Well, I finally tried a way more expensive docking station. It is the $220 CalDigit TS3 Plus at Amazon and is way more than the typical $30 USB C Dongle and $30 powered USB hub, but it was getting so frustrating having intermittent connections.
The CalDigit TS3 Plus is really pro grade stuff and comes in a big enclosure relatively speaking. The main confusing things are:
- It has two Thunderbolt ports in the back labels with well a Thunderbolt icon. It is really confusing the way that USB C and Thunderbolt use the same connectors but are totally different electrically. So the first tip is that if you have a Thunderbolt 3 device, then you want to hook it to the "downstream" one. The USB C connectors (there are two) will not work. macOS Big Sur actually tells you that you have the wrong connector which is nice.
- It uses it's own gigantic brick of a charger. I would rather it have used USB C, but at least it can deliver 87W of power. You should check the Apple -> About Mac -> System Report -> Hardware to see if you have the right firmware for this. And that you are charging at 87W. I didn't know that the Mac could report this and it's super useful. In the menu, you can go to the section called Thunderbolt and you see the "Thunderbolt Device Tree" and there should be the TS3 Plus and in it you can look at the actual firmware Version and it should be 44.1 or higher. Nice that it lets you see all this. Then you can look in the Power section and scroll all the way down and you can look at the AC Charger Information and it will give the
Wattageand it should be 87.
- There are two software downloads that you can take and both are in Home Brew as
caldigit-thunderbolt-charging. As with most Home Brew casks, once you install them, it is completely unclear how you run them, but the Docking Utility puts an application in the /Applications folder and I couldn't figure o ut how to run the thunderbolt charging one. Didn't need to since I already had the later firmware 🙂 but when I uninstalled it, I see that it is installing some kind of scary kernel extensions call
- The first lets you mount and unmount USB drive devices automatically. I'm not quite sure why they did this utility as it is yet another piece of system software and you can get the same thing with MacOS eject, so I don't recommend it. Nice to keep your machine really clean.
- The second is the firmware updater. You only need this if your firmware is lower than 1.41
Argh my one ASUS PB278 is still cranky
The main thing I wanted to solve is that one of my PB278 is cranky and will not reliable be recognized. The strange problem is that with the DisplayPort interface it worked the first time with CalDigit and then wouldn't recognize even after multiple full reboots. Even a USB C to DisplayPort directly to it would not work.
I finally tried the CalDigit active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter into the HDMI interface of the PB278 and that seemed to boot at least this time. I might just have a bad monitor. That wouldn't be surprising as the thing is probably 10 years old!