CalDigit TS3 Plus Aluminum Thunderbolt Docking Station

Last updated: December 6, 2022

For the widest range of device compatibility, trust this Thunderbolt docking station, which has more ports than most competitors. You'll get plenty of USB hookups, as well as connections for all your peripherals and a high-speed SD card reader. You can connect up to two monitors and retain reasonably good screen resolution.

We looked at the top Thunderbolt Docking Stations and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Thunderbolt Docking Station you should buy.

Product Details

Key Takeaway: You won't have to worry about running out of ports with this Thunderbolt docking station, which has plenty of USB ports.

In our analysis of 41 expert reviews, the CalDigit TS3 Plus Aluminum Thunderbolt Docking Station placed 3rd when we looked at the top 15 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

To The Power of 15 With the TS3 Plus, a single Thunderbolt 3 port from your laptop expands to 15 ports! Power users need as many ports as they can get hold of and the TS3 Plus delivers on this promise. Whether you need multiple USB ports, dual 4K display connectivity, Digital Optical Audio out, or an SD Card Reader, the TS3 Plus packs everything into an incredibly compact unit. Don’t compromise on connectivity with the TS3 Plus! 7 USB Ports With five USB 3.1 Type-A ports and two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, users have a total of seven ports to connect multiple USB devices to their ultra slim laptops. Featuring both front and rear USB ports, the TS3 Plus packs a large amount of connectivity into such a compact device. The rear Type-C port features USB 3.1 Gen. 2 (10Gb/s) which allows users to connect their ultra-fast SSD drives for incredible performance. 85W Computer Charging Thunderbolt 3 incorporates power delivery, allowing the TS3 Plus to charge Thunderbolt 3 laptops. Mac and PC users can put their laptop charger away and power their laptop through a single Thunderbolt 3 cable. The 85W power delivery will charge laptops in no time. The secondary Thunderbolt port can deliver 15W of power to charge other devices. 5K or Dual 4K Displays The TS3 Plus’ extreme connectivity is not just confined to data as it can also achieve extreme visual fidelity. Users have the option to connect dual extended 4K 60Hz monitors or a single 5K 60Hz monitor. The versatile DisplayPort connector can be used to connect to any monitor through the use of an active DisplayPort cable/adapter. Fast SD Card Reader With the advent of digital media, transferring data from SD cards to computers has become an integral part of any project, especially digital photography and 4K videography. TS3 Plus’ SD card reaper supports SD 4.0 and UHS-II speeds with a maximum theoretical throughput of 312MB/s, which means that transferring data from SD, SDHC or SDXC cards will be done in no time. Why use a USB card reader when you can connect through the most powerful interface available, Thunderbolt 3! Digital Optical Audio When it comes to high quality audio playback, every audio enthusiast knows the benefits of using the best equipment to retain optimal audio signals in its purest state . The Digital Audio port allows users to connect directly to their amplifier, speakers, or home theatre receiver for a pure digital signal. You can playback high bit-rate audio files from the TS3 Plus on your stereo amplifier or hear every detail on your TV’s surround sound speakers. Audio from an external docking solution never sounded this good! Thunderbolt 3 Ports The extreme connectivity available through the TS3 Plus is only possible because of Thunderbolt 3’s unprecedented 40Gb/s throughput. Featuring 15 versatile ports that take productivity to the next level, the TS3 Plus has connectivity options for any advanced workflow. Pro users will be able to take advantage of the dual Thunderbolt 3 ports for adding multiple powerful devices into a Thunderbolt 3 daisy-chain. Horizontal or Vertical The beauty of the TS3 Plus’ design allows users to choose how the device is positioned on their desk. Traditionally, most docks are only able to be used in a horizontal position. The TS3 Plus’ sleek design integrates two sets of feet which allow flexible placement in either orientation. What The Press Is Saying “The TS3 Plus is the best Thunderbolt 3-enabled dock that I’ve tried thus far…” 9to5Mac “The most ports and the most useful dock on the market.” Photoshop User “The Best Thunderbolt 3 Dock.” The Wirecutter “…CalDigit’s TS3 Plus is my new favorite. It has all the features I’m looking for in a dock.” MacRumors “CalDigit TS3 Plus is the new King of Thunderbolt docks.” iDownloadBlog Technical Specifications Dimensions and Weight Height : 5.15 inches (131.0 mm) Width : 1.57 inches (40.0 mm) Depth : 3.87 inches (98.44 mm) Weight: 1.04 lbs (0.47 kgs) System Requirements Computer with Thunderbolt 3 Port MacOS 10.12 or later Windows 8, 8.1, 10 or later In the Box 1 x CalDigit TS3 Plus 1 x Power Adapter 1 x Power Cord 1 x Thunderbolt 3 Cable Max. Video Resolution Thunderbolt 3: 5120 x 2880 60Hz DisplayPort : 4096 x 2160 60Hz Compliance FCC, CE, VCCI, RoHS

