The Thunderbolt and USB ecosystems have seen rapid updates over the last couple of years. In 2022, we saw the announcement of the USB4 v2 standard and some details of Next Generation Thunderbolt with total bidirectional speeds of up to 160 Gbps (80 Gbps TX / RX with symmetric links, and 120 Gbps TX / 40 Gbps RX using asymmetric links from the host perspective). Product introductions have typically lagged behind the announcement of the standards by 18 – 24 months, and we are currently in the midst of the introduction of the second wave of Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 products.
At CES 2023, Plugable is introducing its first Thunderbolt 4 dock – the TBT4-UDZ. One of the key updates in Thunderbolt 4 was the bridging of features common in the USB world. Consequently, the first-generation products were focused on delivering the newly introduced hub functionality to users. Plugable had launched the highly appreciated TBT4-HUB3C back in September 2021 to cover that aspect. The TBT4-UDZ being announced today is a flagship dock equipped with the Intel Goshen Ridge controller. It provides 16 additional ports and host charging up to 100W. There are four additional display outputs (2x HDMI 2.0 + 2x Display Port 1.4), though the number of actual displays that can be driven depends on the host's capabilities.
The 2.5 Gbps NBASE-T port is a welcome addition to the feature set of Thunderbolt docks. It is something that we are seeing in most of the newly-launched Thunderbolt 4 docks from different vendors. Despite the presence of a large number of useful ports, a downstream Thunderbolt port is conspicuous by its absence. Though this dock can be connected to one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports in the TBT4-HUB3C, it might be interesting from a technical perspective to combine both hub and dock functionality into a single device.
Plugable is planning to start shipping the TBT4-UDZ on January 17th, with pre-orders for $299 already active on Amazon.
The USBC-11IN1E is Plugable's flagship USB-C hub, and a follow-up to the USBC-7IN1E introduced in 2020 and updated in 2021 with newer internals and I/Os. The additional ports do add to the price – the 11-port version is priced at $79, compared to the $40 of the 7-port version.
The hub requires the host's USB-C port to support MST on the DP Alt Mode output to enable both HDMI ports. Without MST, usage of the DP Alt Mode results in the mirroring of the display outputs. The hub retains the USB-C power input (to which the notebook's original charger can be connected for passthrough charging).
Plugable is also adding 1m (3.3ft) Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 passive cables to its product portfolio. The new cables support 40 Gbps speeds and 240W charging (Extended Power Range). The Thunderbolt-certified TBT4-240W-1M is priced at $29.25, while the USB-IF-certified USB4-240W-1M is priced at $25.95. The price difference seems solely due to the difference in certification costs – it is likely that the USB-IF certified cable will work just as well with Thunderbolt 4 setups.