Last month, we saw that Pioneer – yes – the car audio brand, is venturing into PC components. They have 2.5-inch and M.2 SSDs. A month later, they announced their slew of USB-C devices. Ranging from dongles and external SSDs, one of the device announced was the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock codenamed APS-DKPD001.

The Pioneer USB-C PD Dock, or APS-DKPD01, is an interesting product – it latches on the niche market of laptops that only has USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3. There are only a handful of laptops that only has USB-C, like the new Apple MacBook Pro, the ASUS ZenBook Flip S, and the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe.

The dongle life is a lifestyle that everyone will have to embrace sooner or later, and Pioneer getting a headstart in the Thunderbolt 3 master race.

We have a video review of the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock too, which you can check it out right here.

Unboxing

There’s really nothing much to see within the box itself. It’s a simple box with some information printed on the box itself, but not really enough to know what exactly the dock is capable of. It lacks information on the resolutions supported and maximum power output to charge the laptop.

Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD01)

Digging out all of the contents reveal that Pioneer included all of the basics to get started. There’s a power supply, a very short Thunderbolt 3 cable, a very informative user manual, and also two more C13 wall plugs. Pioneer included a Type-E to C13 wall plug and another Type-A to C13 plug. These C13 plugs are used for desktop power supplies, so you can find an alternative easily – especially for countries with UK plugs since Pioneer didn’t include UK’s Type-G to C13 plug.

The Pioneer USB-C PD Dock is an active dock, by the way. It’ll require power to function. Knowing this, that means this dock is meant to be set up on a workstation. It is not portable.

Design

The Pioneer USB-C PD Dock is covered in plastic all over. The top has a Pioneer logo printed in white and the bottom has 4 little rubber hemispheres as feet. They’re grippy enough to not let the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock slide around, but insufficient friction to prevent the dock from moving while plugging in the audio jacks and USB ports at the front.

Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD01)

Speaking of the front, Pioneer opted for a glossy plastic. Not sure why, but it will surely get scratched easily by USB peripheral and audio jack headers. There is a microphone jack, an audio jack, and also a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port at the front.

Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD01)

At the back, there is a slew of ports. From the left to right, there’s a power jack, the upstream Thunderbolt 3 port that, a USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 port, DisplayPort, HDMI 1.4, Gigabit Ethernet, and two more USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1 ports. There are zero ports on either the left of right side of the dock.

The amount and types of ports on the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock is sufficient enough for most setups – though I do wish that Pioneer would include more USB Type-A ports and also at least a card reader. As SD cards are ubiquitously used for cameras and microSD cards are used for smartphones and IoT devices, it should be crucial for all dongles in the market to have a card reader.

User experience

For me as a content creator, I’ll take my laptop to go out during the photo or video shooting session. When I’m back, I hook up my one single Thunderbolt 3 cable from the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock to my laptop to get it charged and see my photos and videos on a larger screen with comfortable keyboard and mouse. That’s the ideal case – but the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock doesn’t have a card reader.

During my time with the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock, I had a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar at hand. I connected a keyboard, mouse, and a 4K TV to the dock. Then, I connected that Thunderbolt 3 cable from the dock to the MacBook Pro, and everything just works – except for Gigabit Ethernet.

Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD01)

As for that Ethernet port, Mac users will have to head on over to Pioneer’s website to download the driver. Windows users can just plug in and use since Windows Update can get the driver for you. The Gigabit Ethernet port here is powered by a Cypress GX3 controller.

It also charged the MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro was connected to the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock, it had only 7% battery. While it’s charging, I updated the MacBook Pro to High Sierra and by the time the update was complete, the battery is already fully charged.

As for the displays, it has one particular quirk for those who use multiple displays. There is a limitation in resolution and refresh rate. This piece of information is directly lifted from the user manual.

Number of displays

Video output(s)

Max resolution

1

HDMI

4K @ 30Hz

1

DisplayPort 4K @ 30Hz

2

HDMI & DisplayPort

1080p @ 60Hz

Macs can’t use dual-monitors too, but a second monitor can be used to mirror your device screen.

Wrapping up the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock review

The Pioneer USB-C PD Dock works as advertised. Information does get a little scarce when it comes to the dual-external monitor mode, but everything works well. Just make sure that you have a laptop that supports Thunderbolt 3, and you can use the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock without a hitch.

Then comes OS limitation. The Gigabit Ethernet requires a driver, and Mac users will have to download and install the driver beforehand. Also, Mac and Chrome users can’t use dual external monitors. Windows users get to enjoy a pure plug and play experience.

But what about the price? The Pioneer USB-C PD Dock is priced at USD $159.99. Compared to other docks with similar functions in the market, it’s actually quite affordable.

Overall, Pioneer created quite a good dock and priced competitively. Just need a card reader built into it and it’ll definitely be topping those “best Thunderbolt 3 docks” lists.

Where to buy?

Unfortunately for Malaysians, the price of the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD001) is priced at ~RM1,000. You can find it over at Lazada here.

As for our international friends, the Pioneer USB-C PD Dock (APS-DKPD001) is available for USD $115.59 at Amazon. What a great deal!

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Materials
7
Ports
8
Accessories
7
Value
9
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!