Anker PowerExpand 12-in-1 USB-C PD Media Dock Review (MacBook M1 Owners - Read!)

In the search for a well-rounded dock I came across he Anker PowerExpand 12-in-1 USB-C PD Media dock. It seemed to offer everything I was after to connect my new MacBook Pro (M1 chip).

It promises:

  • 4K @ 60Hz HDMI support
  • Display Port Support
  • Up to 100W Power (with 15 watts being utilized to power the dock)
  • Three 3.1 USB Type A Ports
  • Two USB Type C Ports (primary one to connect to device with Power Delivery)
  • Audio Output
  • Ethernet
  • SD and Micro SD Memory Card slots

The Look
Compared to other USB-C Docks, the design of the PowerExpand 12-in-1 is a little unique. A small round footprint allows this device to stand tall at around 6.5 inches. I do like the aesthetics that Anker has chosen for this device and it’s built with purpose. Most connections for devices that would always be plugged in are hidden at the back while card readers, audio jack and two USB ports are placed on the front for easy access. Anker definitely put their time in on building this dock, kudos for doing so.

Simple Setup
Setup of the PowerExpand Dock is extremely simple. Connect the included 1.8m USB 2.0 Power Delivery cable clearly labeled with a sticker that says “Connect the dock and PD Adapter” into the dock. Plug in all of your other compatible devices from External HDD, SDD storage devices, HDMI or DisplayPort monitor(s), keyboard and mouse (if you’re still into wired peripherals). Finally plug in the included 0.9m USB 3.1 Type C cable clearly labeled “Connect the Dock and Laptop” and you’re all set. There’s a small unfold-able page of instructions in various languages but honestly they’re as helpful as IKEA instructions.

Power Delivery
One other thing I wanted to mention was the Power Delivery feature of this media dock. It claims to support 100W power delivery. This means 15 watts reserved to power the dock itself, with up to 85W for charging. Anker chose to provide a 60W power adapter, though. I’m not sure why they would provide an underpowered power adapter for this dock.

Problem: HDMI Signal Power Cycle
The first time I used the dock it seemed to work perfectly. The second time is when I discovered a major deal-breaker for me. My Monitor (HP 23CW) was not detecting a signal. Being the troubleshooter that I am, I power cycled the dock and the monitor started seeing the HDMI signal again. All subsequent uses required a power cycle (Tech speak for unplug and plug in) for the HDMI signal to work. To verify there wasn’t a problem with my monitor and MacBook I tested with Anker’s inexpensive USB-C to HDMI adapter (model A8312) and every single test from powering on the MacBook, waking from sleep, to power cycling the monitor confirmed that my MacBook and monitor were not the source of the problem.

Support
I reached out to Anker Support and they responded quickly, apologetic for the potential defective device that slipped through quality control. I suspected the same thing and I appreciate that Anker quickly offered a resolution to replace the device. Being that I had not had the dock for more than 12 days I opted to return the device and repurchase from Amazon. Top marks for Anker’s support, though!

Round Two - Problem One
I received a new PowerExpand Dock and quickly went to test it, optimistic that I wouldn’t experience the same problem but unfortunately this dock is displaying the same behavior. I went further, testing the dock with another monitor and no luck.

Intel vs M1
Thankfully we’re a Mac household so I decided as a final test to see if this was happening with an Intel Based Mac. After convincing my daughter to lend me her 2019 MacBook Pro for a quick test I discovered that the Dock did not require power cycling with her Intel based MacBook. This means that the M1 MacBook Pros are not fully supported by this Dock (at least in my opinion)

Now. I realize that throughout this entire review I have referred to this as an issue - I say issue because Anker seemed to confirm it in their support ticket to me my explanation makes it sound defective. Since it works on Intel Based machines it’s really only an issue for owners of the newly released M1 MacBooks.

Final Thoughts for M1 MacBook users: FIRMWARE UPDATE COMING

The promised features, aesthetics and price point make this an attractive purchase but I have to caution M1 MacBook users for now… unless they want limited functionality. It turns out if you DO NOT use the Power Delivery component on the dock (meaning don’t plug it into the wall), then the Dock works with the M1 MacBook. Of course this isn’t ideal but it’s the only way you’ll manage using this without power cycling for each use. Thankfully Anker Support says that a firmware update is coming to fix these compatibility issues.

Final Thoughts for Intel MacBook Users: Buy
If you’ve got an Intel based MacBook the dock hits all points. It looks great, and in my limited testing it works great too. No need to power cycle. No frustrations.

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UPDATE

I’m not someone who gives up on technical challenges easily so even after writing the above review I continued to tinker with things and I came across something interesting. ’

When the supplied POWER USB-C cable is Disconnected from the Media Dock, and relies on power of the M1 MacBook Pro the Display behaves as it should from every form of state change from Power down to Power up, sleep, etc.

