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Understanding USB-C Technology

Not all USB-C devices are created equal. While the new USB-C ports are very convenient, each manufacturer can set up each device model to support different levels of data, video and power. As such, compatibility with productivity accessories like the Kensington SD1500, SD4500 and SD4600P docks can vary. 

USB-C is a new technology and, unfortunately, it’s also a complicated technology. Users need to ensure the accessory is compatible with their host device, and can’t assume all accessories will work seamlessly. When the host device’s USB-C capabilities are fully compatible with our docking station features, and all software on your host device has been updated, the performance should be nearly flawless.

Things to Know/Common Issues

  • Your laptop or device must have a USB-C port. (Using an adapter on a USB 3.0 Type-A port will not work.)
  • Your device must be running Windows 10, 8.1 or Mac OS X Yosemite (10.10) or later, or Chrome OS (R53 or above).
  • For video output, your USB-C laptop or tablet must support DisplayPort Alt. Mode over USB-C.
  • Dual video is only supported on Windows 10 and 8.1 devices (Mac and Chrome USB-C devices do not support dual video over MST).
  • For the SD4600P dock to provide charging, your USB-C device must be designed to support Power Delivery (PD). Not all USB-C devices support PD.
  • Mac OS devices will need a one-time software driver download to support the Ethernet port.
  • Ensure the graphics driver (typically from Intel or AMD) on your USB-C device is up to date. Many video problems, such as flickering or fuzziness, can be fixed by running a system update on your device to update the driver.
  • The USB-C cable can be plugged into a Thunderbolt 3 port on your device. Please note that while the USB-C cable is compatible with the TB3 port, it will not support full TB3 speeds.

Q: Will all USB-C cables and accessories work with my USB-C laptop?
A: To find out if your laptop is compatible with your USB-C accessory, you will need to understand the specification of the USB-C port on your laptop (This information will be available on your laptop manufacturer’s website or in the user manual that came with your laptop.)

  • Not all USB-C ports will be set up to display video. 
  • Some accessories will have USB-C ports set up for Power Delivery, and they can range between 5W (Profile 1) and 100W (Profile 5). Generally, most laptops will need closer to 36W (Profile 3) or 60W (Profile 4) for sufficient charging.

Q: Are all USB-C ports the same?
A: No, they can be very different. USB-C contains three components:

  • Data transfer: data speeds can vary from 480Mbps (USB 2.0) to 10Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 2)
  • Power Delivery: laptops may or may not support power delivery. If USB-C power delivery is not supported, a traditional laptop power tip is probably used to charge the device.
  • Video support: may or may not be implemented by the device manufacturer (as they may continue to use DisplayPort, HDMI, or VGA ports for video capability) 

Q: Will the USB-A ports on my laptop work with USB-C accessories if I use a USB-A to USB-C adapter?
A: USB-A supports data transmission only, while USB-C may support video, power delivery, and data. A USB-C to USB-A adapter will support data transfer, but the video and power delivery features of USB-C will not work.

Q: How does my USB-C cable know what device I have and what functions the USB-C port on my device can perform?
A: The laptop or tablet and the USB-C accessory do a “handshake” when first connected to each other.  The handshaking is a quick exchange of information on what is supported between the host device and the accessory, before everything starts to work.

  1. The software and hardware embedded in the USB-C laptop determine what types of functions are allowed via its USB-C port, and the capabilities of the laptop will be communicated to the accessory during handshaking.
  2. Only the functions that are allowed by both the computer and the accessory via the USB-C connection will work.

Q: Are the Kensington USB-C products all Plug & Play?
A: Yes, all our USB-C devices included in the list below do not need software downloads or drivers when connecting to a host device using Windows 10 and Chrome OS (R53 or above), given that the laptop manufacturer has all the supporting features built-in to the USB-C port(s):

K33992WW – CA1000 USB-C to USB-A Adapter
K33995WW – CH1000 USB-C to 4-Port Hub
K33993WW - CV4000H USB-C to HDMI Adapter
K33994WW - CV2000V USB-C to VGA Adapter
K33969WW - SD1500 USB-C Mobile Dock
K38230WW – SD4500 USB-C Docking Station
K38231WW – SD4600P USB-C Docking Station with Power Delivery 

Please note: For Windows 10 and Chrome OS (R53 or above), the docking stations are Plug & Play. The PC may start installing a driver for the peripherals attached through the dock (keyboard, mouse, etc.) during setup, but no driver is required for the dock itself. 

For Mac OS, docking station users will need to install a driver for the Ethernet port. The one-time driver installation can be downloaded at software.kensington.com.

Q: Can I use the USB-C docks and adapters with my Thunderbolt 3 laptop?
A: Yes, all our USB-C docks and adapters are compatible with laptops featuring a Thunderbolt 3 port.

Please note: The USB-C docks and adapters will not deliver Thunderbolt 3 data transfer speeds (40Gbps), only what the docking station or adapter supports (5Gbps). Also, not all Thunderbolt 3 ports support USB-C power delivery.

Q: What is USB-C Alt mode?
A: USB-C Alt Mode allows devices to deliver video signals and USB data over a single USB-C cable. There is more than one variation of Alt mode. The most popular version is DisplayPort (DP), which is the version our docks support.

To ensure that your laptop or tablet will work with our dock, please check with the laptop/tablet manufacturer to ensure that your device supports USB-C Alt mode over DP. You should be able to find this information via your device manufacturer’s website, in the user manual technical specifications, or by contacting the manufacturer directly.