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Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C Dock (VGA) review: Not worth it

Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI+VGA Triple Display Docking Station primaryImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Compact form factor; fits easily in a gear bagOne of the few USB-C hubs with VGA support

Cons

Inability to connect at required performance levelsStreaming performance stuttered considerablyVGA displays are a niche marketVGA-Ethernet spacing feels too closeA little pricy

Our Verdict

Too many things go wrong for the Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI+VGA Triple Display Docking Station for us to recommend it: It’s a niche product with performance issues.

Price When Reviewed

$44.99

Best Prices Today: Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI + VGA Triple Display Docking Station

RetailerPriceMonoprice$44.99View DealAmazon$54.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

The Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI+VGA Triple Display Docking Station is a mouthful of words. But the message here is that this hub is for someone with a legacy display that they’re just not willing to part with, while offering a path to more modern hardware. Unfortunately, after testing, I found that this hub just doesn’t deliver on what it promises.

It’s an odd combination: On one hand, the dock supports a 4K display at up to 60Hz. On the other, there’s support for the ancient VGA specification, which harkens back to the 480p days. And, of course, there are a number of ports in between. Like Satechi’s Surface Pro hub, Monoprice’s hub is a niche offering. We’ll consider it for our list of the best USB-C hubs and dongles regardless.

Monoprice says that this docking station will support up to one 4K display running at 30Hz, and another at 1080p, at 60Hz. If only one 4K display is connected, it will run at 60Hz. You can simultaneously connect a 4K display at 30Hz, plus a 4K display (but at 1080p, 30Hz) as well as the VGA monitor, according to Monoprice. As Monoprice sent us a very similar USB-C hub/dock for review last year, I expected the performance and capabilities to be similar.

Let’s dive into it. Monoprice calls this a “docking station,” but it’s a fairly standard dongle with a 6-inch USB-C cable built into the device itself. There’s a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack at the cable end of the dongle. On the other end is a gigabit Ethernet port and the VGA port. Along one side are two 5Gbps USB-A ports, plus an SD/microSD card reader (with card support up to 512GB and rated read/write speeds of 104MB/s and 80MB/s, which implies UHS-I U3 speeds.) On the other side are two undisclosed HDMI ports and a USB-C (PD 3.0) power intake for a USB-C charger that can support 100W of input power.

Mark Hachman / IDG

There are also two 480Mbps USB-A ports, one on either side, with a small icon (a keyboard and mouse) to show that they’re for legacy devices. I rather like that approach. Don’t expect any of the ports to deliver a great deal of power, though, even with a charger connected to the input port: The fastest USB ports are rated at 4.5W, and the other ports even less.

Again, this is essentially a USB-C dongle; it measures 4.8 x 2.1 x 0.7 inches, which slips easily into a backpack or laptop bag. The weight is about a third of a pound. At $45 or so, it’s about double the price of other dongles, which can run about $25. But it’s a nicely made hub/dock, made of aluminum.

Mark Hachman / IDG

Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI+VGA Triple Display Docking Station performance

Monoprice’s docking station is awkward only in the fact that it supports a fairly cutting-edge 4K60 display but also an ancient VGA monitor. There’s another wrinkle: Laptops that are too old lack some of the multimonitor capabilities that this dock enables — so anything older than a 10th-gen Core should be a bad bet. If you have an older VGA display, chances are your laptop isn’t cutting edge, either.

The hub’s port spacing is just fine, but I’m less sure about the VGA/Ethernet arrangement. Given the space that a VGA connector requires — remember, there are often retaining screws on the side — it might just crowd out the Ethernet jack next to it. I’m going to trust Monoprice got it right here, but I can’t guarantee it with all VGA cables. I have to admit that I don’t have a VGA display to test — we’ve moved on to more advanced connectors. Of course, if fit is a problem, Wi-Fi is an option.

Mark Hachman / IDG

The Monoprice 12-in-1 hub delivered the expected power levels.

This hub also requires a bit of fiddling. The hub’s manual says that the “HDMI 1” port supports a single external 4K display at 60Hz, but doesn’t explicitly label it on the dock/hub itself. (It’s the one further away from the outside of the port.) If you connect to the wrong port, you’ll get a more fatiguing 30Hz (4K30) refresh rate instead. And if you connect both HDMI ports, one will deliver a 4K30 picture, and the other will deliver 1080p at 60Hz. Can this dongle support one HDMI display and then the VGA monitor? Yes it can, at those refresh rates.

I couldn’t get consistent performance out of the Monoprice hub, however. One test laptop (a 13th-gen Intel Core-based Samsung Galaxy Book Ultra) powered a single 4K display at 60Hz, once. Another, an Asus laptop with a 14th-gen Intel Core Ultra inside, only powered that display at 30Hz.

Was I crazy? I tried again, and the hub produced only a 30Hz signal again with other ports. I swapped cables and ports, just to check. Finally, I tried the older Monoprice hub — identical but for a DisplayPort port instead of a VGA port, with the same cable, the same port, and the same display. The older Monoprice hub delivered 60Hz on my 4K display, and the latest hub we review here produced just 30Hz. That did it for me.

Furthermore, the latest 12-in-1 hub (VGA) dropped about 40 percent of all 4K frames streamed over the internet, producing stutters and hitches all over the place. The older hub — again, on a single 4K display, and on Wi-Fi — basically dropped none at all.

Monoprice’s hub is otherwise well-designed. But the disparity between accommodating the older VGA hardware with a relatively new notebook strikes me as slightly strange. Add to that the odd performance glitches, plus the somewhat premium price, and I can’t recommend this hub at all.

Best Prices Today: Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C to Dual-HDMI + VGA Triple Display Docking Station

RetailerPriceMonoprice$44.99View DealAmazon$54.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

Best DisplayLink docks 2024: Move over, ThunderboltBest Thunderbolt docks 2024: Extend your laptop’s capabilitiesBest USB-C hubs and dongles 2024: Add ports to your laptop or tablet

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