Plugable Charging Thunderbolt Docking Station
Last updated date: November 5, 2021
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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.
In our analysis of 55 expert reviews, the Plugable Charging Thunderbolt Docking Station placed 13th when we looked at the top 16 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.
From The Manufacturer
Plugable’s TBT3-UDV Thunderbolt 3 Single Display Docking Station offers high-performance expansion of your Thunderbolt 3-enabled Mac or compatible Windows Thunderbolt 3 system while also providing up to 60W of power to charge the host. Connect a single display up to 4K 60Hz (4096×2160@60Hz) via the integrated DisplayPort output, or an HDMI display using the included Active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. Thunderbolt 3’s massive 40Gbps bandwidth enables you to run your high resolution display connected through the dock at the full native performance of your system’s graphics processor while also enabling access to your wired network and existing USB peripherals. Supports connection to wired gigabit Ethernet networks using the integrated 1.0 Gbps i210 Intel network adapter and 10Gbps peer-to-peer networking when directly connected to a second Thunderbolt 3-enabled system. Provides a combined analog audio input and output jack for connecting stereo headphones and microphone. Provides five extra USB 3.0 Type-A ports for device connectivity (one in front, four in back). Is positioned vertically to save space, and has a removable stand that also allows the unit to placed horizontally. Thunderbolt 3 compatibility is complex, and some features like PCI-E bandwidth, support for 2 displays over Thunderbolt 3, and the necessary firmware updates for docking compatibility (BIOS and NVM) are system-specific. Apple and Dell Thunderbolt 3 systems are currently the best-performing, best-supported systems with this docking station.Please see the ‘Specification Sheet.pdf’ document under the ‘Technical Specification’ section below for a more detailed compatibility list. For details on supported monitor configurations and what components are needed to add a second display, and non-Apple and Dell compatibility, please see additional details below. The dock can provide up to 60W of power to charge the host system, assuming the system supports being charged via its Thunderbolt 3 port. Windows systems require updated NVM firmware, system BIOS, and Thunderbolt/GPU drivers from the system manufacturer (Apple systems provide this automatically). The ability to add a second display depends on design decisions made by your system manufacturer and requires additional hardware, sold separately. Some Thunderbolt 3 systems support a maximum of 20Gbps Thunderbolt 3 bandwidth. The docking station will not function if attached to a non-Thunderbolt 3 capable USB-C port. System Requirements Compatible with Apple and Dell systems which have Thunderbolt 3 support. Other brand Thunderbolt 3 systems may work but not support all of the functionality of the dock. Please see important details regarding system compatibility, frequently asked questions and more below. Compatibility Information Thunderbolt 3 is powerful technology, and system manufacturers have discretion how they implement various elements and features. As a result, compatibility information is complex and some available Thunderbolt 3 systems do not support all the features offered by this docking station. Some systems support a second display using a USB-C video adapter or cable, sold separately. To support a second display via the dock, the system manufacturer must have routed two DisplayPort lines to the Thunderbolt 3 port. Currently all Thunderbolt 3 systems from Apple and Dell meet this requirement, and implementation from other manufacturers varies. Requires updated system BIOS, Thunderbolt 3 driver, Thunderbolt 3 NVM firmware and graphics (GPU) driver from system manufacturer. If you have a Thunderbolt 3 host system which supports two video outputs, a separate purchase of one of the following Plugable adapter models is required: USBC-DP, USBC-HDMI, USBC-DVI, USBC-VGA Please see the FAQ section below for more information. Compatible Systems: Apple Late 2016/Mid 2017/Mid 2018 MacBook Pro and iMac Mid 2017 models with Thunderbolt 3 (13″ & 15″, with and without Touch Bar) Apple 21.5″ and 27″ iMac Mid 2017 with Thunderbolt 3 Dell XPS 12 9250, Dell XPS 13 9350, 9360, 9365, 9370, Dell XPS 15 9550, 9560 Dell Latitude 7275, 7370 Dell Precision 15 3510, 3520, 5510, 5520, 7510, 7520, Dell Precision 17 7710, 7720 (Precision