It doesn’t matter when you’re utilizing a brand new MacBook Professional with Apple’s M1 chip or a Mac Mini from a number of years again — you’ll want a Thunderbolt 3 dock to offer your laptop the connectivity it deserves. A very good Thunderbolt 3 dock gives you a number of extra ports. The perfect Thunderbolt 3 docks offer you extra, permitting you to show your laptop computer right into a desktop with a single connection.
We tried out 10 completely different Thunderbolt 3 docks on a number of laptops to check consistency, energy, usability, and worth. Thunderbolt 3 could be a agency normal, however that doesn’t imply these peripherals are all made equal. Whereas audio, Ethernet, and USB connectivity could be steady, options like exterior show help have been very hit and miss.
With that testing in thoughts, a number of choices simply stood out from the gang. The perfect Thunderbolt 3 dock is the , not solely due to its compatibility but additionally its dense port choice.
The perfect Thunderbolt 3 docks at a look
The perfect Thunderbolt 3 dock: CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock
The CalDigit TS3 Plus dock is well one of the best Thunderbolt 3 Dock you should buy. It’s dependable, constant, and consists of each port conceivable.
It needs to be clear by now that CalDigit produces well-behaving merchandise. The TS3 Plus was probably the most dependable and constant dock we examined, with its sibling, the USB-C Professional, falling only a step behind. Every of the laptops we examined labored higher with the TS3 Plus than with every other dock, enabling handy plug-and-play virtually throughout the board. It was extremely refreshing to easily plug in a laptop computer and watch each of the shows join at a full 60Hz.
The TS3 Plus additionally gives probably the most complete array of connections and 87 watts of energy supply. You get 5 USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, one extra Thunderbolt 3 port, each audio out and in connections, a digital optical connection, an SD card reader, and Gigabit Ethernet. The one draw back is the only DisplayPort connection, which means you want a dongle to attach a second show. CalDigit even managed to pack all of that connectivity right into a field that’s comparatively small in comparison with among the competitors. It’s not an actual looker, however it’s a extremely purposeful brick that doesn’t take up an excessive amount of house and gained’t stick out in your desk.
Theis dear at $250, nevertheless. However the additional price is properly price it for the range of connectivity and the spectacular compatibility and reliability. If you wish to be as certain as you will be in selecting a dock that may work along with your laptop computer, then the TS3 Plus is your best option.
The least costly dock that we examined was the Cable Issues Twin HDMI Thunderbolt 3 Dock. It’s additionally probably the most moveable, making for a pleasant journey companion.
At round $100, the Cable Issues TB3 was the clear decide for this class. On this worth bracket, you normally have to offer one thing up, with full-featured docks working across the $200 mark. Remarkably, the TB3 provides up little or no.
What the Cable Issues dock provides up most of all is energy supply — it’s absolutely powered by the laptop computer and doesn’t even include an influence brick. However that’s OK as a result of that additionally makes it a extremely moveable dock. Simply stick it in your backpack alongside along with your laptop computer, and you may transfer from workplace to workplace with ease.
The best Thunderbolt 3 dock for MacBooks: CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock
CalDigit has two possible placements in this category. Its TB3 Plus and USB-C Pro docks both worked best with the MacBook Pro 16 out of all the docks we tested.
However, the USB-C Pro was more reliable overall, requiring fewer reboots to get everything up and running. The best part? It works with non-Thunderbolt 3 laptops as well and is a bit cheaper than the TB3 Plus.
The CalDigit USB-C Pro is easily the prettiest dock we tested, featuring a long, shallow design marked by a dark gray aluminum that matches MacBooks well. It goes far beyond just aesthetics, though.
The MacBook Pro 16 we tested here was a finicky machine when it came to connecting to both of the 4K displays. It’s the only laptop that routinely needed to be rebooted for everything to connect correctly, and that included from session to session. In other words, even once we had everything working, if we rebooted the laptop, we would sometimes need to reboot again to get both displays to connect. That was true with all of the docks, but the CalDigit USB-C Pro was by far the most reliable in this regard.
The USB-C Pro is the best dock to use with the MacBook Pro, and it provides a robust set of connectivity. You get three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, audio in and out, an SD card reader, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The two DisplayPort inputs provide dongle-free connections to two external displays. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the USB-C Pro is that it can also connect to laptops with non-Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. You’ll need to drop down to the USB-C specifications, such as two 1080p displays instead of 4K and much slower bandwidth, but it’s an excellent option for anyone who needs to support more than one laptop.
