DockCase, best known for its combination of MacBook hub and case, recently launched its latest USB-C smart hub on Kickstarter. The project has already exceeded its goal more than six times, but you have until November 26 to support the project and get a smart hub at its original price.
Before I move on to my review, it’s important to note that this is a Kickstarter project, so it’s not exactly like ordering a finished product on Amazon. The unit I have for review is still in beta and in the end delivery is not guaranteed. The scheduled delivery is January 2022, but as with any crowdfunding project, it could be delayed. That said, DockCase has an established history of producing similar products, and the project has already been funded (6 times more!). This is definitely one of the safer Kickstarters.
DockCase is a high-speed USB-C smart hub
The smart hub connects to your computer via USB-C and has four USB-A ports, a high-speed USB-C data port, a USB-C port for power delivery of up to 100 watts, an HDMI 2.0 port and a gigabit Ethernet port. Of the four USB-A ports, two are USB-2.0. So, these two ports are limited to a maximum speed of 480Mbps. The other two USB-A ports, as well as the USB-C port, offer up to 10Gbps. These two slower-speed USB-2.0 ports are perfect for accessories like a mouse and keyboard, while USB drives should be included in high-speed ports.
If all you are looking for in the hub is adding additional ports, honestly, there are already countless other options available on Amazon, at a lower price. However, the DockCase smart hub brings something quite unique to the table: the screen. A small 1.54-inch screen displays a mode in which all ports operate and with a button that allows you to change settings. That flexibility is what makes the DockCase smart hub stand out.
Adaptability comes through a variety of “Modeses”. As the hub connects via a single USB-C port and is not compatible with Thunderbolt, it will be limited to USB speeds. With mods, you can choose how you want to prioritize features. Personally, I stayed in “My Mode” and increased the power of the dock.
There are power delivery modes that can be optimized for use with the Nintendo Switch, except that you can choose between PD versions 2.0 and 3.0. “Extreme” video mode (confusingly named) allows the hub to interpolate the 4×30 video output from the device and send it as a 4×60 signal via the HDMI port. The hub also supports standard 4×60 output.
My experience with the DockCase USB-C smart hub
Since I got the hub, it has replaced two other smaller USB hubs on my desk. My desk currently consists of my MacBook that lives on a stand and two additional monitors, with a wired mouse and a third-party keyboard. I have gigabit Ethernet connected to the docking station and I usually have a combined CF / SD card reader and USB to SATA adapter. I also regularly include external SSDs like the Kinston XS2000 and DataTraveler Max that I recently reviewed.
The smart hub almost perfectly met my connectivity needs. Integrated slots for CF and SD cards would be good, but most people won’t need them regularly (and DockCase’s previous 7-in-1 hub includes an SD card slot instead of a USB-C port). That USB-C port is especially good in my case because, although I love the DataTraveler Max, one of my only complaints was the width. It won’t stand next to another device when plugged into my MacBook. The DockCase hub has enough space around all ports to connect it without worrying about interference.
The only port on the hub that I didn’t use regularly was the HDMI port, because my current monitors only offer Thunderbolt and DisplayPort connectivity.
I was skeptical that I would find many benefits from screens and smart features, but so far there have been two cases where I was relieved to have them.
When I first started using the hub, I accidentally plugged a recording card into one of the USB-2.0 ports. There were some big problems with the video, but I noticed that the USB-2.0 port was lit on the screen, so I quickly switched it to one of the faster ports.
I also realized that one of my many Ethernet cables must have a broken wire inside, so it only works at 100 Mbps, instead of Gigabit or faster. Of course, I could pull out the cable tester, or I could look in the computer settings to find out, and when I started transferring the files, I would immediately understand, but it was a quick indication that the cable should be thrown in the trash.
My problems with the DockCase smart hub
My experience though was not entirely flawless. With customization, there can be some trade-offs in terms of ease of use, and that came as you prepare to stream live on the Space Explored YouTube channel. I used the DockCase smart hub to connect all the devices to my laptop, including the recording card, iPhone and a few more. The hub was plugged into AC power and charged my MacBook, but apparently it couldn’t power all external devices. This caused the hub to shut down from time to time.
My recording card also seemed to freeze from time to time. Fortunately, both of these seem to have been fixed by increasing the power setting of the docking station to 25W. It’s an easy solution and I’m glad the smart hub is capable, but at this point it was definitely frustrating.
Need to buy a DockCase USB-C high speed smart hub?
Overall, my experience is very positive. I’ve used quite a few different hubs and adapters with my MacBook, and all they’ve ever been to me has been a means of overcoming Apple’s decision against consumers to reduce ports, to which Apple has happily retreated. It’s hard to describe, but a smart hub looks like something more, almost like a special device, something that actually deserves its place on your desk.
Will most people need DockCase smart hub? No, other devices will probably be enough to meet the basic expansion needs. Still, it’s hard not to recommend this. Its elegant look and screen will attract people’s attention unlike any other hub or adapter. There are also times, as I have experienced, when owning it can save you a few minutes of problem solving. And the ability to eventually update the firmware on it is pretty neat!
The DockCase 8-in-1 USB-C high-speed hub can be purchased via Kickstarter at a starting price of $ 89. As an additional part of Kickstarter, DockCase offers its previous 7-in-1 smart node for a 40% discount, on $ 49
FTC: We use auto affiliate links to earn revenue. More.
Watch 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.