Until recently, I didn’t really find myself in need of a docking station all that frequently, but even some of the best laptops today a very limited selection of ports, and even if you don’t have a ton of accessories, having a compact dock with some ports can be extremely helpful. That’s the market DockCase seems to be focused on with the USB-C Visual Smart Hub 7-in-1, and it does a good job at what it sets out to do.
DockCase makes a few of these docks that have a screen and while there isn’t necessarily a ton of uses for that screen, it does make it easy to see more information about the peripherals connected to your PC. There are cheaper options out there, but the display is what helps this one stand out, plus it has really solid build quality. With a solid mix of ports and support for up to 100W of power delivery (technically maxing out at 95W), this is a great option if you need to connect some peripherals to your laptop, whether that’s at your office or during a trip.
The DockCase Visual Smart Hub 7-in-1 comes in two versions, one with a detachable cable and one with an integrated cable. They’re functionally the same, so it’s up to your preference. The detachable model means you can try to get your own cable if you want a longer one, which is a plus. That’s the only version available on Amazon right now, and it’s much cheaper there. Buying directly from DockCase’s website is more expensive.
The DockCase SUB-C Smart Visual Hub gives you a handful of ports for peripherals, and it has a screen so you can keep tabs on it all.
Navigate this review:
DockCase USB-C Visual Smart Hub 7-in-1: Pricing and availability
- The DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub 7-in-1 costs $64.99 on Amazon, but only the version with a detachable cable is available
- The model with an integrated cable is available directly from DockCase’s website
The DockCase USB-C Visual Smart Hub is available to buy right now, but while it comes in two versions, only one is available on Amazon. That’s the model with a detachable cable, and if you buy from Amazon, it costs just $64.99.
Both versions are available to buy on DockCase’s website, but they cost $99.99 there, at least officially. If you’re outside the US, though, this might be your best option, since Amazon won’t ship it everywhere.
DockCase USB-C Visual Smart Hub 7-in-1: Specs
|Size (WxDxH)||121 x 39 x 15 mm (4.76 x 1.54 x 0.59 in) excluding cable|
|Weight||Detachable (excluding cable): 132 grams (0.29 lbs)
Integrated: 140 grams (0.31 lbs)
|Speed and Power||Speed (to host):
Power delivery (host passthrough charging):
Right (detachable model):
|Display||1.3-inch display, 261 PPI|
|Material||Zinc alloy (casing) and tempered glass (top)|
|What’s in the box||DockCase USB-C Visual Smart Hub 7-in-1
USB-C to USB-C cable (detachable model)
Design and ports: It has 7 ports, including HDMI
- The DockCase USB-C Visual Smart Hub has three USB Type-A ports, HDMI, and both full-size and microSD card readers
- It can also deliver up to 95W of power to your laptop to keep it charged
There’s only so much you can say about a dock like this, and we’ll get right to what’s important – the ports. Regardless of whether you choose the version with a detachable or an integrated cable, the dock has three ports on the front and four on the back. Up front, we get one USB Type-A port, along with full-size SD and microSD card readers.
On the back, there are two more USB Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port for AC input, and an HDMI port, allowing you to connect to an external display. When you have only seven ports in total, there’s only so much you can do, but this is probably the most ideal setup for this size. Having an HDMI 2.0 port means you can connect a 4K display at 60Hz, which is pretty nice. My monitor is a Full HD 144Hz panel, and the hub can drive it just fine, too.
One thing I like is that all the USB ports are USB 3.0, so you can get 5Gbps speeds out of any of them. Of course, the hub itself only supports 10Gbps, so you can’t use the full bandwidth of all three ports at the same time, but that’s going to be the case with any hub like this.
If you get the version with a detachable cable, there is another USB Type-C port on the side, which is used to connect to the host computer. It supports 10Gbps of bandwidth and 100W of power, or at least that’s the advertising claim. In reality, the dock can only deliver up to 95W of power, and truth be told, that’s such a minute difference that it will work just as well. This is also the case for any other USB-C dock like this, so this doesn’t mean you need to look for another option. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a docking station, so it doesn’t have its own power adapter, it just supports passthrough charging.
