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).
- 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
- SD and Micro SD Memory Card slots
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.
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.
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.
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.