Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock 0A33970: one USB 3.0 cable from your laptop gives you 5 USB 3.0, 1 Gigabit, and 2 DVI outputs

Posted by Paul Braren on Jun 3 2012 (updated on Dec 1 2013) in
  • Laptop
  • Productivity
  • Reviews
  • Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock 0A33970 is available on Amazon here.


    Pictured above is my temporary test rig, trying out my new video output options that go well beyond the 2 monitor-outputs at a time max on my previously used LenovoThinkPad Mini Dock Plus Series 3 433830U. You can see the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 at right, with its own 1920x1080 LCD, driven by the NVidia Quadro 1000M Discreet Graphics chip, an external VGA connection from the side of the laptop, and a USB 3.0 connection to two DVI attached monitors, so 4 screens total.

    Currently, my highest resolution monitor is 1920x1200, but in the future, the USB 3.0 dock should be able to handle 2560x1600, given the DisplayLink DL-3000 series chip inside this unit. The exact model is the dual-head DL-3900, which sets it apart from Toshiba and other predecessors. Yes, this thing has integrated Gigabit Ethernet (shown in Device Manager as "Lenovo USB Ethernet") and Audio (shown as "Lenovo USB Audio").

    Oct. 02 2012 Update:
    Unfortunately, I've now learned that this dock will never work beyond resolutions above 2048x1152, since it doesn't have DisplayPort outputs, explained by DisplayLink in this Aug 2012 article:
    so I went with a Nixeus 2560x1440 monitor with a DisplayPort input, and am directly attaching to my laptop whose specs state 2560x1440 support over DisplayLink, and planning on using the dock for just my 3rd 1920x1080 screen under Windows 8

    Here's the kicker: I don't see any reason this cannot be used with any other brand of laptop, or even desktops that are short on video outputs, particularly for casual/business use. I'm not claiming to need GPU accelerated gaming. But in my final configuration, I still use my laptop's discreet graphics connected directly to my primary monitor, so I'm really using the dock as a way to get extra DVI and USB 3.0 ports.

    For more backstory, see also the article I wrote before this unit had even been released/shipped:


    Laptop lid closed, external monitor only, BIOS set to Discreet Graphics, with Boot Display Device set to Digital 1 on laptop:

    • 1 DisplayPort to DVI Accell adapter connecting from the DisplayPort jack out the left side of the laptop, to the DVI cable going to the primary 24" 1920x1200 monitor
    • 1 DVI connection on USB 3.0 dock connected to 19" 1280x1024 monitor
    • 1 DVI connection on USB 3.0 dock not yet used, ready for future 2560 x 1600 or similar monitor use
    • 1 VGA connection from the left side of the laptop, to an old TV with VGA input

    As is the case with any multi-monitor setup, I still have some tweaking to do, particularly brightness adjustments, evident when you look at the screenshot of screens above.


    So far, so good, no new flaws in the displays picture quality noticed, and no slowdown in browser scrolling and/or HD video playback. Occasional very brief pauses (

    I can't say it' the cleanest looking arrangement if you try to do away with the full size dock.
    An arrangement with USB 3.0 dock ONLY pictured on the left, and full-sized dock with USB 3.0 dock on the right.

    [update, I have stuck with using the docking station, with a USB 2.0 connection to keyboard, and USB 3.0 connection to the USB 3.0 dock, from the side of the laptop, works fine for grab-and-go]


    For me, I don't dock or undock very often, nor do I need to reach for the power button (by opening the lid) very often either. I keep the noise and heat and cables tucked away far from me and my external monitors anyway, using a ThinkPad USB Keyboard with TrackPoint, and an old external Bluetooth mouse. In the right-hand photo above, clockwise from the left, you'll see my:

    • USB 3.0 cable
    • VGA cable
    • Accell DisplayPort to  DVI cable
    • Power plug (from 170 watt power supply)
    • USB 2.0 cable (to an external, remote hub, which didn't seem wide to plug into USB 3.0 hub)
    • CAT6 Gigabit Ethernet cable
      FYI, in the past 9 months, I had nothing but fits with automatic monitor detection, everytime I returned to my workstation back when I used the full size dock, and now, I don't, works great. This saves me about 45 seconds of beeps and screen extender fixes every time I sit down to return to work. So that's a bit annoyance finally conquered, a nice side-effect.


