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I started a new job working remote recently. I've been provided a Macbook Pro 2017 (EDIT: model is 13", non-touch, with 2 Thunderbolt ports) and two non-Thunderbolt monitors (Dell P2217H). I have bought two docks/hubs so far, and before I buy a third that still doesn't work how I want, I think I need to ask for help.

I want to be able to run my two external monitors, with three USB-A peripherals, all with the laptop charging as well. The second hub I bought (this model from Satechi: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XRVX3XM) seemed like it should allow this. It uses both the Macbook's Thunderbolt ports and provides HDMI, Thunderbolt, and USB-C out, along with two USB-A. The monitors have two USB-A ports as well which I thought would work if connected by Thunderbolt.

However, the monitor connected by Thunderbolt doesn't seem to be sending USB-A signals. More significantly, the USB-C port on the hub doesn't work for charging OR for display. Am I doing something wrong? Is a Thunderbolt port needed just to CHARGE the damn thing?

I found a hub for $500 that passes through both Thunderbolt ports, but that seems like overkill. Is that really what's required to get something like this working? I feel like I have to be missing something because this doesn't seem like an unusual use case at all. Thanks in advance.

  • Which 2017 MBP do you have? The non-touch 13" has 2 TB ports while the touch 13" has 4. The 13" have the integrated video while the 15's may have the discrete GPU. – Allan Mar 15 at 21:25
  • Sorry - great question. Non-touch 13" with 2 TB ports. – rotanimod Mar 15 at 22:17
  • edit your question so it includes the details all i one place, for the benefit of future readers. – Peter Cordes Mar 16 at 11:56
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Regarding your Satechi hub and the monitors:

"the monitor connected by Thunderbolt doesn't seem to be sending USB-A signals"

This is correct. You're not actually connecting the monitor by Thunderbolt, as the monitor does not support Thunderbolt at all. The monitor supports VGA, DisplayPort and HDMI, so you probably have a USB-C to DisplayPort cable or similar connecting the hub and the monitor. That cable will transfer a picture to the display, but it won't get the USB-A ports on the monitor working. To get the USB-A ports on the monitor working, you need to connect the upstream USB-B port on the monitor to one of the USB ports on your hub.

"More significantly, the USB-C port on the hub doesn't work for charging OR for display."

The USB-C port on the hub is not supposed to work for transferring a display signal. Only the HDMI video output port and the Thunderbolt 3 port on the hub have a display signal in them. This is also visible in the graphics in the link you have provided.

The USB-C port on the hub is also not supposed to work for charging. This is listed in the product description on your link: "Please note the second USB-C port is for data transfer use only." - i.e. no power delivery.

Alternatives

Instead of the Satechi hub product, you could look a other products that fit your requirements better:

For example the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock takes up a single Thunderbolt 3 port on your laptop - leaving the other one free. It does so while providing a display signal for both monitors, charging your laptop and providing an addition 5 x USB-A ports, 1 x USB-C port, SD-card reader and Ethernet. It is priced at approx. 295$.

Another example is the CalDigit Pro Dock that similarly takes up a single Thunderbolt 3 port on your computer while allowing you to connect two displays, charge the laptop and have access to 3 x USB-A ports, 1 x USB-C, Ethernet and SD card reader. It is priced at approx. 200$.

Multiple similar Thunderbolt 3 docks exists at various price points from various manufacturers.

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  • Thanks for the info! I'm a little surprised I overlooked some of those product notes, but this is all pretty new to me and I guess I just got overwhelmed. It does feel a little crazy that a $300 hub seems like the low end for a quality model that will do what I need. C'est la vie. – rotanimod Mar 15 at 22:25
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    Well, a 300$ is not the low-end... I also included a 200$ model - and there's various versions cheaper than that also. It doesn't mean it is lower quality - these typically have fewer ports, less wattage, etc. – jksoegaard Mar 15 at 22:40
  • Wow, and I'm still misreading things, jeez. OK, I've calmed down. Anyway that model does look nice! I really appreciate your help. Do you happen to know if either of those models will work in clamshell mode? – rotanimod Mar 15 at 22:42
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    As far as I know they all work in clamshell mode. – jksoegaard Mar 15 at 23:07
  • I went with the CalDigit Pro Dock, and it works perfectly. Thanks for helping me through this. – rotanimod Mar 20 at 18:19
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The Satechi product you referenced of just a port expander, it’s not really a dock.

Prerequisites

  • macOS doesn’t support daisy chaining of displays so you’ll need a Thunderbolt port for each display (the Mac hardware supports it as it works in Windows via Bootcamp)
  • One Thunderbolt port must be used for charging.
  • The Dell monitors don’t support charging

See the following for more info:

Solution

To meet your goals of hooking up two monitors and charging simultaneously while navigating the above limitations you will need the following:

  • Charging dock with display like the Caldigit TS3 Plus
  • USB-C to DisplayPort cable (the One that came with the monitor is sufficient)
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  • I think you're nitpicking now... a port expander and a dock is the same thing nowadays. It is very common across both Mac and PC to sell docking stations where you do not physically place the laptop on or inside the dock. – jksoegaard Mar 15 at 23:09
  • In regards to the second part, macOS does actually support daisy chaining of displays - but only for Thunderbolt displays. It doesn't support MST daisy chaining however, which is probably what you meant. – jksoegaard Mar 15 at 23:10
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    In regards to MST daisy chaining - your answer is very vague. You describe that daisy chaining is not supported on macOS, so you'll need to use a Thunderbolt port for each display... I'm not sure if you have missed that the Satechi device actually DOES use both Thunderbolt ports. It takes up 2 ports. So there's no need for daisy chaining. – jksoegaard Mar 15 at 23:34
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    Please respect that English is a second language for me, so my comments might sound a bit harsh - but it is really not intended to be that way. – jksoegaard Mar 16 at 13:19
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    I appreciate your answer and recommendations too, but the product I went with was also included in the other answer and that one came first. But thank you for taking the time and the discussion! – rotanimod Mar 20 at 18:21

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