Universal Docking Stations Explained

Universal docking stations deliver a world of choice and flexibility for workplace IT administrators.  With that flexibility, arrives a host of features, specification and terminology to become familiar with in regards to compatibility and performance.
The Technology team at CMS we have put together a guide to help you navigate around the terminology when it comes to deciphering the various features of docking stations.

Upstream Connector Ports
Upstream Connector Ports
The upstream connector is the port that links the docking station to the laptop to host extra services like multiple displays and accessories.  Current-gen universal docking stations now utilise a USB-C connection, but as you will see below, not all USB-C upstream ports are created equal.

In the world of universal docking, there have been 2 main connector standards, Thunderbolt and USB-C.
Originally developed jointly by Intel and Apple (Gen 1 and 2), Thunderbolt docking stations are only compatible with Thunderbolt specified laptops and cables to take advantage of the transfer rates offered by the respective docking station.
Thunderbolt 1 & 2
Connector: Mini DisplayPort
Transfer rate: 10gbps / 20gbps respectively
Thunderbolt 3
Connector: USB-C
Transfer rate: 40gbps
Features: Thunderbolt 3 can present video on two 4K displays or one 5K screen, daisy-chaining of multiple USB-C devices is also supported.
Standard USB-C has been a broader less restrictive connector interface, it is incorporated into most universal docking stations and most USB-C equipped laptops.
USB 3.1
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 – 5Gbps
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2- 10Gbps
USB 3.2
USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 – 5Gbps
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 – 10Gbps
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2x2 –  builds on the Gen 2 with a total of 2 transfer lanes, 20Gbps
Laptop Charging
Power Delivery (PD)
USB PD is a standard of charging that many USB-C devices are equipped with.  Devices like docking stations are equipped with PD enabled USB-C ports to ensure that connected devices are given the correct amount of charge, as well as the correct direction of charge.
100W – 100W denotes the rate of charging that can be distributed by the docking station, Check your device to ensure the docking station is capable of charging it at the full rate.
Integrated Chipsets
In the context of docking stations, Video chipsets harness a device’s USB port to support multiple display and ethernet ports, giving devices like laptops the multi-screen capability of a desktop computer.
DisplayLink® develops hardware and software solutions to enable easy connectivity between monitors, virtual reality HMDs and computing devices over standard interfaces such as USB, Ethernet, and wireless networks.

DisplayLink DL-6950 
The DL-6950 integrates a USB 3.0 device interface, DL3 codec, two DisplayPort++ (dual-mode) interfaces, two HDMI 2.0 interfaces, GbE, and audio on one SoC.
DP Alt mode
DP Alt mode
DP Alt Mode allows USB-C ports to transfer data/video via multiple interfaces, including the increasingly popular DisplayPort video interface.  In the context of docking stations, this allows the use of DisplayPort connectors to be used to support additional monitor displays via the USB connection between the laptop and the docking station.
Video Outputs
Display Port
  • DisplayPort 1.2 supports 5K resolution at up to 30Hz, 4K at up to 75Hz, and 1080p at up to 240Hz
  • DisplayPort 1.3: Supports up to 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 30Hz
  • DisplayPort 1.4: Supports 1440p at up to 240Hz, and 4K at up to 120Hz
  • HDMI 1.4: Supports up to 4K (4,096 by 2,160) at 24Hz, 4K (3,840 by 2,160) at 30Hz, or 1080p at 120Hz.
  • HDMI 2.0: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz, and later versions (HDMI 2.0a and 2.0b) include support for HDR
  • HDMI 2.1: Supports up to 10K resolution at 120Hz, as well as improved HDR with dynamic metadata and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)
Display resolutions
  • HD 1080P – known as ‘Full HD’ a resolution of 1920 x 1080
  • QHD 2K – known as ‘Quad HD’, a resolution of 2560 x 1440
  • UHD 4K – known as ‘Ultra HD’ a resolution of  3840 x 2160
  • 5K – a resolution of 5120 × 2880
Which is the best docking station for my application?
CMS develop technology solutions for commercial enterprise, we would love to hear from you with any questions or requirements about your next IT or technology fitout.  Our current THD-100 USB-C docking station is one of the most capable universal docking stations available. 

Click here to learn more about CMS docking station solutions.
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Disclaimer: CMS has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided in this document are correct. All information contained in this document is to be used for general guidance only. CMS reserves the right to change delete or modify the information without notice.