Kensington SD1500 USB-C Mobile Dock review

A new MacBook dock can handle a 4K display, VGA, and Ethernet, but lacks passthrough power.

The Kensington SD1500 USB-C Mobile Dock ($89) is another in an ever-larger collection of docks intended for Apple's MacBook and for other USB-C equipped devices.

The SD1500 combines 4K monitor support (over HDMI), gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, and VGA video. What it doesn’t have is power pass-through. It’s clearly intended as a dock you throw in a bag to use for presentations, but not for a working day at a desk. The built-in cord neatly bends into a curved slot for storage.

The combination of VGA and 4K makes the SD1500 stand out from some other docks that feature just an HDMI or DisplayPort connection. VGA is still widely used in corporate conference rooms and classrooms, and it’s clear Kensington knows that market. Adding gigabit ethernet—which tested out at nearly the maximum possible throughput rate—is another nod to that environment, in which a wired connection might be preferable and available. (A driver has to be downloaded and installed to allow some OS X network operations while the computer is sleeping, but networking works without it, too.)

kensington sd1500 02 Kensington

The USB 3 port gave me some trouble. I wanted to test throughput with both a 4K monitor connected and without, as USB-C has to commit some data lanes to DisplayPort video traffic for higher-resolution displays, and that in turn can reduce USB 3.0 rates to 2.0. Because of how the MacBook is set up, I didn’t see a reduction in USB 3.0 speeds, but I wasn’t able to get a MyDigital OTG USB 3.0 drive to work consistently with benchmarking apps.

During testing the SSD repeatedly would stall and then drop off the bus. I contacted Kensington, which tried to duplicate the problem with other brands of SSD, and sent me the reports; they had no problems. I tested the same SSD with a USB-C to Type-A (female) adapter from Apple connected to the same MacBook, and it tested out correctly. A hard drive I’ve used in previous USB 3.0 dock testing worked fine with the Kensington dock as well. I have to put this down to some firmware or interaction issue specific to the drive rather than the dock.

Since the most likely use of the USB 3.0 port is for an external keyboard or other peripherals, drive reliability won’t be an issue for most people in any case, and the problem I experienced seems particular to the mode.

kensington sd1500 03 Kensington

The SD1500 is tailored to an audience, and the $89 price reflects it. Because it lacks pass-through power, you have to fit the profile rather exactly of managing whatever you need to with just two to three hours of battery life, considering the drain may be faster if you’re running the video circuitry in your MacBook for a 4K monitor through the dock.

Bottom line

For the specific needs of the frequent video presenter, the Kensington SD1500 is the most compact, most versatile, and least complicated USB-C dock for the traveling MacBook user.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags macbookaccessoriesUSB-C

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Glenn Fleishman

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?