The Advantages of a Thunderbolt Dock And 5 Best To Buy

Desktop laptops are more widely used, practical, and affordable than ever. You only require the proper dock.

A laptop is necessary as more people choose to work from home or alternate between the office and their home. However, from an economic standpoint, it’s a bit of a nightmare, especially if you use the device on your lap. The desktop laptop, a laptop that docks with accessories like a Transformer to become more potent, practical, and comfy, is the solution.

Thunderbolt Dock

You can connect your laptop in a number of ways to a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a trackball, speakers, and any other accessories you require. The most typical structure is undoubtedly some sort of dock. The reliability of USB-C docks varies, especially if you depend on them for an Ethernet network connection.

“I have not had good experiences with those adapters or any USB networking dongles. Thunderbolt NIC or nothing,” Mac user, app developer, and Thunderbolt fan Paul Haddad said on Twitter. 

Utilizing a display as the hub is an additional choice. Depending on the model, you may be able to use one cable to connect your laptop to the monitor and additional cables to attach your peripherals to ports on the monitor. It’s difficult to beat the price if you already have a display at home or at the office, even though these ports are frequently constrained in comparison to dedicated docks.

The best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop

A Thunderbolt dock is now a required piece of equipment as Thunderbolt ports are increasingly seen in laptops. Consider a Thunderbolt dock as a more potent, quick replacement for a USB-C hub that includes I/O connections for monitors, SD cards, external devices, mice, and keyboards. Even your laptop and smartphone may be charged with it!

As laptops get smaller, manufacturers are doing rid of outdated connections and substituting a practical USB-C/Thunderbolt port. Though it may seem unfair, doing so gives you the freedom to select only the things you require. It’s very simple to decide between the best Thunderbolt docks from the list below or the best USB-C hubs and dongles from the list above.

The identical physical USB-C port on your laptop is used by both options. Only 10Gbps of bandwidth is provided by less expensive USB-C dongles, which is only adequate to connect to one 4K external monitor at an eye-straining 30Hz and a few other peripherals. 

Thunderbolt connections and docks provide 40Gbps of bandwidth, which is sufficient for two 4K displays operating at an enjoyable 60Hz as well as many accessories. Thunderbolt 3 can also be used to enable an external GPU for your computer. There is also nothing preventing you from integrating a Thunderbolt dock with a USB-C hub.

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1. IOGear Quantum Dual Mode Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro (GTD737)

The only real flaw in IOgear’s GTD737 is that it only has two DisplayPort 1.2 ports, which act as the only dedicated display outputs. These connectors are located on the dock’s back. (We believe HDMI is more widely used.)

Apart from that, this dock is great and offers practically all the functionality you’ll need for a reasonable price: Two 5Gbps USB-A ports for older mice and keyboards and two 10Gbps USB-C connectors for additional expansion are located on the back. The front of the device has a 10Gbps USB-A port for 7.5W smartphone charging. A headphone jack and a gigabit ethernet port are also present. Your laptop receives 60W from the 2.3-foot Thunderbolt 3 cable via the connected 135W power brick.

Pros
  • Good combination of features
  • Cheap price
  • 60W of electricity for passthrough charging
Cons
  • Display I/O options are limited to two DisplayPort connections.
  • Possibly challenging to locate in retailers
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  • Dual 4K @60Hz displays with a Thunderbolt 3 Laptop
  • Single 4K @30Hz display or dual HD displays with a USB-C with DP Alt Mode Laptop
  • Power Delivery charging up to 60W via external 135W power supply
  • Integrated Ethernet Gigabit network speeds (10/100/1000Mbps)
  • Backed by IOGEAR’s Warranty and Free Lifetime US Based Technical Support

2. Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core

The Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core from Belkin is a well-made, reasonably priced “powered” travel dock for Thunderbolt 3.

The Thunderbolt Dock Core black is compact at 5.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches and offers plenty of versatility thanks to the accompanying 8-inch Thunderbolt 3 wire. Both of my 4K displays receive a consistent 4K/60Hz experience from the HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, which are evenly spread across the flat, black plastic cube. There is a 3.5mm audio jack and gigabit ethernet, however, it will be difficult to distinguish between the USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 Type-A ports because they are not labeled.

Pros
  • Compact
  • Covers two displays with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports.
Cons
  • Unlabeled USB-A ports appear the same
  • Bus-powered
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  • 60W upstream charging allows you to charge your laptop through the dock
  • Compatible with MacBook Pro 13″ M1 (2020), MacBook Air 13″ M1 (2020), Mac mini M1 (2020)
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows Thunderbolt 3 laptops (does not support USB-C output)
  • Connect multiple devices to your laptop through a single dock

3. Plugable TBT3-UDZ Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station

One of the best Thunderbolt 3 docks we’ve tried, with a ton of ports, is Plugable’s TBT3-UDZ. The price is high, though.

The TBT3-UDZ has a headphone jack, microSD and SD card slots, a 10Gbps USB-C port, and a 10Gbps USB-A (USB 3.1) connector on the front. There are two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, five USB-A (USB 3.0 ports), and a gigabit ethernet on the back. Everything is built around Intel’s Titan Ridge chipset. The dock and your laptop are connected by a 29-inch, 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable that can supply 96W of electricity. This powered dock has a sizable 170W charger, as expected.

Pros
  • Countless ports
  • A vertical stand that saves space
Cons
  • Heavy (4.1 lb)
  • Expensive
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  • 100W Max Power
  • 14-In-1 Expansion
  • Versatile dual 4K displays
  • Mac And Windows

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4. Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt Dock

The TBT3-UDC3 by Plugable is a more focused, smaller, and less priced variant of the TBT3-UDZ. On the front of the dock are two USB-A 5Gbps connections for a mouse and keyboard, and on the back is an additional USB-A (10Gbps) port. Alongside it is a pair of two 10Gbps USB-C connectors for additional expansion. There is also a gigabit ethernet.