    Lenovo's "ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock - Overview" information site:

    Lenovo's brief YouTube video about design:

    LESSONS LEARNED, so far:

    • Uses 0 watts when plugged into outlet and turned on, with no cables connected at the rear (idle).
    • Uses about 6 watts with a couple of DVI monitors, and goes up from there (9 watts with external Lenovo DVD burner), very low for what is essentially a little GPU.
    • The included drivers seem stable, although I did have to move from one USB 3.0 port to another at one point during the initial install, for mysterious reasons (this hasn't recurred).
    • The included "Lenovo DisplayLink Manager" software doesn't do much really other than give you convenient tray controls to bring up Windows 7's native resolution settings controls, and check on updates to the DisplayPort based video drivers set.
    • The monitors attached through the USB 3.0 dock won't display any signal until Windows is initialized, which makes sense, but is something to consider when you're planning your configuration. I worked around this by hooking up my primary monitor directly to the DisplayPort on the laptop instead, with the BIOS set to Discreet Graphics with Boot Display Device set to Digital 1 on laptop.
      Here's the steps I believe would be smoothest for the install on Windows 7. I should note though, that I plugged the unit into USB 3.0 and powered it up, before using the CD install, per the included instruction sheet (not available online yet). But this only resulted in only about half of the devices getting appropriate drivers installed automatically, seen in this video:

    turns out video has issues, my copy isn't viewable, I'm sorry to say

    So it'd likely be best to instead install the software first, which I outline below:

    1) Download and install USB 3.0 driver
    Version dated 29 Apr 2012 (or later) from:
    (later versions will likely get published at Drivers and software - ThinkPad W520)

    I've had issues with the stability (for large file transfers) and speed (for USB 2.0 thumb drives), so getting the latest USB 3.0 drivers handled first just makes sense.


    2) Download and install NVIDIA Quadro 1000M Display Driver for Windows 7 (64 bit)
    Version dated 25 Apr 2012 (or later) from:
    [support.lenovo.com/en_US/downloads/detail.page?DocID=DS014142]( http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/downloads/detail.page?DocID=DS014142)
    (later versions will likely get published at Drivers and software - ThinkPad W520[)]( http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/downloads/detail.page?DocID=DS014142)

    Reboot when prompted.

    3) Use the "ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock -  Includes software and User Guide" CD that comes with the unit,
    If you cannot find this software at Drivers and software - ThinkPad W520, use the CD to to install the Lenovo DisplayLink Manager software and drivers, which requires another reboot.

    For reference, as of May 31st, 2012, the sticker on the back of the CD envelope says:

    Date:2012/05/24  S/O 8727927

    Here's the download site for later versions, when available:
    ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock - Publications and Driver

    4) Plug the ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock in, and power it up
    plug the power supply into the back of the unit, and into a wall outlet
    attached provided USB 3.0 cable to USB 3.0 port on laptop
    press the power button on the top to illuminate small red LED


    given the included DisplayLink Display Adapter (4302) driver is dated 11/8/2011 (7 month old), version 6.1.32700.0:


    here's a complete look at all the relevant sections of my Device Manager:


    5) Add 1 or 2 DVI monitor connections to the back of the unit, and power on the attached monitor(s)

    They should quickly be recognized by Windows, in under roughly 10 seconds, leveraging native Windows 7 multi-monitor abilities. That's it, you're all set!

