I love USB hubs. I would be lying if I said that I didn't use them for everything. Why? Because I always use them to keep my devices connected. I know that USB hubs can be quite inefficient when it comes to transfer speeds at times but damnit, I want to have as many gadgets connected to my gaming PC as possible with little to no hassle. Have you seen the back of my case? Exactly.
However, up until now I never really considered having a USB hub that also has a display. Call it crazy, but I always thought that devices like these would be a bit needless. After experiencing the DOCKCASE Smart Hub... That opinion has only changed slightly as there are some great perks behind using one of these bad boys.
Let's dive a bit into the background here. The DOCKCASE USB Hub has a bit of history as it was first launched on Kickstarter. This project garnered $91,894 USD in donations from Kickstarter backers and was delivered to backers in January 2022. Keep the Kickstarter in mind as it will make an epic return later in this review.
From the outset, this product sells itself as a capable USB hub. It has three USB-A ports, a high-speed USB-C port for data, and an HDMI 2.0 port. The USB-A ports all support USB 3.0. Additionally, the DOCKCASE 7-in-1 USB Smart Hub also has an additional slot for SD/TF Memory Cards and a 100W PD USB-C port on one side, which you can use on your laptop to receive power.
I will place a disclaimer here and say that I did not test the power capabilities of the DOCKCASE Hub. While I would've wanted to, this function is tied to laptops and Apple computers. If there's anything to go by from my previous reviews, it's that I am majorly focused on high-performance PC CPUs, so I don't need a charger. But, if you're still curious about how a DOCKCASE product handles Mac devices, I suggest you check out our Macbook Pro adapter review.
However, every other function of the hub was put to the test. And unfortunately, I have my gripes with this Hub. While it definitely helps with some of my major issues when it comes to connecting peripherals together, it also doesn't do it without a few hiccups. Unfortunately, some of these issues may be major turn-offs for some users, especially those who are going to take this kind of device on the go.
Let's start with the cable that comes with the hub. It's tiny. The 100W USB-C 3.1 cable Is only 9 inches long, and it shows. I wasn't able to connect it to the back of my case because it would often slide off due to how short this cable was. I had to use a lot of long cable peripherals while awkwardly placing the hub on top of one of my rig's fans.
Another problem that shows the flaws of the cable (and its port) is just how flimsy it is. More often than not, I suffered disconnections from the hub itself just because it was moved slightly from the tugging of a cable. Mind you, these problems are happening in a stationary device, imagine how cumbersome it would be to use it in a moving environment like in any common circumstance where you use a laptop.
It's honestly kind of weird to see something like this happening because the device isn't built badly by any means. The thing is made from zinc alloy and tempered glass. It has managed to survive quite a few drops. The USB-A Ports also don't have this issue and have remained steadily connected. Only the USB-C 3.1 cable has been giving me a hard time.
Let's talk about the most prominent aspect of the DOCKCASE 7-in-1 USB Hub: The Screen. it's one of the best selling points I could've seen in a dock. One that I didn't even know I needed until I started using this device. See, the cool thing is that the display shows a lot of information about the devices that are connected to the Hub.
The dock's HD Display offers information regarding which connections are active, what type of connections they are, and how fast they move data. Not only that, but it's also capable of reading the information of your HDMI device. And as you can see above, it even gives you data on its Serial number and its manufacturer.
However, when it comes to displaying an image on this thing... Well, I suppose this is a great time to mention that Kickstarter campaign again. Throughout the campaign's comments section, you'll be able to see tons of complaints from disgruntled users talking about problems with the unit. From certain aspects of the dock not working as intended to even some complaints regarding the HDMI port.
This USB Hub is not good at outputting an image onto the screen despite being connected at its default mode. This means that you have to tinker with the thing's settings (by using a SIM eject tool to press a button below one of the USB-A ports) to basically find the setting that suits your display.
I spent a grand total of three hours messing around with this device, basically testing multiple frequencies and even using the Bypass setting. When the image finally showed up, it came without audio, which meant that I basically wasted my time, and then I proceeded to plug my HDMI back into my RTX 3070.
Plenty of users have to face this issue, and unfortunately, it seems to be a major problem among Kickstarter backers. So this definitely isn't an isolated issue. So, I wouldn't recommend getting this for the HDMI capability as it is very rough around the edges, to say the least.
At the very least, I have some positives to say about this device regarding the USB ports themselves. Every one of the peripherals I connected (headphones, controllers, mice, and keyboards) has managed to respond quite well to every one of my inputs.
The lag is almost unnoticeable. This surprised me as I expected to have at least a bit of delay when using this device (as previous experiences with USB hubs have led me to believe). Still, the DOCKCASE USB Hub definitely gave me a great impression while using my gaming peripherals.
Additionally, when I tested my USB transfer speeds, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the Hub was adapting itself to the capabilities of the devices I connected. Even something as basic as a USB flash drive was transferring files at consistent speeds (10MB/s), and the speed rarely dropped.
The TF/SD Card reader didn't disappoint, either. A copying process of a 1GB dummy file took only 40 seconds with a consistent speed of 25MB/s. If you're a user that runs external hard drives, this device will help you be more efficient in constant file transfers and managing. The additional information that the dock provides is a nice bonus.
Overall though, the DOCKCASE 7-in-1 USB Smart Hub definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of its features. Unfortunately, many of its intended users are bugged, and their fixes are quite cumbersome and unintuitive for your casual user to perform. There are some great positives, and I will definitely keep using this for my gaming peripherals. However, I believe this device fails to be more than your average hub with a higher asking price.
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