World’s Worst I/O Dock Doesn’t Deserve Elegant Fix

Even spendy commercial products can end up being lemons. This is something [Mike Buss] is familiar with, as he had the misfortune of being stuck using what he declares is the world’s worst USB hub, and it’s not even a mystery discount device from overseas: it’s an HP Thunderbolt Dock G2. It is a sort of combination I/O dock and USB hub, and it caused him no end of frustration until he “fixed” it with a crude workaround.

The problems with [Mike]’s dock come down to two major issues. The first is that the USB-C connection will, if moved even the slightest amount, instantly trigger a disconnect from the host computer. Frankly, that sounds like a defect, but that’s not all. The other issue is that the whole top of the device is actually a giant, hyper-sensitive button. Even a stern gaze seems to be enough to cause it to activate. What does the button do? It puts the host computer to sleep; something that we all agree should suffer from as few false activations as possible.

We’ll spoil the surprise by revealing that the “fix” was nothing more than putting a 3D printed enclosure around the troublesome device, as shown in the image above. Keeping the dock covered and perfectly still at least prevents the two aforementioned issues, and that’s good enough for [Mike].

The curious part of all this is just how badly the device’s design affected normal use. We’d suspect a defect or malfunction, but a cursory search of reviews online suggests [Mike]’s experience isn’t unique. It’s certainly not the first poorly-designed product we’ve seen fixed by a new enclosure, but some problems just aren’t worth the effort of a more elegant solution.

61 thoughts on “World’s Worst I/O Dock Doesn’t Deserve Elegant Fix

      1. They have to. You have to have a malicious intent to have stuff as bad as HP.

        I’ve had three HP printers obsoleted by HP intentionally dropping driver support out of distribution, making them unusable on Win10. The laptops are designed to fail after year 3-4 which is the corporate IT replacement rate. The keyboards and mice are awful like: “We put an Fn button on your desktop keyboard to make function buttons media buttons. No, you can’t change the default in this 90 Euro set. Just keep pressing Fn every time.” WHAT?

        The only thing they still do right is monitors, since they’re just putting bezels around someone else’s panels.

          1. The real HP was spun off several times. The computer business kept the HP name for “branding”

            As if consumers buy consumer products on anything other than price.

          2. The way I think of them is:

            They used to make great test equipment. When they started making computers, the test equipment section were so appalled at the quality that they disowned the name, and became Agilent.

            Sadly, this doesn’t explain why they renamed AGAIN to become Keysight…

        1. Their laptops will last longer if you actually take care of and maintain them. The problem is that most people are not doing the work or taking it to someone that will and even IT departments don’t often have a guy doing maintenance that needs to be done and that is particularly important to do on laptops where your airflow can be restricted within a 6 month time frame unless there is no dust around.

          1. No, I’m sorry, I had an HP laptop in the late 00’s and I very much have to disagree that they just need to be taken care of. The hinge (yes, a thing we humans have been successfully making for literal millennia) was so badly designed that the metal in the hinge starting wearing down into to a metal powder slurry which caused it to seize up so badly that one day it completely ripped the plastic body apart when I opened the lid. Removing the hinge entirely and replacing it with a broken pencil shoved in the hinge hole actually resulted in a better experience than the metal one it came with.

            The only saving grace is that the chassis was so weakly constructed that it broke instead of the screen. Needless to say, I’ve never bought anything from HP since.

      2. Ex HP worker here. Mechanical designer for industrial printers. I can say that is not true.

        BTW. In that position I met the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. Company culture really valued innovation and customer focus. Again, talking about industrial printers. When I left around 3 years ago management was cutting down on innovation though.

        1. Curious, what do you think is the under lying problem that leads to poor products from HP?
          The device in question is from 2018, so was likely developed while you were at HP, perhaps you’ve got some insights you can share.

        2. Ex Maintenance tech. In my days HP made consumer grade equipment and commercial grade equipment. I worked as a service agent and warrantee.

          The commercial grade was good but not the absolute best but certainly worth is cost for reliability. I just recently through out a 1300 series laser printer, it mush have been over 15 years old.

          The consumer grade stuff was crap.

          Dell did much the same with odd features in consumer PC’s so you had to pay the genuine price.

          1. In the ‘olden’ days of HP laser printers, even the ‘consumer grade’ printers were good.

            I had an HP Laserjet 5L that ran for about 25 years. It was still slow, and I had to replace the rubber (paper handling) parts once, but that thing just kept on going.