So this is some progress for M1 MacBook users. It’s a workaround that eliminates the ability to use Power delivery – BUT – it does provide some additional insight as to where the problem lies.

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IMPORTANT UPDATE!

Anker’s support team has informed me they have confirmed an compatibility issue between the M1 MacBooks and the dock. They have also told me they’re working on a firmware update to resolve this.

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That was actually my guess but thought it wouldn’t be the case since they didn’t say it initially

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Any ETA on when the firmware Update might be released as i’m planning to buy M1 Mac and want to know if the dock is worth it

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Also interested in the date of the hardware update.

For the people looking at this topic, I have the same issue, the external monitor doesn’t work after sleep, unless we power off and on the dock (not the monitor).

We love the dock when it works, but right now I cannot recommend it for M1 mac owners :frowning:

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No official timeline was given to me just that it was something that they’d be working on and inform me when ready. This could take a week or a couple months I guess. A little vague, I know. I am certainly looking forward to getting FULL use out of the dock once this firmware is done.

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Hoi, did not read this warning and now having some problems with my external samsung display.
Monitor is not waking up after sleep and a reboot with a usb-c reconnect is needed.
I have try another 4K monitor iiyama and no problems after a sleep.
So it’s also my Samsung 4k monitor that’s having a problem reconnecting with that Anker/MacBook Air M1.
Question is now where is this problem? in the Anker doc? the M1 serie, the samsung Monitor.
Well my guess is that’s a M1 problem and not Anker because my MacBook Pro 2012 having nog issues with this monitor at al.
I have ordered a original apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter and have to see what’s this is going to be.

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In addition to the dock, I’ve got the Anker USB C to HDMI Adapter and I don’t experience any troubles at all when using an external display and when I do not use power delivery on the dock everything works perfectly too and the dock works as designed with power delivery on an intel based MacBook.

Anker support said they found a “compatibility issue” and that they needed to do a firmware update.

The power delivery component seems to be the source of the problem.

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I have returned this Anker and try that Apple doc en I am surprised to see it working almost fine, and no usb c re-connect ore reboot is needed to wake up that monitor.
One other thing I have now is after waking up iam getting a strange yellow screen, all colors are wrong and yellow-ish.
I can live with this little bug. the other thing is there a so less USB ports ;-( and no network.

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Two months since the M1 MacBooks have been released and still no fix from Anker on this. I do like the dock, it fits the space and there are enough ports for everything I need but to not have the ability to use Power Delivery is certainly a major mis-step.

I’m emailing Anker to get an update.

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I hope they release an update soon to fix the issues you guys are having

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Iam also waiting for new product’s that are M1 compatible cause I had to return my first anker doc.

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I heard back from Anker Support this morning. They sent me a .RAR file that contained a document with instructions, as well as a firmware patch and .exe to flash the dock. Now, while I appreciate Anker’s efforts in communicating with me, an exe does nothing for me because this issue is with M1 MacBooks and Anker docks.

I replied, but I haven’t gotten any further response just yet. Fingers crossed they come back with something more helpful.

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The plot thickens.

Support is asking me to complete the firmware update using a windows computer to resolve this compatibility issue with an M1 MacBook. I like that they’re trying but even my company computer is a MacBook. I’m not a Windows fan. Dropped it years ago. :joy:

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Well. I’m done purchasing Anker products for now. Not impressed with how things have ended up and the support solution of flashing a dock with a windows machine when the issue is related to the dock’s compatibility issue with macOS was a poor one.

M1 Mac users — DO NOT BUY this product until they have developed a proper fix.

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Did you try that update using a windows pc?
Ore was it a poor fix?

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So believe it or not, I do not have any immediate access to Windows computer. Parents (mine and my wife) have Macs. Closest friends use Macs. My company laptop is a MacBook, all usable computers are Macs here. I have an ancient Windows laptop that barely runs Windows Vista. Its painfully slow, and as such does not have USB-C. This fix requires Windows 10.

On top of this, our region is locked down and we cannot visit other people’s houses.

Regardless it seems very silly to address a compatibility problem between the dock & Mac by creating a fix that requires windows.

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More to update. Apple has released macOS 11.2 with some unspecified external display fixes. I have verified that Apple’s Big Sur update does not address this reported issue. Anker Support has also not provided any further response or solution accessible through an M1 MacBook, or even an intel based MacBook for that matter - the only firmware update has been for Windows.

Still overall disappointed at this point and losing hope that Anker will provide any real fix for this confirmed (by anker) dock problem.

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Also if you’re a Mac user… Macs do not support MST so if you plug 2 monitors or more into the dock with DisplayLink then the monitors will al be mirrored unless you download external software. This isn’t a dock problem (my Notebook 9 Pro can support 3 displays (max supported by GPU) with 1 DisplayLink because it uses Windows), it is a macOS problem. Cheers :smile:

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