UGREEN USB C 9-in-1 Multiport Docking Station hands-on review
UGREEN is one of many companies and start-ups that target the owners of modern-day ultrabooks with a range of USB type C hubs that include the kind of ports that OEMs seem increasingly eager to leave behind in the pursuit of ever-slimmer and lighter machines. This particular model is its “9-in-1 USB C Multiport Docking Station” (model number: CM286), boasting a total of seven different port types as the name suggests. They are rated for the following specs or functions:
- HDMI (for up to 4K video)
- VGA (for 1080p video)
- microSD card-reading
- SD card-reading (at the same time as the above, moreover)
- RJ45 for Gigabit Ethernet
- USB type C for Power Delivery (PD, and up to 100W, no less)
- USB type A (3.0) x3
Unboxing & First Impressions
The UGREEN 9-in-1 comes in an aluminum housing, which also contains one of its more innovative and efficient features: A precision-cut channel down the back into which its flat USB type C cable can be tucked when not in use.
Saying that, this also means that the same cable’s rubberized housing ends in an elevated tab so the user can deploy it at need.
It is fairly refined, yet causes the hub to rock from side to side on a flat surface (like the camera-hump of a certain Samsung flagship) if set on its back in its “collapsed” state. It’s noticeable enough that I now keep it on its flat top when it’s not in use.
The reverse side of the multi-port adapter also features black accents that look like they could be a different material or texture for grip, and yet they are not. The rest of its all-metal chassis is finished in a color that, while not unattractive, would probably look best paired with a space-gray MacBook.
The Blade Stealth 13 and I started with the microSD and SD-related function, as I use both types of card in different devices regularly and thus see their inclusion here as one of the most prominent potential advantages of this hub. So, one of each (or two 64GB microSDXC UHS-I U1 ToshibaM203 cards, one in an adapter, rather) got installed and connected to the ultrabook.
On this note, one sees a slightly atypical type of storage media in the toolbar (on Windows at least) on plugging this hub in: a “Generic Billboard Device”. The two cards did indeed both show right up alongside it, albeit also as USB devices. Their storage, however, appeared to function normally while connected via the hub.
File transfers (done with a folder containing 1GB of my random images) were far from world-beating, however, topping out at about 8MB a second (despite the cards’ 100Mb/s rating). This was also the case with the USB drives I tried – which, luckily for the purposes of this test, comprised a 3-pack of generic 3.0-compatible sticks I bought due to the dual function of their housings as door-openers.
Their speeds did not compare to that of media connected directly via the Razer’s own ports (which, somehow, still manage the feat of extending to USB type A). This is often the case with many adapters, yet may still disappoint users in need of one-to-one performance in an ancillary storage-reading device.
However, it remains that all of this media was visible and operational while the hub was connected. On that note, they all still needed to do the Windows “Safe to Remove Hardware” thing individually, even if the main “Billboard Device” was ejected first. Just very faintly annoying.
The opposite side of the UGREEN dock boasts an RJ45 rated for 10/100/1000 Mb/s Ethernet. This, then, enabled me to connect my PC to the router directly for the first time in its life. This connection’s properties did indeed proceed to report the magic 1.0 Gb/s number. Admittedly, it was nice to see it back on a notebook’s screen after so long.
On the front of the hub, next to its in-built cable, is a USB type C port; however, it is intended not for data but for a pass-through PD input of up to 100 watts (W; or up to 20V/5A). In other words, the user can also charge their PC while using the hub, so long as there is a type-C wall charger to hand. I suppose it has been included with certain Apple products that may get short of free interfaces very quickly in mind.
Evaluating this prospect was, fortunately, well-served by a handy 90W power brick from an earlier review. Plugging it in via the UGREEN hub resulted in a recorded charge of ~49W (19.2V/2.5A) to the Razer machine: Not far off the results for this charger on its own, then.
I also tried this function out with a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ while also checking that it could use its USB ports (all three of them, as some reviews for this product on Amazon claims that this combination does not work, particularly in the case of the middle type A port). I was able to verify that this was possible, although the phone only charged at ~17W, even with its own 25W power brick.
On to the video output ports, then. The UGREEN hub purports to output up to 4K/30Hz via HDMI – however, it could do that all it liked, yet not change the fact I only had access to an FHD TV for testing purposes.
Connection using my gold-plated Grundig-brand cable did indeed result in the replication of the Blade Stealth’s screen at FHD/60Hz. I initially found the colors and sharpness on the bigger screen a little lacking – especially compared to those of the (also FHD) PC. A little time spent adjusting the TV’s settings addressed this to a certain extent.
Nevertheless, the colors were never completely constant between the two screens to my eye, which was particularly noticeable in the greens of the PC’s stock wallpaper (a useful reference) and the Windows system-wide accents.
The hub proceeded to deliver reliable content-reproduction from the ultrabook apart from that, albeit with the odd dropped frame over time and one incident of severe frame-shifting to the right in response to episode-switching while streaming a Netflix show. This required the disconnection and re-connection of the source to fix the issue.
The sound reproduction was also appreciable, although this may have had something to do with the ARC available to the output device in question. Satisfied, I then moved on to the hub’s final option: the VGA. Following quite a hunt for a compatible cable – this I/O fell out of my life a number of PCs ago – plugging in via this port resulted in no similar joy.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
This USB type C hub has proven itself a more or less effective accessory, probably best suited for ultrabook owners who (normally) travel with these machines. Its compact fold-away design means it could find a space in most bags or maybe some larger pockets, whereas many other options in its category do not manage their in-built cables quite so well.
On that note, I also noticed during the review that the cable could have been more flexible, being resistant to side-to-side movement relative to the PC it connects to (even though it can move up and down very well so as to fold into its silo). This means it always extends at right angles relative to its connected PC, which may necessitate some contortion (or stacking) to fit other I/O or charging cables around it.
Nevertheless, it also (mostly) meets the demand on which its market is built, namely affording the freedom of more ports. Of its multi-port features, the ability to read microSD and SD cards simultaneously is a particularly valuable use-case of this 9-in-1 accessory in my opinion. The spare USB ports may also be gratifying for many users, as may the access to Ethernet connectivity and HDMI-out.
Therefore, the product may also come in handy for presentations or content-sharing. I also see the point of the USB-PD type C port; however, given the speeds of the supposedly 3.0 type-A ports, it is a shame it does not also work for data.
On that note, it is a slight disappointment that the VGA seemed not to work out: It may have been more of a novelty in this day and age in all honesty, but it’s best to be sure every aspect of a potential purchase is worth the money. Therefore, I can only recommend this UGREEN USB C Hub 9-in-1 Multiport Docking Station - currently priced at US$49.99 on Amazon (or GBP49.99 on the UK site) - if this somehow doesn’t matter to you.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the 12-in-1 docking station from VAVA free of charge for the purpose of testing.