First, congratulations on the nice products. I landed here based because every time I searched something related to docks on YouTube a nice video from Plugable appeared in the results with some different option.
Here comes to my questions and I hope to receive some advice on which products to buy, if I need more than one, then no problem.
I’m currently running a 3 external displays on my old ThinkPad computer. I purchased this almost 10 years back because running multiple setups at that time was far more complicated than today. No USB to display or thunderbolt but I run then natively.
The computer runs Nvidia Optimus. This means it supports basically 2 displays on the integrated Intel video card and an additional 2 on the Nvidia card.
I run basically 4 displays these ways. That means the built-in computer display, and 3 external full HD monitors. I purchased an expensive docking station back then in order to accomplish it.
It basically connects every external display to a different port, one to DisplayPort, one with DVI and one to an old VGA port. So the docking station runs all 3 external monitors.
I’m not 100% happy about this setup because 2 equal monitors don’t have exactly match the same colors as one, same monitor models, all monitors have all ports, that includes VGA, Display Port and HDMI but for some reason I’m limited to that setup. I assume the color difference is because one is DVI and the other DisplayPort. Putting both of them on HDMI or DisplayPort does not work. I tried different combination and only that one displays all of them.
And don’t get me started on the VGA one. Its horrible. I barely use it because text is hard to read. Again, I’m not sure if this is a limitation on the dock but if I connect VGA directly to the laptop text is much better than with the dock.
Now fast forwarding. I’m looking to buy a new computer and as such I want to improve my existing setup to something better.
First. I want all of them to be digital. No VGA anymore or DVI. Ideally I would like all of them to be connected by HDMI with at least 60 refresh rate on full HD.
But I also want to expand this setup. I’m running this for years and I have 2 or 3 extra spare monitors. I want to upgrade to a quad display setup.
That means 4 external monitors. I’m ok with not having the build in laptop display anymore if I can run 4 external monitors fine. But ideally I would like to still use the laptop display plus external monitors. So while technically I now run 4 displays (but only 3 external), I like to run 5 displays with the laptop or 4 external.
Now, I also want to upgrade at least 1 display to 4K, in a perfect world 2 displays to 4K and keep the others at full HD since I’m aware no system can actually work with quad 4K displays and run smooth. (keep reading since I was under the impression it was not possible but it seems it is…)
I started researching and it seems I’m better off buying a system that comes with Thunderbolt 3 since it allows far more bandwidth transfers 40 Gbit than regular USB C ports. It seems this is popular with Mac users, but TB3 can only run tops dual 4K displays. TB3 will help but alone on its own I still need to add something else.
Now for my surprise, I found out a quad display dock that supports four monitors running at 4K and 60 hertz refresh rate. It seems this is unique, it’s from targus, I was not able to find anything else in that category. And it’s not even using thunderbolt but just USB C. I started doing my research, and I was not able to find how that was possible since they confirmed it’s not TB3 and but one reviewer on Amazon claims you need it for better performance.
Well, it seems they use the same technology that most other docks use, called DisplayLink. It basically compressed the images on the computers and then the dock uncompresses them back to the displays. This seems a software solution and the general suggestions is that this will not work with old computers or video or gaming on all four displays as its way to taxing for any system.
Now, I don’t mind, I want monitors for web surfing and coding, and maybe just 1 display with a YouTube video from time to time. It seems something like this would work for me as I don’t need high refresh rates on every monitor but this is still a software solution that relies on the system doing all the work. After my research it seems even moving the mouse hits CPU fast and it seems this is not a native display solution like just connecting an external monitor to a laptop.
Now, thanks to plugable and YouTube I found out that now there is also a new technology called Alt mode on which this technology passes the data directly to the monitor with USB without taxing the system.
In an ideal world I don’t want to be taxing my CPU and GPU for this. I’m planning to buy either a new Dell G5 or G7. Both seem to come with new USB C ports, display ports and alt mode. The models are G5 5500 or 7700. They also have thunderbolt 3.
Plugable seems to only have 3 display dock solutions, but also the USB to alt mode adapter and of course thunderbolt ones. Now I’m very confused on how or what I should buy. If I can avoid the DisplayLink solution, the better, if not I would like to limit it to as few monitors as possible.
Now, should I maybe connect dual displays with Thunderbolt 3, then one with the Display Port and one with the USB alt mode adapter? Or maybe should I buy a triple display dock solution with DisplayLink and then use the extra USB port or thunderbolt 3 for the additional monitor?
Just to make sure I will get the latest i7 chip and a proper nvidia card, in case I have to use the DisplayLink compression solution. It seems Windows 10 has native drives now for this and the solution is far better with decent machines than it was in the past years. It also seems that Intel integrated cards now actually support triple display on its own vs the two in the past. I assume all of those machines also come with Intel cards integrated plus the Nvidia one. I assume a new machine from 2020 should be able to handle this but the question is how and with what. My question is more about what to buy from plugable. Maybe run a thunderbolt dock with another display port cable? Or maybe just a USB dock with a thunderbolt cable?
I’m aware that it’s not possible to run all on 4 K displays unless I get that DisplayLink software only solution but that would be such as waste if I can already have 2 or 3 displays natively without running on softwware. Note, I’m willing to use DisplayLink docks, but I just want to get the best possible performance here. I’m not sure what to combine in terms of cable and docks. Maybe 2 docks?