Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station (2022) review

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Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station Specs

Price: $129
Ports: 2 x USB-A 3.0, 4 x USB-A 2.0, 1x HDMI 1.3 port, 1x DVI port, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm Headphone/Speaker Jack, 1x 3.5mm Microphone Jack
Supports: Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.14 or later 

Plugable is often the go-to name when it comes to laptop accessories, in particular its docking stations. Don’t believe me? Check out the plentiful ratings and questions on its UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station Amazon listing page. There are many reasons why this 11-in-1 docking station has garnered such attention: more USB-A ports than a user could need, dual display support, and a cheap price tag.

By all accounts, this is a good docking station to buy, but it was a great one back in 2016. We reviewed the UD-3900 model when it was in its prime, stating that it offered good performance and plenty of ports for the price. However, we’re now in the age of USB-C and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, along with many of the best docking stations offering power delivery to charge your laptop and other devices, 4K capabilities, SD card readers for content creators, top-of-the-line transfer speeds, and USB-C ports with DisplayPort support.

What has Plugable done to bring its still-popular docking station up to speed? Add a USB-C dongle for modern connectivity. Yup, that’s it. There’s still a DVI port, USB-A 2.0 ports, and no way of charging your laptop while it’s connected to the dock. Not exactly the big upgrade we were looking for. It’s clear Plugable wants to keep one of its best-sellers relevant, but a few more upgrades would have been hugely welcome. Still, thanks to its relatively affordable price tag, this is a good opportunity to see how the updated UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station fairs in a new age of connectivity. 

Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station (2022) price 

When we reviewed the Plugable UD-3900 Dual Monitor Docking Station back in 2016, it was priced at around $95. That price has bumped up to $129 over the years, although its Amazon listing price hints that it was originally $159. However, Plugable isn’t likely to drop the discount any time soon. As far as modern docking stations go, that’s an extremely competitive price tag considering docks such as the Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station and Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Dock reach upwards of $300/£300.

(Image credit: Future)Plugable UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station at Amazon for $129

However, as it states in their names, these come with Thunderbolt 4 ports and a plethora of other high-end connectivity that allows for a single 8K connection at 30Hz and dual 4K at 60Hz. What’s more, they come with 90W power delivery and other ports to charge your devices. The Plugable UD-3900? Not so much. It may be half the price, but you’re losing out on desirable features.

Kensington has a similar (if not exactly identical) dock in the Kensington SD4100v USB 3.0 Dual 4K Docking Station, which is priced at $179.99. Sure, it’s slightly more expensive, but it offers dual 4K monitor support, updated USB-A 3.2 ports, and can charge devices. Taking a look at the best USB-C hubs, you’ll find many offer dual video outputs at 4K and a hybrid function that allows for power delivery, too. Better yet, they are more portable and come at a fraction of the price. For example, the EZQuest USB-C Multimedia Hub is priced at $69.99, which you can find cheaper on third-party retailer websites. You can see how the UD-3900 is showing its age. 

Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station (2022) design 

Many docking stations of the past sport a similar vertical-only design, and the Plugable UD-3900 Dual Monitor Docking Station is a fine example of this. The UD-3900 is a small monolith that stands on your desk, ready to connect your PC to monitors and peripherals. It’s made of black plastic and stands vertically, thanks to a sturdy, yet sizable rubberized base screwed into the bottom. Plugable’s logo and the DisplayLink symbol adorn both sides of the dock, with gill-like vents offering a slick look.

(Image credit: Future)

The dock stands 7.5 inches tall from base to tip, while the vertical form saves space on your desk. Unfortunately, this is a standing-only docking station, as the base can’t be removed. It would be nice to have the option to use it horizontally, as some users prefer to lay their docking stations flat to hide behind monitors or laptops. 

I am a fan of the port placement. Having USB-A ports and the headphone and microphone jack on the front make it easily accessible for plugging in a USB drive or USB stick for wireless peripherals. Still, seeing as most modern docking stations offer a more premium, sleek design, the UD-3900, with its massive Plugable logo and “USB 3.0 Docking Station” adorned on the front, looks a bit tacky. 

Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station (2022) ports 

While it offers 11 ports for various connectivity, the Plugable UD-3900 Dual Monitor Docking Station’s ports aren’t exactly up to date. In fact, despite boasting about being a USB 3.0 docking station, it has more USB 2.0 ports than it does 3.0.

(Image credit: Future)

On the front, you’ll find two USB-A 3.0 ports, along with one 3.5mm headphone/speaker jack and one 3.5mm microphone jack. These days, you’ll find audio combo jacks that support microphones and headphones. The separate jacks are handy for those using older headphone or microphone equipment, but the ease of having it all with just one jack is far handier.

(Image credit: Future)

On the back, there are four USB-A 2.0 ports, one HDMI 1.3 input, one DVI port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, along with a USB-B host port to connect your laptop. That’s great for simple USB-A connectivity, while the HDMI and DVI input offers 1920 x 1200 resolution at 60Hz. What’s more, that HDMI port can support up to 2560 x 1440 @ 50Hz with a single display. 

Plugable Dual Monitor Docking Station (2022) performance 

Long story short, the Plugable UD-3900 Dual Monitor Docking Station works as it should without any hiccups. From connecting dual monitors without any noticeable lag to providing plenty of ports to connect my keyboard, USB-A wireless mouse, USB adapter, and more, the docking station was easy to set up and start using from the get-go when plugged into the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 and dual Asus VG278 monitors. However, the problem lies in what it doesn’t offer.

(Image credit: Future)

All these ports and their functions work well in a standard professional work environment, but without 4K capabilities and no USB-C port, not to mention the aging DVI port that many of the best monitors don’t use anymore, the Plugable UD-3900’s ports are more for a simple setup. Luckily, however, Plugable throws in a DVI-to-HDMI adapter to support dual HDMI inputs, along with a hybrid 2-in-1 USB-A to USB-C cable.

That last one is the apparent “upgrade” Plugable informed me about, but it also didn’t come in the review unit I was sent. That’s not ideal. But there’s a quick fix to this: using a USB-A to USB-C that nearly everyone will have lying around if they have an Android smartphone that comes with a charger. These are very easy to come by, so I’m puzzled as to how this is an upgrade at all.

(Image credit: Future)

Usually, docking stations will provide a USB-C compatible Thunderbolt cable that connects to the host laptop and charges the device. The UD-3900 does not offer this function, meaning a separate power outlet needs to be connected to the laptop while the docking station is in use. That, and the docking station also needs another source of power to function. USB-C hubs can work off your laptop’s power in order to work, and some hybrid models can even offer power delivery from a power source. With this in mind, it’s clear that the UD-3900 isn’t up to scratch when compared to the hubs and docks currently on the market.

I would have tested the docking station on a 4K Samsung TV, but because it doesn’t support HDMI 2.0, I couldn’t. It’s an annoying omission, and the Kensington isn’t backed by a USB-C Alt Mode port for HDMI output, either. There’s also no SD card reader, which would be especially handy for professionals when transferring data or storing photos. 

Bottom line  

Plugable’s UD-3900 Dual Display Universal Docking Station is a big seller for the company because it offers simple yet needed connections to expand your laptop’s capabilities while keeping the price down. With plenty of USB-A ports and two video inputs that can both be HDMI, this is still a good docking station that will offer consumers a means to add peripherals and extra displays. But, with the docking stations and USB-C hubs on the market today, you could do so much more.

Without a way to charge your laptop, a lack of USB-C ports to extend the dock’s variety of connectivity, and minimal USB-A 3.0 ports, the Plugable UD-3900 will quickly fall behind as new laptops and connectivity come along. In fact, with Thunderbolt 4 and more laptops with only USB-C ports, next-gen is already here. Thanks to the added hybrid 2-in-1 USB-A to USB-C cable, the dock can be connected to USB-C laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or M1 MacBook Pro, but that doesn’t mean it offers next-gen features.

If you’re after a more future-proof docking station or USB-C hub, check out our Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station review, along with Plugable’s brilliant USB-C 7-in-1 Hub. And, for a similar yet better version of this docking station, check out our Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Dock review.

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