    Unboxing video:

    Demonstration of booting ThinkPad W520, showing the 3 monitors come up quite quickly after Windows 7 starts:

    PS: It was an awkward moment, when UPS guy (carrying the Lenovo dock that required signature) and FedEx guy (carrying 10' DVI D cables from Amazon) arrived 4:29pm May 31st, simultaneously:


    June 4, 2012 Update:
    I noticed:

    a) USB 3.0 isn't always initialized on the W520 at boot, leaving me without that monitor. This isn't the dock's fault, but hints that I'll likely be updating the USB 3.0 driver, when available. I'm no stranger to USB issues:
    but rebooting resolves it, and it only happens roughly every 4th reboot. I don't reboot often. This behavior could be an achilles heal for any USB 3.0 devices I attach though, especially if this behavior is never fixed.
    (update, this issue has been resolved, using a different brand of monitor)

    b) The secondary monitor attached to the dock  sometimes goes blurry, this is easily addressed by making sure the  "Optimize for Video" is turned off:


    which I now found is supposed to be turned off for Windows 7 anyway, according to  page 21 DisplayLink Graphics Adapter User Manual (Lenovo hasn't published one yet).

    See also the release notes/driver downloads site:

    After reading the release notes, I'm realizing that this DisplayLink-published 6.3 driver is from 18 May 2012,so it's much newer than Lenovo's 6.1 from Nov 2011. But 6.3 also flashes the firmware. Hmm, I don't know for sure if it's compatible with the ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock, so I'll just wait until Lenovo published an update instead, I can certainly wait, everything is quite well already.

    Similar Targus product review makes mention of poor Gigabit performance as well:

    Jul. 31 2012 Update:
    Lenovo's Tips for ThinkPad USB 3.0 Docking (0A33970) now available!

    DisplayLink's Issues with USB 3 host controllers and DisplayLink now available!

    StarTech.com's USB 3.0 to Displayport® External Video Card Multi Monitor Adapter – 2560x1600 USB32DPPRO is coming soon, which states full 2560x1600 support.

    For my 2560x1440 requirements for my new 2560x1440 monitor, until Windows 8 and new DisplayLink drivers/firmware possibly get me 2560x1440 via USB 3.0, I'm using this Accell DisplayPort to DVI Adapter, connected to the DisplayPort socket built in to my ThinkPad W520 laptop

    Oct. 02 2012 Update:
    Unfortunately, I've now learned that this dock will never work beyond resolutions above 2048x1152, since it doesn't have DisplayPort outputs, explained by DisplayLink in this Aug 2012 article:
    so I went with a Nixeus 2560x1440 monitor with a DisplayPort input, and am directly attaching to my laptop whose specs state 2560x1440 support over DisplayLink, and planning on using the dock for just my 3rd 1920x1080 screen under Windows 8

    Oct. 09 2012 Update:
    New USB 3.0 to DVI adapter from Lenovo here. But like the full dock review above, apparently also limited to 2048x1152 maximum resolution support, which is disappointing of course. So I went with a 2560x1440 monitor that has DisplayPort built right in, reviewed here.

    Nov. 10, 2012 Update:
    Rough going with Windows 8, described here and here, so needs a bit of time for drivers to mature.

    Nov. 23 2012 Update:
    Unfortunately, if you were hoping to use your iPad as an extended monitor under Windows 8, it appears that DisplayLink has pulled the plug on development and support of that ability.


    DisplayLink iPad App
    Unfortunately, the DisplayLink iPad app is no longer available or supported. If you are interested in muultiple monitors for your PC, Windows tablet or Mac, then check out the USB products available in the DisplayLink shop.

    Dec. 10 2012 Update:
    Newer drivers and more information available at this new article, success at last!
    How to enjoy Windows 8 on your Lenovo ThinkPad W520 laptop, with 3 external monitors, and an external keyboard and mouse

    Dec. 01 2013 Update:
    If the high resolution is all you're after, then perhaps something like this newer product is a better choice for you:
    StarTech.com USB 3.0 to DisplayPort  2560 x 1600 External Video Card Multi Monitor Adapter  (USB32DPPRO)