Which one to use? USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 4 USB C with DP/Alt mode?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a Plugable docking station with USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 4? Which one should I buy and why? My goal is to add additional monitors to my Dell laptop. Can two Pluggables be attached to one laptop?

Hi Doug,

Thanks for posting! You had reached out to us directly via email and I have replied there, but I will also reply to this public post for visibility.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a Plugable docking station with USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 4?

Good question! Another way to phrase this question is “What is are the advantages/disadvantages of using DisplayLink technology versus the native GPU in the laptop for powering external displays?”

USB 3.2 (i.e, USB 3.0 Type-A ports) do not support a video signal natively. That means that driving an external display through a USB 3.0 ports means relying on a USB graphics technology such as DisplayLink to do so. In a nutshell, DisplayLink USB graphics works by converting video data into USB data. However, there is additional software overhead that results from this, as a driver is needed to assist with this processing (which leverages the CPU and GPU). Therefore, while DisplayLink USB graphics is great for general office or productivity tasks, we don’t recommend DisplayLink for more graphics intensive tasks such as gaming.

Thunderbolt 4 connections on the other hand are able to support a video connection natively through a USB-C protocol called DisplayPort Alt Mode. You can imagine it like this port has a direct pipeline routed from the Thunderbolt 4 port, to the GPU of the laptop. As a result, you’re getting native-level performance.

So ultimately, if performance is a concern, we recommend making use the Thunderbolt 4 port and using a Thunderbolt 3 docking station (for two displays), or a Thunderbolt 4 hub + USB-C video adapters. We’d expect you could add a third display via the HDMI port on your Dell laptop.

If you need more displays however, you may to need use DisplayLink technology, as I cannot guarantee that this laptop supports two displays via both of the Thunderbolt 4 ports at the same time. Please reach out to Dell to verify that information.

I hope this helps!


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