VAVA USB-C Docking Station review: The power-user's hub with a hinky power button

USB-C accessories are in something of a grey area right now, but none more than USB-C hubs. Some USB-C hubs are specifically Thunderbolt 3 for Macbooks, some USB-C hubs use alt-mode HDMI-out protocols that only some laptops can use, and then there's Power Delivery charging speeds, data transfer wonkiness, and good, ol' fashioned FUD. Because of all this wonk — and an ungodly fickle power button — what could have been one of the most exciting USB-C hubs to cross my Chromebook in years is instead my first big let-down in a while.

The Good

  • Has just about every port you could ever want
  • Distinct look and durable aluminum housing

The Bad

  • Capacitive power button is buggier than a swamp
  • Alt-mode HDMI not compatible with many Chromebook models
  • Qi charger is awkwardly placed with limited adjustability

VAVA USB-C Docking Station What stands out

It's hard to ignore how pretty the VAVA Docking Station looks — well, it looks pretty to me, anyway. Imagine someone cursed an Alienware PC and shrunk it down to about the size of a full roll of duct tape, then stuffed a Qi charger on the front and a dozen peripheral ports on the back and bottom front; that's the VAVA Docking Station. Sitting on the back are four USB-A ports (two 2.0 and two 3.0), a USB-C peripheral port, an SD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and two HDMI ports. Around front, there are two more charge-only USB-A ports for charging up your headphones or smartwatch underneath the QI charger.

I'll admit I love having a Qi charger to just plop my Galaxy S9+ down on while I'm working, but I do wish that the magnetic, adjustable ledge to adjust where your phone sits in relation to the Qi charger had more range. It's just too small an area to get the S9+ to charge unless you set the phone down in landscape mode. Some other users have wished that the front-facing USB-A ports were peripheral ports rather than charge-only, but with four USB-A ports already on the back already, I think it's fine. The VAVA has been a functional hub for connecting my keyboard, mouse, and Ethernet to my Chromebooks.

At least it's functional once you actually get it to turn on.

VAVA USB-C Docking Station What stands out in the worst way

The power button on this docking station is a god-damn disaster. The first Docking Station VAVA sent me was so hard to turn on between desk setups and locations that I asked for a replacement thinking I had a faulty power supply. Seriously, I spent over an hour troubleshooting the cables, the power supply, and my fingers trying to figure out why it wouldn't turn on for me. Even now, if I need to power the VAVA back on after a power outage or trip between my desk and my TV for HDMI testing, it can take minutes of rubbing on that button trying to find the Docking Station's sweet spot and turn it own.

Once it's on, it's fine, but for a $100 hub, that's just insane flaw to have to live with.

Joining that power button in the "problems a $100 USB-C hub shouldn't have" club is the HDMI output. The VAVA Docking Station's 2 HDMI alt-mode outputs were incompatible with — and crashed — both the Google Pixelbook and 4K Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630, two $900 high-end Chromebooks. The only Chromebook I got to output at 1080p was the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C330, though VAVA's 8-in-1 USB-C hub — which is $40 cheaper — worked properly with all my Chromebooks.

VAVA USB-C Docking Station

VAVA Docking Station

At the end of the day, once you get the VAVA USB-C Docking Station on, it's a decent, distinctive USB-C hub for getting your keyboard, mouse, speakers, Ethernet, and maybe a couple external drives or an SD card connected to your Chromebook, but there are too many caveats to contend with here, especially at this high of a price.

2 out of 5

If the power button worked reliably, I could almost forgive the HDMI not working at full resolution for every single Chromebook — almost — but if I'm going to pay this much for a USB-C hub and charging station, everything better work perfectly, and this doesn't.

$100 at Amazon

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.