gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

StarTech DKT30CHVSCPD MultiPort USB Type-C Adapter Reviewed

While USB Type-C docking stations are excellent for home and office use, tied to a desktop, they don’t really solve the ports problem on the go. Enter StarTech’s range of USB Type-C multiport adaptors. In this post I’ll be looking at the DKT30CHVSCPD and if that name means absolutely nothing to you… well I’m hardly surprised!

The DKT30CHVSCPD – also known simply as “USB-C Multiport Adaptor” – includes a range of ports that are essential for the travelling professional. Alongside a three USB 3.0 ports, a microSD and full-sized SD-card slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port it also includes both HDMI and VGA connections for hooking up to projectors and presentations displays on the go and – finally – includes a USB Type-C power input port so that you can use it on the go as effectively a dock.

Incidentally the power input (or pass-through feature as it’s called) led to a small problem with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 which ships with what I can only call a woefully inadequate power supply. The meagre 30W USB Type-C supply that Dell ships is not sufficient to power both this USB Type-C multiport adaptor *and* charge the connected XPS 13 2-in-1 – so be wary of the adaptor you use with this. Incidentally swapping out the weedy 30W for a 61W MacBook Pro adaptor allowed the XPS to charge.

Oh look! Plug a decent 60W Apple charger instead of the crappy 30W Dell supplied one into this @STARTECHdotCOM multi port USB Type-C adapter and suddenly the XPS 2-in-1 will charge from it :/

C’mon Dell, why such a woefully underpowered AC adaptor? It takes 4-5 hours to charge!

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 21, 2018

But I digress. StarTech’s multiport adaptor is extremely useful for returning some of the most commonly missed ports back to a USB Type-C endowed computer. While my own laptop already has USB ports, it lacks VGA and Ethernet so this adaptor proved very useful as a means for hooking up a Raspberry Pi for on-the-go development.

Wired Ethernet connection for Android Debug and USB Power for the @Raspberry_Pi all over one USB Type-C cable using the @STARTECHdotCOM multi port adapter. It’s an on-the-go AndroidThings development setup!

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 28, 2018

And if you’re wondering why I’d care about VGA- well my old Dell monitor still has a VGA port and I somehow still have a VGA cable. So:

Using VGA because it doesn’t have an HDMI input and I’m pretty sure the HDMI to DVI cable I have somewhere has a weird configuration of extra pins that cause it not to fit. Picture is surprisingly good considering the monitor is from 2006/7.

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 22, 2018

VGA ports are still out there, and while they’re fading into obscurity in lieu of almost ubiquitous HDMI it’s never a bad idea to be prepared.

On the XPS 13 2-in-1, which lacks an HDMI output and relies upon a USB Type-C port with a DisplayPort alt mode to do video out, the multiport adaptor proved a great way to connect an external display:

Hooking up Gigabit Ethernet and a pirate telly HDMI display to the @DellUK XPS 13 2-in-1 via the @STARTECHdotCOM multiport adapter.

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 22, 2018

The downside of the HDMI port is the- as per the current USB Type-C alternate mode specification – it’s only HDMI 1.4b which can carry a maximum of 3840×2160@30Hz. You cannot get a 4k, 60Hz signal out of this so don’t look at it as a means to connect a 4k monitor since if there’s one thing the refresh rate purists can agree on- 30Hz is unbearable! However, StarTech’s 4-in-1 A/V adaptor will do 4k @ 60Hz over DisplayPort at the cost of – well – all the ports! If you need 4k video *and* ports StarTech have a Multiport adaptor with a canny little USB 2.0/3.0 switch that bumps the bandwidth from USB to DisplayPort so it can achieve full resolution performance.

Overall this adaptor is compact, versatile and, as is typical with StarTech, pretty well put together. It’s been rock solid for me for a number of use–cases, and it’s absolutely ideal for working with embedded dev boards (and digital cameras I suppose) on the go. The short cable can be a bit of a fiddle and can result in the adaptor and attached wires getting in your way from time to time, but having it securely connected and possible to wrap over for storage and transport is indispensable. USB Type-C is such a minefield that if you have any more than one cable in your possession you will very quickly confuse them- every cable that’s terminated into the device it belongs to is one less cable for the bundle of ones you’re not sure work with X feature or Y bandwidth.

Right now USB Type-C, as superficially universal as it may look, is all about compromises and if you need ALL THE PORTS on the go and don’t need 4k @ 60Hz video then this adaptor is an excellent choice.

At £150 it’s not cheap, but USB Type-C adaptors and docks seldom are. If you need a Swiss army knife of multiport adaptors, though, StarTech’s Multiport Adaptor combines all the ports you’ll find on Apple’s USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adaptor AND their USB-C VGA Multiport Adaptor plus a whole bunch more for what, by comparison, appears to be a very reasonable price. It’s effectively a desktop dock that fits in your pocket.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, MacBook Pro, Personal Computing, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.