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Thunderbolt docks are so difficult to find. Blame electric cars

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Thunderbolt docks are so difficult to find. Blame electric cars

Simply testing Thunderbolt docks can be a challenge. It can be difficult for retailers, journalists, consumers, and vendors to test Thunderbolt docks that suddenly disappear from shelves. It’s not getting any better.

Plugable is at the forefront of the battle between rival device manufacturers, trying to locate new supplies of key parts — and in times when it’s needed, the company redesigns products to take advantage what’s currently available. The Plugable TBT3 UDZ, our choice for the most powerful Thunderbolt dock ,, is in stock at press time.

This is not always the case. Bernie Thompson, founder and chief technology officer at Plugable, stated that three of five Thunderbolt docks with power delivery have sold out. (PCWorld recommends docks based on availability, not performance. )

“Every electronics company has been trying to internally reinvent their products in order to switch to the new chips that are now available,” Thompson stated in a recent interview. “Tons and tons of chips have been discontinued in the last few years due to the fact that older chips are not available .”

” We’ve basically just been trying to redesign and align ourselves with the most recent and most current chips. This has produced some features bumps in some cases but also resulted long periods of out-of-stock and increased prices too,” Thompsom stated. “So, more function, higher price, and a lot availability problems .”

Sometimes, that causes a rush for the doors where a bunch of people all do the same thing, and then suddenly that thing which was previously more available suddenly becomes unavailable.”

“And then there’s the problem of a rush to the doors, where a bunch people do the same thing and then the thing that was once more readily available suddenly becomes unavailable .”

Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt dock
Thunderbolt docks from Plugable and its competitors have juggled ever-changing component availability to mix and match features.

Walmart

The problem isn’t that Plugable or other dock manufacturers are not just competing against each other. A year ago, competing for Ethernet PHYs was a huge problem, Thompson said (one that has since alleviated). A Thunderbolt dock, which delivers power, requires both a power delivery control and DC-to DC boost converters. Plugable is now competing with the rapidly growing electric vehicle market.

” And so, when you see car factories shutting down because they don’t have chips, it is also affecting electronics like those that charge your laptop,” Thompson stated. DisplayLink chips, which are used by docks like Plugable’s new UD-3900C4 USB-C Quad Display dock to compress video over a lower-bandwidth USB-C connection, also have “huge availability problems,” Thompson said.

When will it all end? Thompson said he doesn’t know for sure, but the company anticipates it will “selectively” get better in the second half of 2022. Thompson stated that “but the chip shortage won’t be over.” “There will be significant shortages into 2023.”

Meet the UD-3900C4, a quad-display dock

Today, Plugable launches the $349 UD-3900C4, which is interesting for two reasons. It’s advertised as a USB-C docking station and, secondly, it supports four displays. It’s very similar to the existing VisionTek VT8000, which also includes four display ports, and is marketed as a “USB-C docking station,” as well. (Plugable will sell the UD-3900C4 docking station for $349. 00 on Amazon. )

That’s significant, because normally USB-C docks (which use the typical 10Gbps USB-C connection) are quite different than the 40Gbps throughput underlying a Thunderbolt port. Unlike VisionTek, however, Plugable’s playing it conservative: you should only expect four displays at 1080p and 60Hz (1080p60), rather than promising 4K output.

That’s because two display ports on the UD-3900C4 dock use DisplayLink, a compression technology. DisplayLink is not plug-and-play. It requires a driver. DisplayLink’s latency doesn’t make them ideal for gaming but they are fine for office work. DisplayPort Alt Mode is used over USB-C by the other two display ports. Many laptops already support it natively.

Otherwise, you’ll find a traditional mix of ports: a headphone and mic jack, an SD 4.0 card reader, a conventional 10Gbps USB-C port (with 20W of charging for smartphones), plus Gigabit Ethernet and four USB-A ports on the back. Finally, the powered dock supports 100W charging of your laptop. Thompson and other dock manufacturers are concerned about this last capability, and hope to resolve it soon.

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives
Nothing Ear (stick) held by a model on white background



(Image credit: Nothing )

True to form, Nothing has just announced the full reveal date for its upcoming audio product, Ear (stick). 

So, an announcement about an announcement. You’ve got to hand it to Carl Pei’s marketing department, they never miss a trick.

What we’re saying is that although we still have ‘nothing’ conclusive about the features, pricing or release date for the Ear (stick) except an image of another model holding them (and we’ve seen plenty of those traipsing down the catwalk recently), we do have a date – the day when we’ll be granted official access to this information. 

That day is October 26. Nothing assures us that on this day we’ll be able to find out everything, including pricing and product specifications, during the online Ear (stick) Reveal, at 3PM BST (which is 10AM ET, or 1AM on Wednesday if you’re in Sydney, Australia) on nothing.tech (opens in new tab)

Any further information? A little. Nothing calls the Ear (stick), which is now the product’s official name, “the next generation of Nothing sound technology”, and its “most advanced audio product yet”. 

But that’s not all! Apparently, Ear (stick) are “half in-ear true wireless earbuds that balance supreme comfort with exceptional sound, made not to be felt when in use. They’re feather-light with an ergonomic design that’s moulded to your ears. Delivered in a unique charging case, inspired by classic cosmetic silhouettes, and compactly formed to simply glide into pockets.” 

Opinion: I need more than a lipstick-style case

Nothing Ear (stick) – official leaked renders pic.twitter.com/FrhKmRttmiOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that I want Nothing’s earbuds to succeed in world dominated by AirPods; who doesn’t love a plucky, eccentric underdog? 

But in order to become some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, there is room for improvement over the Nothing Ear 1, the company’s inaugural earbuds. 

Aside from this official ‘news’ from Nothing, leaked images and videos of the Ear (stick) have been springing up all over the internet (thank you, developer Kuba Wojciechowski) and they depict earbuds that look largely unchanged, which is a shame. 

For me, the focus needs to shift from gimmicks such as a cylindrical case with a red section at the end which twists up like a lipstick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of theater, but only if the sound coming from the earbuds themselves is top dog. 

As the natural companions for the Nothing Phone 1, it makes sense for the Ear (stick) to take a place similar to that of Apple’s AirPods 3, where the flagship Ear (1) sit alongside the AirPods Pro 2 as a flagship offering. 

See, that lipstick case shape likely will not support wireless charging. That and the rumored lack of ANC means the Ear (stick) is probably arriving as the more affordable option in Nothing’s ouevre. 

For now, we sit tight until October 26. 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers
Woman watching YouTube on mobile phone screen



(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kicking Studio)

You might soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.

According to a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) highlighted on Twitter by leaker Alvin (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users have reported seeing 4K resolution (and higher) video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available to stream in up to 1440p (QHD) resolution.

The apparent experiment only seems to be affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests owner Google is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality video in the future.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that Google has been searching for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform in recent months. In September, the company introduced five unskippable ads for some YouTube users as part of a separate test – an unexpected development that, naturally, didn’t go down well with much of the YouTube community. 

A resolution paywall seems a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change isn’t likely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, given that many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway. 

Of course, if it encourages those who do care about high-resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package, it may also be more lucrative for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 per month.

Suffice to say, the subscription service hasn’t taken off in quite the way Google would’ve hoped since its launch in 2014. Only around 50 million users are currently signed up to YouTube Premium, while something close to 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis. 

Might the addition of 4K video into Premium’s perk package bump up that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see whether this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site’s daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

USB-C als Ladestandard in der EU

Mundissima / Shutterstock


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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