Theis also on the lower end of the price scale at $200. Given its exceptional reliability, 85-watt power delivery, and compatibility with USB-C, the USB-C Pro is a solid second choice behind the TS3 Plus.
All of our previous picks are Thunderbolt 3 “docks” in name only. The Kensington LD5400T is a literal dock, wrapping around the back of your laptop to give you a single, cohesive unit.
The LD5400T is quite large as a result, but it has the connectivity to justify its size. It comes with four USB-A 3.1 ports, a single DisplayPort connection, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, 3.5mm in and out, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one that delivers up to 85W of power and another for video or daisy-chaining.
It lacks an HDMI port, but you can still use a dual-monitor setup using the DisplayPort and a Thunderbolt 3 port. With a single screen, the HD5400T delivers 5K at 60Hz, while with two screens, it delivers 4K at 60Hz.
The LD5400T comes from Kensington, so unlike our previous picks, security is a big talking point here. Alongside the connectivity, there’s a Kensington Lock slot, allowing you to tether the dock if you have a cable. Even if you don’t, there are other ways to secure the LD5400T.
It comes with two mounting holes on the bottom, so you can mount it to a desk for a permanent setup, as well as a removable cable lock, allowing you to tether the dock wherever you go. The two hinges that wrap around the screen and make thea proper dock lock, too, using the two included K-Fobs. You can assign one or both K-Fobs to your unit and lock and unlock the hinges with a tap.
The HP G2 is a modular dock that stands up to the CalDigit TS3 Plus when it comes to connectivity, but not build quality. It’s not built poorly, but the G2 is constructed out of plastic, despite being more expensive than the TS3 Plus.
It’s the detachable speaker/microphone combo unit that sets the G2 apart. You can purchase the G2 without this audio module, but we’d recommend picking it up as a combo (HP charges $20 for the dock as part of the combo but charges $65 for it on its own). The module is Skype for Business certified, and it connects to the G2 without cabling — perfect if you’re working from home.
The G2 isn’t a slouch when it comes to general connectivity, though. On the back, the G2 comes with two USB-A 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, two DisplayPort connections, a single USB-C connection, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and a VGA port (if you still have a VGA monitor kicking around).
Additionally, the G2 comes with a 3.5mm jack and USB-A 3.0 port on the side, as well as a USB-C connection on the front. Situating the ports in this way is great, allowing you to tuck away the cables running to your monitor and laptop while still having access to a few USB connections for quick switching.
The only downside is the Thunderbolt 3 cable that runs to your laptop. Theis only 2 feet long, and although you can replace it, you’ll need to order a kit from HP and take apart the G2 to do so.
Why you need a Thunderbolt 3 dock and what to expect from one
Even one of the best laptops will be connectivity-challenged. Whereas desktop PCs have scads of ports and inside expandability, laptops are caught with what ships from the manufacturing facility. Nowadays that may imply being restricted to solely USB-C or Thunderbolt 3.
If you wish to enhance your cupboard space, add an exterior show, connect with an Ethernet, or maybe plug in an SD card, you’ll want both entry to the correct port or a dongle. In fact, generally, you simply can’t join all the things all on the identical time, and that’s an actual problem when you want your laptop computer to behave as your predominant system in your workplace house.
That is the place hubs come into play. These hubs plug into one of many USB ports in your laptop computer and might provide the means to accommodate a spread of tech wants. Nonetheless, nearly all of USB hubs, together with the hubs explicitly designed for USB-C, are certain by the quantity and what forms of information they’ll switch. USB-C can ship 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) and may enable for an “alt mode” that may be part of two 1080p shows at 60Hz.
Thunderbolt 3 breaks all of the boundaries. Firstly, it could actually help a most of 40Gbps of bandwidth, enabling you to concurrently join and work with quite a few peripherals. Secondly, the Thunderbolt 3 helps HDMI and DisplayPort proper out of the package deal, letting you be part of a most of two 4K shows at 60Hz. That represents a considerable distinction. You can even daisy-chain Thunderbolt 3, which may permit you to intertwine as much as six Thunderbolt 3 machines collectively.