Ingeniously, Plugable provides two display connection ports—an HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 connector—as well as an HDMI-to-DisplayPort dongle in the package in case you possess two HDMI monitors.

Pros
  • An affordable variation of the Plugable TBT3-UDZ
  • Provides 96W of energy
Cons
  • Just two display ports, although a dongle adapter is provided
Plugable dock
  • 11 Ports of connectivity
  • 100W Charging
  • 4K Display flexibility
  • Wide compatibility

5. HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G4 (4J0A2AA)

This diminutive Thunderbolt 4 dock is far more sturdy than its 1.68 pounds weight rating would suggest. It has ports on both sides, including two back-mounted 7.5W-capable 5Gbps USB-A connectors and two front-facing 10Gbps USB-C ports.

Additionally, there are two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, an ethernet, and a video-specific USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port on the back. We only used two 4K/60 external monitors to test this dock, but if you have a laptop that supports DisplayPort 1.4 and Display Stream Compression or DSC, you can use it to drive three 4K/60 displays.

The 4J0A2AA offers one of the highest Thunderbolt cable power outputs we’ve observed, up to and including 100W, to the host laptop. Thermal problems were nonexistent even then.

Pros
  • Ports are aplenty, plus charging
  • Solid performance
  • No thermal concerns
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  • Front Ports: 1x USB-C data/power out, (USB 3.2 Gen2, 10Gbps Data only)
  • Side components: 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 ports – 1 on each side (charging)(5 Gbps); 1x Kensington Standard Lock Slot (Lock not included)
  • Rigorous testing helps assure dock compatibility across select HP notebooks and select brand competitor notebooks with USB-C power ports

How do I know if my laptop has Thunderbolt?

The quick response is: Verify the laptop’s listed specifications. Since both Thunderbolt and USB-C use the same physical USB-C connection, their appearances may be identical. In other words, all USB-C ports are Thunderbolt compatible, but not all USB-C ports have Thunderbolt capabilities.

A little lightning-bolt icon is designed to be used to distinguish Thunderbolt ports. To signify that a USB-C port can be used for charging your phone instead of a Thunderbolt port, several laptop manufacturers use a similar lightning-bolt icon. It sometimes looks like laptop manufacturers don’t want to add additional logos to their goods because they want them to have clean lines.

There may also be USB-C hubs marketed as “Thunderbolt compatible,” which furthers the confusion. That’s accurate. A Thunderbolt dock can be connected to a standard USB-C connector that isn’t Thunderbolt. It is rather misleading in that aspect because it will be constrained by the bandwidth that the port offers.

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What to look for in a Thunderbolt dock

When purchasing a Thunderbolt dock, ports, cables, and peripherals are the three main factors to take into account.

The Thunderbolt dock industry is starting to segment into a few different categories. Budget versus fully featured docks, which we have already mentioned, comes first. However, you might also notice something akin to the vintage USB hubs: devices that accept Thunderbolt input and then output many USB-C ports, including Thunderbolt.

There are a few displays that can be plugged directly into these hubs that have Thunderbolt inputs. Do you already own a low-cost USB-C dongle? That can certainly be plugged into a Thunderbolt dock to add further I/O capabilities.

Basically, while choosing one, think about what you’ll want to plug into the dock. Since the ecosystem for USB-C devices is still developing, we suggest products with built-in ports (such as HDMI, USB-A, and so on). But be honest with yourself. Do you prefer a Thunderbolt dock that is just equipped with two HDMI ports so that two screens can be connected to it? How important is an SD card slot? How many USB Type-A accessories are you planning to connect? Do you also wish to charge your laptop with the Thunderbolt cable?

Another unanticipatedly significant factor is cables. Almost all docks come equipped with a Thunderbolt cable. But think about your displays (usually HDMI or DisplayPort) and whether the dock can support them.

Examine the power supply for your laptop. Does it use USB-C to connect to your laptop? If so, it’ll probably be powered by a Thunderbolt dock. However, you must comprehend how the dock generates electricity. Check the power output of your laptop’s charger to determine how much power the dock will need to provide to take its place. An alert can appear if your laptop or other gadgets aren’t getting enough power.

An external charger will not be included with a “bus-powered” dock, saving money, space, and power issues. A dock with “power delivery” will generate its own electricity and use the USB-C port on your laptop to charge your phone and/or laptop at the same time. The ability to charge your laptop and any other bus-powered items increase with the amount of power your dock provides. If you intend to connect numerous bus-powered hard drives or SSDs, you should purchase a dock with a sizable power supply because this is a gotcha that most people overlook.

One last thing to think about is the length of the Thunderbolt cable that connects your laptop to the dock. You may have heard or seen reports of USB-C connections on devices wearing out; similarly, a loose or shaky Thunderbolt dock connector might unexpectedly cause monitors to flicker or lose connectivity. Think about how much force will be applied to a cable. The actual connector will be strained if a Thunderbolt dock is hanging from a Thunderbolt port. You do not desire that.

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Welcome if you’re a Mac user and you just happened to find this post. Please be aware, though, that early Apple MacBook Pro models built with Intel hardware may accommodate up to two 4K monitors. The initial Apple M1-powered MacBook Pro models only support a single 4K monitor. Due to this, a lot of Mac users have recently placed unfavorable reviews on Thunderbolt docks on buying websites. Purchase a computer

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