CalDigit TS3 Plus Aluminum Thunderbolt Docking Station

Last updated date: December 6, 2022

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CalDigit TS3 Plus Aluminum Thunderbolt Docking Station

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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.

Update as November 11, 2022:
Checkout Stay Connected With The Best Thunderbolt Docking Station for a detailed review of all the top thunderbolt docking stations.

Overall Take

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.

In our analysis of 55 expert reviews, the CalDigit TS3 Plus Aluminum Thunderbolt Docking Station placed 3rd when we looked at the top 16 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

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

16 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

410 user reviews

What experts 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.
- Windows Central
August 19, 2019 | Full review
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.
- New York Times Wirecutter
January 23, 2019 | Full review
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.
- FabatHome
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.
- Tech Radar
January 14, 2019 | Full review
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.
- Tweak Town
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.
- Mac Rumors
September 5, 2018 | Full review
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.
- I Download Blog
January 30, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Tech Zimo
June 6, 2019 | Full review
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.
- PC Perspective
March 12, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Apple Insider
February 25, 2017 | Full review
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.
- 9to5Mac
February 8, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Studio Daily
March 1, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Visuals Producer
February 8, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Fstoppers
February 3, 2018 | Full review
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.
- KelbyOne Insider
July 7, 2018 | Full review

What experts didn't like

Cheaper options are available
- Windows Central
August 19, 2019 | Full review
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).
- Tech Radar
January 14, 2019 | Full review
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.
- I Download Blog
January 30, 2018 | Full review
While the price is a bit steep at $250
- PC Perspective
March 12, 2018 | Full review
It should be noted that the CalDigit TS3 Plus, while small, isn’t as portable as it may appear.
- 9to5Mac
February 8, 2018 | Full review
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.
- 9th Avenue Studio
May 25, 2018 | Full review

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.

An Overview On Thunderbolt Docking Stations

Workers are more mobile than ever. Whether you report to an office 40 hours a week or not, chances are you have a need to take your computer with you when you leave. Docking stations have long been a convenient way for workers to enjoy the mobility of a laptop while still having access to the screen, mouse and keyboard they prefer when they’re seated at a desk.

With a Thunderbolt, you get the benefits of speedy technology to charge compatible devices quickly. But as technology and parenting blogger Molly Thornberg explains, Thunderbolt docking stations come in a variety of options.

“Each Thunderbolt Docking Station has its own unique set of ports and features,” says Thornberg, the brains behind the Digital Mom Blog. “Research before buying a docking station to ensure that all of your needs are covered. Some commonly found ports and features include: additional Thunderbolt ports, USB-A ports, USB-C ports, computer charging, displays, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD reader and an audio port.”

But there are several things to consider before you choose a docking station. The first is compatibility with the devices you use every day. With some docking stations, you can plug in multiple electronic items, which means you can charge your mobile devices while using your laptop. You’ll need to check to make sure your docking station has ports that will work with the cables that connect to your devices.

When it comes to ports, advances in technology have made things a little complicated. You’ll see both USB-A and USB-C ports advertised, as well as the rating of USB 3 and USB 2. These are standards applied to data transfers, and both USB-C and USB 3 are newer. You’ll recognize USB-C by its smaller port size, as seen on newer computers and mobile devices. USB-A is the type you’ve seen for years, with a larger port on both the devices and the cables you plug into them.

When looking at ports, consider all the things you’ll need to plug in. If you prefer to have two monitors, make sure your docking station will support that and check how much the video quality will degrade when the signal is split between two monitors. Also keep in mind whether the ports are in the back or front of the docking station, as that will influence how far your cable will have to reach.

There are some cosmetic considerations, as well. You probably have limited space on your desk, so a docking station that sits vertically rather than horizontally can provide some relief. You should also take a look at the basic design of your docking station, as it will become an important part of your office aesthetic.

For many people, it may not matter, but for photographers and videographers, an SD card reader is essential. These professionals often need to quickly offload photos or videos to a memory card at the end of each day. If they’re in a rush, the process of transferring the data can be cumbersome. With a good SD card reader, you can get the high-speed transfer you need, allowing you to spend less time waiting and more time working.

The Thunderbolt Docking Station Buying Guide

  • You likely already know what devices you want to dock. If you need your docking station to power a MacBook Pro or PC, you’ll want a unit with plenty of power. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock is compatible with the Apple MacBook Pro.
  • The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock provides 85 watts of power, which is plenty to charge a 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed.
  • An 85-watt docking station will also provide enough power for you to set up a compatible host to serve as a charging station.
  • For compatibility, you’ll need to make sure your chosen Thunderbolt will work with the devices you have.

“Using just one Thunderbolt port on your computer, a docking station expands that to however many ports your particular docking station offers,” Thornberg says. “These additional ports come in handy when your computer or laptop does not have the ports you need built-in, if you are out of ports or want additional functionality.”

  • The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock can connect to any Windows or Apple device that has a Thunderbolt 3 port on board. Thunderbolt 3 was released in 2015 and designed to provide fast connections to docks.
  • The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock promises to offer the most ports, and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll get 5 USB-A ports, ideal for plugging in hard drives, mice and keyboards. You’ll also get two USB-C ports for devices that support that. Some models have two USB-A ports, while other models have two USB-A ports and one USB-C port.
  • If you’re limited on desk space, look for a docking station with a smaller footprint. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock stands upright to minimize the real estate they consume.
  • Those who need to transport the dock from home to work and back again may want to look for a lightweight model. You may find a unit that comes in at only 6.4 ounces, but the CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock measures around one pound. Other models can weigh as much as 3.25 pounds, making them best for those who plan to keep the docking station in one place for the duration.
  • Whether you’re regularly moving your docking station or not, you’ll likely want a unit that’s built to last. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock has a strong aluminum case that should hold up against anything that might fall on it.
  • As you’re looking at ports, pay close attention to which docking stations have easy-to-access connections on the front of the device. Since your docking station will most likely be on your desk, not having to reach around to plug in those often-used items will come in handy. Your keyboard and mouse may be fine to stay plugged in permanently, for instance, but you’ll be connecting and disconnecting items like your laptop and headphones on a daily basis.
  • Some consumers use mobile storage solutions regularly. If you’re a professional photographer or videographer, for instance, you may need to quickly download your footage for safekeeping when you return home at the end of each day’s work. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock has an Ultra High Speed II (UHS-II) SD card reader to transfer your data at lightning-fast speeds.
  • If you prefer to use multiple monitors, consider the CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock can handle up to two monitors along with the usual peripherals. However, if you’re going for the highest resolution possible, you may notice resolution starts to degrade once you’ve split the connection between multiple monitors.
  • Resolution can be an important feature, especially if you’re a gamer or you watch video on your monitor. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock lets you connect two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor. Other models give you 4K resolution on up to two monitors.
  • The overall design of your docking station may come into play, particularly since it will become a prominent part of your office environment. The CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock looks similar to a router.