    1. I think current apple devices are the king of “worst docks” as apple is intent on taking away ports and trying to sell crappy over priced dongles with pig tails you have to daisy chain all over your desk to make work

  1. I had the “pleasure” of getting this thing from company along with my new Laptop – worst thing I ever come across for ages. While I like HP stuff in general I wonder who invented this poor solution for a non existing problem. Furthermore, I would like to point to the pure amount of hardly flexible cables leaving the block on only one side making it prone to undesired moving.
    Ah – yes, I changed my device for a Lenovo…

    1. Well an ready access lock/sleep button is probably a very good idea for those with really sensitive data on the computer in a shared space – much faster than navigating Windon’ts GUI to lock the screen when you get up for more tea… (other OS are available, but business type computing still seems to be WIndon’t more often than not)

      1. Of course you can’t expect users to know tricks on the keyboard other than maybe ctrl-alt-del. Back when i was in the office i had hitting win-L as i got up from my chair down to muscle memory. (Win-L immediately locks the pc)

        1. Most users won’t know such things – all keyboard shortcuts for Windon’t except the three finger salute are almost black magic to most users it seems, also not that well documented – there isn’t that helpful guide or prominent settings tab to customise them and thus help users bump into the concept even. Some Linux distro do have very noob friendly shortcut guides – I’ve seen baked into the default desktop image and the popup on startup guide methods many times on the more beginner friendly distro, or on the distro that have very unique desktop/window managers.

          Also many users don’t even think of such things without a prompt to do so, this thing’s power button somewhat solves both problems.

        2. C-a-d followed by enter locks it too, so that’s a sufficient trick.

          Like you, it’s a reflex reaction on standing up from my desk for me. The number of people who don’t lock their PCs is far too damn high.

      1. That’s not as simple as it sounds, you’d probably have to add a microcontroller in between the button and the USB hub controller, unless you can reprogram the USB hub controller which I wouldn’t have though so. It is probably a lot more work than most people are willing to do.

    2. I’ve had one of these exact docks given to me by my workplace (and they aren’t wrong about a stern look putting your PC to sleep!). This print seems like a nice option for when you are unable to modify the dock.

    3. It’s drastically easier than that, actually. On the back of the dock, towards the top you’ll see a lone philips screw. Remove said screw, and left the button off the top of the dock. Place a post it note, tape, anything non-conductive over the pogo pins on the dock, place cover back on, replace screw. Bobs yer auntie.

  2. I have this damned device on my desk at work and hidden behind the Display so I don’t touch it by accident…
    HP is so bad at usability of there hardware. For example there is this round silver hp logo on the front of the desktop but the power button is a little black rectangle nearly invisible on the black front and it isn’t wide enough to be pressed by a flat finger, you need to use your fingertip. WHY DIDN’T THEY USE THE LOGO AS POWER BUTTON?!

  3. “The first is that the USB-C connection will, if moved even the slightest amount, instantly trigger a disconnect from the host computer.” — This just sounds like bad USB C-sockets. I’ve got a couple of cheap Chinese devices that use some USB C-sockets they must have dug from the garbage bin and they do a similar thing: you have to plug the cable in at some very specific angle a couple of hundred times before it finally is recognized and you can’t so much as look in its direction afterwards or POOF — disconnected!

    Would be an easy fix, if I could be arsed to swap them for working ones, but eh, lazy is as lazy does.

    1. Don’t worry, the connector footprint is probably just different enough from that of good connectors that you can’t swap them anyway, unless they’re just on breakout boards of their own.

  4. Ah – I have USB C nightmares with my Dell TB Dock as well every morning. It takes delicate cajoling to get the USB C connector at the right spot to get both displays working. Put down a coffee mug on the desk, loose a monitor.

  5. I can confirm this stupid functionality. Where the button is not only overly sensitive and worst, with no good feedback.
    At work I like putting my phone on the dock which is the only place free.
    And it took me a while to understand why my laptop was going to sleep.

    Would have been better to use a nice switch with good feedback and add wireless charging.

  6. As owner of the same dock since two years: The button on mine requires a quite firm press and only the first few cm work as a button (and it has a nice satisfying click). I can move my laptop around the table without any disconnects and the thunderbolt cable is user replaceable!

    This dock is one of the better thunderbolt3 docks out there and works very well. Both issues described sound like defective hardware.

  7. Most likely a hardware issue at the button and the usb connector/cable or laptop usb port.
    I had a G2 dock for over 2 years and had no problem with either, even worked fine with samsung dex on my mobile – when at the desk, had the laptop with screen closed most of the time and used the dock button to power it up every single day.
    Surely a ugly brick but far from the worst dock in the world.

    1. Or use plywood or whatever you have lying around and don’t produce more completely unnecessary plastic waste.

      Srsly, there have been plenty HaD articles where one or the other said “Not a hack!” but this one takes the cake.

      Use a shoe box for FSMs sake. Or the last cardboard box you ordered printer filament in…

    2. Maybe the dock was given to them by their company and they cant just fiddle with it as it’s not their property? It’s easy to make assumptions and blanket statements from an armchair without knowing the specifics. How would you like some stranger demanding you use some specific tool instead of another for your own personal projects? Silly isn’t it? I’ll never understand why people who aren’t directly affected get so angry about what some stranger does on the internet with their own time and money.

