source
- A Gigabit Ethernet port
- Three video outputs: one HDMI 8K @ 30Hz (backwards compatible to 4K @60Hz), one HDMI 4K @60Hz and one DisplayPort (DP) 4K @60Hz
It all adds up to the ability to run a triple-display setup with a hardwired LAN connection, a variety of USB-C and USB-A peripherals, and power over a single included Thunderbolt 4 cable. You’ll need to provide your own power adapter, which isn’t ideal if you don’t already have a USB-C based power adapter from your laptop. MagSafe-based MacBook owners and Mac Mini users will likely need to buy a third-party USB-C charger that says it is compatible with your laptop model.
At this point, you might say, “Wait a minute… my M1 MacBook/Mini can’t support a triple monitor setup, so what’s the point?” Normally, that would be true. However, this is where DisplayLink comes in. This technology allows you to run additional monitors on almost any Windows or macOS system, essentially creating virtual GPU (graphics card) outputs.
In the case of the M1 MacBook Air and M1 Mac Mini I tested this dock with, the installation process consisted of installing a driver from Synaptics (the makers of DisplayLink) website. After the quick install was complete, I tested both HDMI and DP displays at various resolutions. All of them appeared in the default viewing area of the macOS Settings app without issue, with no discernible difference between them and the monitors that were natively connected via either the Mac’s unique Thunderbolt video output or the Mac Mini’s single HDMI output. It was really surprisingly easy.
Of course, the Ugreen Multifunction Docking Station Pro is by no means the cheapest solution. You could accomplish most of the same things by spending significantly less on a combination of multiple individual adapters, dongles, and cables. But a big part of what you’re paying for here is the extreme comfort offered by this unique, monolithic unit. It’s meant to be a single home for all your connection and customization needs, and it did its job very well in my testing.
When you walk down to your desk after a long, hard day and need to just plug in that single cable to connect a dozen or more peripherals, the money you’ve spent on it will feel worthwhile. This is even more true for M1 Mac users who might otherwise struggle to achieve their full setup goals without a DisplayLink-enabled adapter like this.