Our Expert Consultant

Molly Thornberg   
Technology and parenting blogger

Molly Thornberg is a professional writer, creative and mom to four kids, living her best life outside of Dallas, Texas. With a love for all things tech, she is passionate about helping parents raise kids in the digital age. She writes about technology, parenting and humor on her blog Digital Mom Blog.

Expert Reviews

What reviewers liked

The dock has a small footprint — it can stand up vertically or sit horizontally — and weighs in at just over one pound. The aluminum case is built strong, and there's lifetime support and a one-year warranty in case something goes wrong.
The most USB-A ports, plus USB-C ports and an SD card slot; it can charge a 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed.
If you have a power-hungry laptop, you might be pleased to find out that this unit provides an impressive 85W of power. You can use it as a charging station assuming it’s compatible with the host system.
The TS3 Plus is one of the very few TB3 docks that can provide 85W of power to the host computer, meaning that it is powerful enough for mobile workstations like the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro or the Dell Precision 5520.
CalDigit has done a remarkable job over the past four years pulling in the best technologies and putting it into their Thunderbolt Station lineup. With this latest solution, the TS3 Plus, I'm not sure they can make it any better.
Of all the Thunderbolt 3 docks I've tested so far, CalDigit's TS3 Plus is my new favorite. It has all of the features I'm looking for in a dock, including a plethora of USB ports with both Type-A and Type-C options and even a 10 Gbps Type-C port.
I like how compact it is and that it works in different orientations. On my desk, horizontal space is at a premium, which makes vertical mode perfect for me.
The Ultra highspeed II SD card slot provides further transfer choices, making it a great alternative for those who use mobile storage solutions each day and also find themselves in more of a hurry than many.
The front of the TS3 Plus contains the ports you are most likely to interact with often including Headphone out, Line in, both Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, as well as a UHS-II SD Card reader.
The driver-free dock works perfectly from a basic functionality standpoint both in macOS and in a Bootcamp installation of Windows 10. Mass storage devices, input devices, and output devices all work perfectly, just like they were natively plugged into the host computer.
The second factor that you should consider is the inclusion of an SD Card reader. That in and of itself is a separating factor, as a lot of docks lack an SD Card slot for whatever reason. But the fact that the TS3 Plus includes a UHS-II-enabled reader is impressive.
One of the nice features of the TS3 Plus is the built-in UHS-II SD card reader. Many of us are spending more and more time on sets and late at night in hotel rooms offloading data-heavy camera original footage from SDXC UHS-II memory cards.
Personally, I also love the addition of a S/PDIF port, but not many video editors will want to drive an external amplifier with optical input from a computer.
Thankfully, the unit now has a SD 4.0 UHS-II port. That means your fast cards will perform the way they should. I am getting sustained read speeds of approximately 140 MB/s with my Sandisk UHS-II cards. I get slightly higher speeds of 180 MB/s when using the card reader built into my XPS 13.
A real boon, in my opinion, is the addition of the high-speed card reader. It does require you to use an SD adapter and it needs to be a UHS-II type to get the fastest possible offloading performance, but offloading 5.58 GB of image data took only a few minutes instead of the 15 minutes or more with slower readers.

What reviewers didn't like

Cheaper options are available
For everything else, you will likely need an adapter too, especially as there are no HDMI ports (as this would require another converter on the circuit board).
The only drawback is the loss of the dual eSATA ports, which is fairly understandable as I am probably one of the few people who continue to use them every so often.
While the price is a bit steep at $250
It should be noted that the CalDigit TS3 Plus, while small, isn’t as portable as it may appear.
Another challenge has to do with the fact that Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector type. With so many devices utilizing the newer USB-C connection, the demand for USB-C ports is high.
View our Thunderbolt Docking Station buying guide for in-depth advice and recommendations.

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