  8. I haven’t used a HP dock, but on both Asus and Dell the button on the dock works like the power button and is therefore configurable in both Windows and Linux.

    The disconnection when moving the dock slightly sounds like something that needs replacing though.

  9. I have this exact dock with my zbook. The button certainty takes some getting used to but I actually like it. It means that I don’t have to open my laptop to turn it on. I use the start menu to power it off at the end of the day. And I make sure to steer clear when plugging in new devices!

    I haven’t had any USB issues though, that would drive me crazy. That seems more like a defective unit. Having had this dock and a few others like the caldigit ones over the last 4 years I’d say this is actually more stable and has had basically zero instances of “wtf is my dock doing right now?” In the last year that I’ve been using it. That is a more common occurrence with other docks

  10. I got this dock and damn, I just f…ing hate it.
    Can confirm the connection stability
    Thunderbolt drivers in Windows are just a nightmare (sometimes USB just doesn’t work, Windows needs a reboot)
    After screen sleep the display starts to flicker and sound drops
    and by far worst: some minutes after plugging it in the fan goes 100% for no reason at all. Sometimes a reboot helps, sometime time heals the issue, some days you just want to throw it against a wall.

    I want back my old Dell/Lenovo notebook for work.

  11. I have one of these for work, and yes, I hate it.

    The button actually has an easier fix. It only replicates the power button, so all you have to do is disable the function of putting the computer to sleep when pressed. Means you must use the start menu to sleep, but no big deal for me.

    What is far worse is that the dock simply WILL NOT connect if you do not have a monitor attached. Also, if I connect my keyboard and mouse dongle, it disconnects entirely. It also disconnects if you plug it into the USB ports on the same side of the laptop. I assume this is something to do with the root USB controller.

  12. I have the same dock with this stupidly big sleep button. Found out that the slot between the button and house had the perfect size for a matchstick. Stuff one or two in and you have a solid nonpermanent fix.

    1. Came to say this, wondered why he didn’t just print a shim to fit the gap so the button won’t press.

      Strange.

      Other option, get a properly sized o-ring or such to fill the gap.

    2. One single screw and you can take the button off the unit. Underneath are contact pins. Stick a bit of scotch tape over them and put the button back on. Problem solved :) As to the cables going bad, yeah it’s a real problem

  13. Oh god, can totally confirm the suck this dock possesses, beyond abominable. Their previous effort was a smaller shorter dock with a blue bottom, that one, somehow, was much worse. Used to randomly lose connection to one or both of the connected monitors, We have HP laptops, will never buy HP docks again. Seriously reconsidering their laptops as well.

  14. When I got moved to a new building a couple years ago, IT set me up with one of these as we typically have the latest and “greatest” but luckily I had saved the previous gen hp thunderbolt dock from my old laptop and promptly set it up after being infuriated with the G2 for a couple days. About to get a new laptop for a refresh and I’m hoping the power stays the same and I can keep using my OG HP thunderbolt dock.

  15. Button is a module cap. One screw and you can remove it. The unit is made to acomodate an audio speaker module on top, which means the button has contact pads underneath. A bit of scotch tape deactivates that button.

    Now the cable is another story. Passive TB3 40gbps 0,5 cable, combined with power connector. They go bad all the time and cost a small fortune.

  16. I have the same device, for me it’s the opposite: I have to press the button really hard to start up my notebook. But this inconsistency shows the real problem to me: HP seams not to be in control of mechanical tolerances, the initial force on the internal switch due to the housing etc. varies from device to device.

    1. I stopped trying to turn on my system with the dock button because about 75% of the time, the Thunderbolt connection for USB devices wouldn’t boot properly. So my displays would work, but I had no keyboard to type in my password… So now I always have to boot&login with the laptop undocked, then make sure I don’t tap the dock while I plug it in.

  17. My god. I have this exact same device. The alternative was a more traditional minimalist “bar” style device, which doesn’t work/register the majority of the time (known issue with them for these laptops, but HP refuses to acknowledge or fix it no matter how many people report it). These things are a joke. Glad my employer pays for these and not me.

  18. I was looking at this to replace a god awful no name USB-C “dock” which has a very bad NIC that randomly disconnects or weirdly doesn’t process some traffic.
    And they wonder why people dont buy the hyper inflated vendors ones which dont work properly either ?

    next to it is an old Dell with a proper several hundred pin dock which works flawlessly.
    And doesn’t give me a second NIC in the dock, it’s the same NIC as in the laptop.

    USB-C docks have been a massive leap backwards expect for those selling them.
    Ah, progress….

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