Posted by & filed under Linux, Reviews.

I recently purchased the Dell XPS 13 (9350) laptop, which lacks any dedicated video output ports but does have a USB-C port. This recent Skylake-based laptop is constantly gaining hardware compatibility with Linux with each kernel release, so almost as soon as a new kernel comes out I upgrade. Consequently I’m currently running Linux Kernel 4.6.2.

When I first installed Linux on this machine I believe I was running Kernel 3.19, and later I upgraded to 4.4. It wasn’t until I believe the 4.5 series before I could mount my USB-C Nexus 5X phone. At that point I figured it was time to buy a new USB-C peripheral to get an external display working.

I ended up purchasing this peripheral for $50 from Amazon:

201014-BLK-N

Cable Matters USB-C to HDMI / VGA / Ethernet / USB Multiport 4K UHD Adapter (TB3 Compatible)

This device has four ports: Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, VGA, and HDMI. It draws all the power it needs from the host via the single USB-C wire.

I’m currently typing this post on an external monitor attached to HDMI, using a keyboard simultaneously attached to the USB port. I haven’t tried using the Ethernet port, however I can confirm the device is displayed when running ifconfig. I also tried using the VGA port to and it worked as well. The monitor appears to be running at 60fps (and xrandr output lists it as 60fps).

This device is a sort of docking station; I can leave it at my desk attached to my monitor and a USB hub and only worry about plugging in power and the device when coming home.

I will say, though, that the device is a bit on the big and ugly side. What’s with the checkered pattern on top? Why not make it more squat and put ports on the side? Also, having a USB-C female port on the device would make for a great addition.

I also have no idea how this device performs with other USB-C computers, such as the Apple Macbook. I can only assume it works great, as the Macbook is currently the most popular consumer laptop with USB-C (though, charging would be impossible, lacking a USB-C female port).

Thomas Hunter II

Thomas is passionate about technology and building products. A web design business created while attending college slowly evolved into a brick and mortar on Main St. of his small Midwestern hometown. His desire for fame and fortune led to the co-founding of a Y Combinator startup and a life in California.
Hey there! I'm currently writing a book on Microservices which I expect to release in early 2017. If you're interested in getting updates please signup here. More info about the Book
  • James Muscat

    Thanks so much for posting this – saved me a lot of hassle trying to hunt for one that worked. (Just a shame that the official Dell one doesn’t!)

    I can also confirm the Ethernet port works fine.