I feel the need to bring this up, though, because I have an Asus laptop (a 2021 ROG Flow X13), and it supports 100W charging. But there’s also a feature in Asus’ Armory Crate software that lets you disable the discrete GPU when on battery power, and if the laptop is receiving less than 100W of power, that still disables the GPU. That’s relatively easy to work around, but it’s something to keep in mind.
I’ve found the port selection overall to be nearly perfect for my usual needs. There have been times when the USB ports weren’t enough for all my peripherals, but I’d argue most people buying a small dock like this don’t need as many peripherals as I do. You also only get one HDMI port, which might not be enough for users with more complex setups, though I was fine with it since I only have one monitor anyway. Another thing that’s missing a headphone jack, though to be fair, most laptops still have one of those.
One problem I’ve sometimes had is that the dock fails to detect the connected display, and you might either have to reconnect the display or the dock itself. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed with a firmware update, which the dock does support.
Aside from that, the dock is built to feel solid. It has quite a bit of heft to it, and most of the unit is a solid piece of metal, with the exception of the top where the display is. There’s a small hole on the back (below one of the USB ports) that hides a button, and you need a SIM ejection tool to use it. We’ll get into that in a bit.
Display: It can show some useful information
- The display on the hub can show various information about connected peripherals
- It can also be used to change certain settings for the dock, such as how much power is reserved for peripherals
What really helps the DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub stand out is the display that’s built into the dock. This is a fairly basic display specs-wise, but t’s actually pretty sharp and it works perfectly for displaying the information you need to see on it. In its idle state, it’ll display general information about all your connected devices, including how much power is being delivered to your laptop, the resolution and refresh rate of your screen, and the supported USB speeds of your peripherals. The screen actually allowed me to learn that one of the laptops I have lying around can only receive 60W of power over USB-C, which was an interesting find. The screen also shows the internal temperature of the hub, so you can keep an eye on it.
The dock also responds whenever you plug in a display or power adapter. When you plug in a power adapter, you’ll briefly see how much power the dock is receiving and how much is being delivered to the laptop. When you plug in a monitor, you can see all sorts of information including resolution, size, manufacturer, and refresh rate. It’s really neat. One problem I’ve noticed is that the dock won’t update the refresh rate information when you change it in Windows. You need to unplug the display and plug it back in to see the updated value.
You can change the orientation of the display by inserting a SIM ejection tool into the small hole on back. Pressing the hidden button once will rotate the display 90 degrees, and you can choose whatever orientation is most convenient to you.
But the most interesting thing is the ability to change certain dock settings directly on the dock thanks to that display. When you press and hold the hidden button, you start seeing various options appear, including the control panel, where you can see various settings for the dock. These let you change things like the minimum temperature at which the internal fan should start cooling the dock, ow how much power the dock itself can use.
That last one can be important if you’re using high-speed data transfers via USB, as you might need to reserve more power for the USB ports, but that comes at the cost of slower charging for your laptop. It’s great that you can choose what your priorities are, though. Other settings include the screen time-out threshold, and a handful of other options that aren’t meant for most users to mess with. Navigating this UI can be a little clunky, but you basically press once to move to the next option on the page, and press and hold to select. The screen shows an indicator of how long you need to press to confirm a choice, so you can get the hang of it fairly quickly.
Who should buy the DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub?
All things considered, the DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub offers a solid range of connectivity, and for the $65 price tag on Amazon, it’s actually very nice and versatile. The display can also be useful to learn more information about the peripherals and power adapter you’re using.
You should buy the DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub if:
- You have a laptop with very few ports, like a Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Air
- You want to connect a few peripherals to your laptop
- You find the display useful for monitoring your peripherals
You shouldn’t buy the DockCase USB-C Smart Visual Hub if:
- Your laptop requires more than 100W of power
- You have a complex setup with multiple displays or lots of USB peripherals
- You need a headphone jack
I’d say the biggest thing to look out for with this dock is that issue where the connected display may not detect a signal when the host PC wakes up from sleep, but it doesn’t happen all the time and it’s relatively easy to fix . You should also know that this dock isn’t meant for very complex professional setups with multiple displays, so you might want to look at more high-end options if that’s what you need.