systems with certain CPU and GPU configurations have power requirements above 130W and do not support charging via Thunderbolt 3) Important Note Regarding Dell Thunderbolt 3 systems – Some Dell XPS and Precision models include Thunderbolt 3 support by default, while with other models Thunderbolt 3 is optional. Please ensure your Dell system has Thunderbolt 3 support prior to purchasing the dock. Unsupported Systems: Asus G703VI, Lenovo Thinkpad P50 & P70, Dell Alienware 15 R2, Razer Blade Stealth, Porsche Design BOOK ONE Other Thunderbolt 3 systems may be compatible, but have not been confirmed by Plugable. Please reach out to us directly for more information prior to purchase if your system is not listed above. In the Box Thunderbolt 3 TBT3-UDV docking station, 0.5 meter (20 inches) Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps cable, DisplayPort to HDMI active adapter, quick installation guide and a 20V/6.75A (135W) power adapter (US AC Wall Outlet Plug, 100-240V 50/60Hz) FAQ Q: Does the TBT3-UDV charge/power my system? A: Yes, the dock can provide up to 60W of power to charge the host system assuming the host can be charged via its Thunderbolt 3 port. In order to charge, the system must be connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port on the back of the dock labeled with the ‘Computer’ icon. Q: How much power is provided via the two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back of the dock? A: The Thunderbolt 3 port labeled with the ‘Computer’ icon can provide up to 60W of power. The other Thunderbolt 3 port can provide up to 15W. Q: I don’t like the vertical orientation of the dock, can I use it in a horizontal orientation? A: Yes, the dock stand is removable without tools to allow the dock to be placed horizontally. Q: My Mac system included a 87W power adapter, will the dock’s 60W output charge my system? A: Yes, but at a slightly slower rate compared to the 87W power adapter Q: Is the TBT3-UDV supported in Operating Systems running in a Boot Camp environment? A: Not at this time. Q: Is the Apple Super Drive supported? A: The Apple Super Drive is not supported. Q: Is Wake-on-LAN supported via the Ethernet adapter within the dock? A: No, Wake-on-LAN is not supported. Q: Do I need to install any drivers to use the dock? A: With macOS and Windows 10 and 8.1, the operating system will download and install the necessary drivers. When using Windows 7 64-bit, you will need to install a separate USB and network drivers. Q: Can I add a second display through the second Thunderbolt 3 port on the docking station? A: As noted above, some Thunderbolt 3 systems support two displays, while others only support one. This behavior is entirely based on engineering decisions from your system manufacturer. Q: I’ve confirmed my system supports two displays via Thunderbolt 3. What type of monitors are supported? A: The docking station includes a pure DisplayPort output, which means you can connect a DisplayPort monitor via a DisplayPort cable. If you wish to connect an HDMI monitor, please use the included Active DisplayPort to HDMI converter which supports monitors up to 4K@60Hz refresh. If using a DVI or VGA monitor, separate Active DisplayPort to DVI or Active DisplayPort to VGA adapters can be used. ** Active adapters are required, passive adapters will not work ** Q: Does the docking station work on Linux? A: The docking station does not currently support Linux. Q: Which Plugable USB-C Alt Mode Adapters or DisplayPort adapters are compatible with the dock? A: Please use the included Active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter (maximum resolution of 4K@60Hz refresh) to convert from DP to HDMI. To convert the DisplayPort output to DVI or VGA, please purchase separately an Active DisplayPort to DVI or VGA adapter. Adapter MUST be of the Active type, Passive adapters do not work. For systems which support a second display output through the docking station via USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 Alt Mode, please search for Plugable’s USB-C to video adapters and/or cables on Amazon. Q: Does the docking station support Dual-Link DVI output? A: No. Q: Is there a recommended DisplayPort cable for use with this dock? A: We suggest using DisplayPort cables which are certified for DP 1.2 operation, and shorter cables will generally produce the best results.
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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.
Overall Product Rankings
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.
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