Last month, CalDigit debuted a pair of, offering the ability to connect dual 4K 60Hz displays, Ethernet, and USB all from one travel-sized accessory that doesn't require its own external power source. Available in dual DisplayPort and dual HDMI versions, CalDigit's Thunderbolt 3 mini Docks are a convenient way to make sure you can easily connect to multiple high-resolution displays wherever you go. I've had an opportunity to test out both versions of the dock, and I came away impressed with their performance, compactness, and usefulness in making sure you have the connectivity you need available away from your usual workplace. Design Both versions of the Thunderbolt 3 mini Dock have the same primarily aluminum design with plastic on the two long edges where the ports line one side and the short built-in Thunderbolt 3 cable exits the other side.
The aluminum is an attractive gray that's significantly darker than Apple's Space Gray shades, and there is a CalDigit logo on the top of the dock. The bottom includes a pair of non-skid strips to help keep the dock stable. Both docks measure just under 5 inches long by about 2.5 inches deep and 0.75 inches thick. That makes them just a bit smaller but considerably thicker than an iPhone 8, and at a little over 5 ounces they're just about the same weight as an iPhone 8 as well.
Overall that makes them much smaller and lighter than a desktop Thunderbolt 3 dock, and they don't require a massive power brick (or any external power beyond the Thunderbolt cable), so they're very transportable. The two versions each include a Gigabit Ethernet port, a 5 Gbps Type-A USB 3.0 port, and a pair of either DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0 ports. The HDMI model also includes a second Type-A USB port, although it is limited to 480 Mb/s USB 2.0.
Performance I tested the performance of both docks using an array of accessories and found solid performance. Both the DisplayPort and HDMI versions offered smooth video performance while connected to dual 4K displays running at 60 Hz with no lag or visual artifacts.
The inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 on the MacBook Pro and iMac has created an entire industry of docks and other accessories that take advantage of Thunderbolt 3's high bandwidth and power delivery capabilities, by providing more ports that can expand a Mac's connectivity. With a variety of ports, the Caldigit TS2 10-Port Thunderbolt Station 2 Dock allows you to connect a wide range of peripherals. This dock contains two bi-directional 20 Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 ports. The Thunderbolt 2 ports also support 4K. Additionally, you can daisy-chain up to six total devices from a single Thunderbolt 2 port. CalDigit's third Thunderbolt 3 dock is on AppleInsider's test rig, and has some connectivity improvements including a discrete 10Gbit/sec USB-C port boosting it above the company's previous offerings.
You'll want to choose the version that best fits your display needs, but keep in mind that the DisplayPort model can also drive non-DisplayPort monitors such as DVI, Mini DisplayPort, or VGA, as long as you don't mind dongles for your dongle. USB 3.0 speeds were fast, with a CaDigit Tuff external SSD registering speeds of 360 MB/s read and 340 MB/s write when connected to a MacBook Pro through the docks.
That's a little slower than a direct connection to a 5 Gbps USB port on a Mac, but in line with performance seen when connecting through other docks and hubs. Backuptrans ipod/iphone/ipad space free up for mac. You'll be lucky to get much more than one-tenth of those speeds when connecting over the USB 2.0 port on the HDMI version of the mini dock, so you'll want to limit that port to mice, keyboards, and other peripherals where you're not trying to move a lot of data quickly.
While there are a number of bus-powered USB-C hubs and docks on the market that offer an array of ports and other options, CalDigit has opted to use Thunderbolt 3's capabilities to focus on the external display connectivity and include only a bare minimum of additional ports. CalDigit says this is in part an effort to remain within the Thunderbolt 3 power specifications, which limit bus-powered devices to a total of 15 watts of draw. USB-C adapters can in some cases be limited to 7.5 watts total, but with so many available ports on many of these docks, it's easy to hit that figure and cause potential power issues.
The USB 3.0 port on CalDigit's mini docks can provide up to 4.5 watts, while the USB 2.0 port on the HDMI model can deliver up to 2.5 watts. Wrap-up These Thunderbolt 3 mini Docks meet a specialized need, catering to those who need to connect to multiple high-resolution external displays on the go, but they do their job well. If you're primarily looking to expand the available ports on your MacBook Pro, you'll likely want to look at other options that offer a greater number and variety of ports and can perhaps run over USB-C. These port-focused USB-C hubs also tend to come in at cheaper price points, with $60 being a common figure. But CalDigit's solution is great for users who need solid display connectivity that cheaper USB-C hubs can't match, while also offering a couple of handy extras in the form of Ethernet and USB ports. Compared to traditional desktop Thunderbolt 3 docks, CalDigit's mini docks are cheaper, easily portable, and don't require external power, so they're handy for on-the-go use.
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CalDigit is currently offering the DisplayPort version of the Thunderbolt 3 mini Dock for, while the HDMI model is priced at, both a $30 discount over their eventual regular prices although CalDigit tells me it plans to offer the promotional pricing for an extended period of time. Both models are also available through Amazon, although they're priced $10 higher than buying directly from CalDigit, coming in at.
Note: CalDigit provided the Thunderbolt 3 mini Docks to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.
Update: The chart listing dock features has been refreshed to include new releases since this article's original publication. That new MacBook Air has a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, and is missing many of the older ports you need to have to connect your peripherals. Fortunately, there are a large number of Thunderbolt 3 docking stations to choose from, but with choices comes consumer confusion. As the market for the docks has grown, it has become harder to decide which dock is the best one to buy.
Tradeoffs abound, between the number of extra ports they add, the additional features that are nice to have, and the price of the unit itself. Ultimately, the kind of dock required for the job depends entirely on the user's current needs, as well as planning for any future changes to their computing environment so there's no need to get another one any time soon.
Why get a dock? Ultimately, the aim of the dock is to connect more of a user's equipment to a Mac. The dock adds more ports at the expense of one existing Thunderbolt 3 connection, while also increasing the usefulness of the Mac at the same time, such as by adding a memory card reader, a secondary audio connection, or more displays. For example, an iMac owner may want to add multiple external drives to expand their storage capabilities, but do not wish to have all of the drives clogging up all of the available ports on the rear. They may also wish to have the extra components connected away from their workspace, so a single cable to connect multiple devices in that way may be a better option.
Kensington SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 dock For MacBook Pro or MacBook Air users, a dock can be used as a way to connect power, all of their peripherals, accessories, and other hardware to their system while at a desk through a single Thunderbolt 3 connection, rather than multiple cables. If they wish to work away from the desk, it's a single cable to disconnect everything, saving time when they have to move. What to look for Of the docks compiled by AppleInsider into the chart, the majority offer two Thunderbolt 3 ports, allowing one to be connected to the host system, while another is free to connect another Thunderbolt 3 device, effectively preventing the user from 'losing' a Thunderbolt 3 port. While many offer USB 3.1 Type-C connections, a few of the docks highlighted rely on it to connect to the host Mac instead of Thunderbolt 3. For the most part, these docks will work relatively fine, but the maximum bandwidth between the dock and the Mac will be reduced from 40Gbps to 10Gbps, making them less desirable for those wanting to push high amounts of data. Belkin ExpressDock HD The ability to deliver power over the Thunderbolt 3 connection is extremely useful to MacBook Pro owners, allowing for charging through the same cable without running a second purely for power. Though all offer power delivery in varying levels, owners of the 15-inch MacBook Pro will want to look at docks with at least 87 Watts of power delivery through a single connection in order to properly charge their Mac.
Again, most docks offer some sort of display connectivity, so users can add multiple monitors to their setup. Depending on the dock, this can take the form of one or more connections, including HDMI, DisplayPort, and Mini DisplayPort, most some including support for dual 4K monitors at 60Hz, assuming you're willing to use your downstream Thunderbolt 3 port to do so. HyperDrive Thunderbolt 3 Hub All of the docks offer USB 3.0 Type-A connections, allowing for the connection of hardware that has yet to graduate to Type-C. The majority also include audio connections, as well as Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting to wired networks, a feature likely to be welcomed by MacBook Pro users. In quite a few cases, the manufacturers included an SD card reader, though some also incorporate a microSD card slot into the design.
Considering the plethora of microSD-to-SD adapters on the market, the latter isn't an essential feature for the vast majority of users. A few of the docks do differentiate themselves by including some lesser-used or older connectivity options, such as eSATA, VGA, and FireWire 800. It could be argued that there could be adapters and dongles on the market that can replicate these depreciated connections, so potential users having an urgent need to use those connection types may still want to look at others in the range —but we'll talk about some older connectors in a bit. That being said, as a dock is bought for its ports, it may be worth concentrating on those offering these extra ports to avoid the need of acquiring said adapters. Though there is probably no perfect solution to each use case, minimizing any extra purchases may be an idea worth pursuing. What do you need? We've summarized nearly all the shipping, fully Mac-compatible options below.
Note that most of these are Thunderbolt 3 docks, with a few USB 3.1 type C docks includes. As such, this list is mostly for MacBook Pro and future MacBook Air owners right now. OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock FireWire 800 is capable of 100 megabytes per second maximum. The last Apple computer that debuted with the technology was in 2012. Yes, they sold it alongside the Retina MacBook Pro for many years —but that doesn't mean the technology is new. In all likelihood, you've got a RAID case with a pair of PATA drives that you've clung on to. If that's the case, those drives are very, very old and it's time to replace them anyway assuming you value your data.
When you buy a new mac, your old stuff doesn't light on fire. Hook up your old gear, and move your data across your network to your new MacBook Pro or iMac. If you simply must keep the drive online, then connect it as a server —and really consider getting the data off. As far as eSATA goes, it is also a deprecated technology, and has been mostly supplanted by UASP support in USB 3. The days of eSATA are numbered —and it was never adopted in any great quantities. CalDigit TS3 If you've got an eSATA enclosure, it probably has USB 3.0 also. Just use that, instead.
If it's a USB 2.0 enclosure, consider pulling the drives out and putting them in a more modern enclosure —or like we advised the FireWire people, transfer it across a network to your new hardware. If you don't want to do that, AppleInsider can confirm that there is a USB 3.0 to eSATA adapter that supports port multiplying cases that works fairly well if not with all chipsets —and it is. As good as they were, the days for both FireWire and eSATA are behind us. Unless you absolutely have to, don't spend good money after bad. An Alternative - eGPU Enclosures If the user simply wants to add more USB 3.0 Type-A ports, simply acquiring a standard USB Hub with a USB-C to USB-B peripheral cable would most likely solve their expansion needs. For those wanting such expansion through Thunderbolt 3, there is another left-field option: eGPU enclosures. A relatively new product category, eGPU enclosures are used to add a graphics card to a Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac, with the intention of considerably boosting their graphical performance.
These enclosures also include power delivery at various levels, with some capable of charging a 15-inch MacBook Pro, and some models also add in extra connections on the rear to fully take advantage of Thunderbolt 3's massive bandwidth. Mantiz MZ-02 eGPU enclosure At $349 and up minus the cost of a graphics card, they —assuming you're looking at boosting the graphics capability of your host machine as well. Where to buy The docks highlighted above are available for purchase from a variety of retailers with instant discounts and/or sales tax incentives.