Update : Following the release of our original Thunderbolt 3 or USB C dock recommendations in the Since then Ars has been testing new docks and hubs ever since. Below we have updated our selection in the run up to the Christmas shopping season 2019.
The introduction of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports and the legacy port transition did not go smoothly. PC and smartphone OEMs started using USB-C connectors a few years ago because they allowed companies to make thinner devices with faster ports. By comparison, USB-A ports, which we all know and love about USB sticks, take up a lot of device space, they do not handle data transfer as efficiently as new ports, and they charge limited in terms of multiple connections and connections.
USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are the way of the future, but most of our accessories are in the past. PC and smartphone OEMs default to USB-C. Therefore, users often need to search for an adapter or dongle to connect to any existing peripherals. In addition, many new peripherals still use the old connectors.
There are always USB-C and Thunderbolt 3-docks – box-shaped devices that are stung by USB-As, HDMIs, DisplayPorts and SD card readers – and other ports. A dock or hub connects to all peripherals so you can connect it to your PC with just a single USB-C port. But not all docks are the same. After reviewing a variety of features available today, we've found that users should look for some key features to determine which option is best for you to close the gap between your PC and anything you want to use with it ,  Note: Ars Technica may earn a compensation for sales through links to this post through affiliate programs.
The Short Version
- Since the first release of this manual over a year ago, CalDigit's TS3 Plus continues to rank at the top as our favorite Thunderbolt 3 dock . With this dock for $ 309, you get what you pay for: it offers one of the fastest data transfer speeds on any of our tested docks, so data transfers between a portable SSD and your PC with the TS3 Plus are as fast as they were when you closed the SSD directly to your PC. We also love its compact, industrial design, which includes all the ports you would ever need, and its ability to drive up to two external 4K 60 Hz displays.
- Cable Matter's second was Thunderbolt The 3-Dock offers almost the same advantages as the CalDigit, but is less elegantly designed. However, it is cheaper for $ 239.
- Even more favorable is our budget tip the new CalDigit Pro Dock for $ 199. In addition to its attractive price, the CalDigit Pro Dock can be used with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C PCs. So it's a good option if you do not know exactly which USB-C port your device has or if you are. You want to give it away and do not know the features of your recipient's PC.
- Cable Matters has produced our favorite non-Thunderbolt 3-USB C-Dock in its USB-C Dual 4K DisplayPort Dock . Like CalDigit's Thunderbolt 3 accessories, Cable Matter's USB-C dock combines an elegant design with fast transfer speeds and a variety of connectivity options at a great price of $ 169. It also features dynamic bandwidth switching, which allows you to control the speed of data transfer in relation to the quality of your connected external displays.
- Meanwhile, Kensington's $ 99 SD2000P Nano-Dock is our reasonably priced choice for the USB-C side, because it offers some of the best technical features in our top pick in a smaller device cheaper price is delivered. We also like that it can be mounted with the purchase of additional accessories via VESA.
- For those who want a travel-friendly hub the OWC Travel Dock is the best option for $ 55. It's pretty fast when it comes to data transfer, especially considering that most hubs and adapters sacrifice speed while trying to be as portable as possible. The connection to your laptop is made via a connected USB-C cable that hides underneath the device when not in use, and the power is switched on so you can charge your laptop via this cable.
- If you're looking for more Compact Device with an Ethernet connection, consider the $ 60 VAVA USB-C adapter.
|Specifications at a Glance: CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Station|
|Connectors|| 2 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB C 3.1 Gen 1
1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
5 x USB-A 3.1
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
1 x SD Card Reader
1 x Digital Optical Audio (S / PDIF)
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x analog audio input
1 x analog audio output
|Display options||Two displays (up to 4K @ 60Hz) or On Display (up to 5K @ 60Hz)|
|Dimensions||5,15 x 1,57 x 3,87 inches|
|Compatibility||MacOS 10.12 and later, Windows 8/10|
CalDigits unpretentious, Industrial-looking TS3 Plus Thunderbolt The 3-Docking Station offers the best combination of performance, connectivity and design versatility of any tune we've tested derbolt 3-docks. It has not only the smallest footprint of all, but also the most connections.
Most users can easily connect mice, keyboards, and other legacy peripherals through the five USB-A 3.1 ports and the four USB-A 3.1 ports. C ports provide a number of connectivity options. Two of them are Thunderbolt 3 ports (one of which is the PC port), the other two are USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 and USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, so you can choose between different transmission speeds.
As our benchmark charts show, the CalDigit TS3 Plus did not always achieve the fastest transfer speeds or read / write speeds, but was consistently one of the front runners. The differences in the results between our three main options were typically minimal as they all had a read / write speed that was roughly the same as the standard read / write speed achieved when the Samsung T5 SSD was connected directly to the MacBook Pro or XPS 13 2-in was connected. 1 via a Thunderbolt 3 connector.
The TS3 Plus reloaded the MacBook Pro and the XPS 13 relatively quickly – the MacBook Pro was charged from 50 to 100 percent in just over an hour. It took the device the longest time to charge the iPhone 6S Plus via one of the USB A-port ports. But even then, it only took two minutes longer than Plugable's Thunderbolt 3 Dock and 13 minutes longer than the Cable Matters device. In addition, all TS3 Plus USB-A ports support 7.5W charging so you can power on multiple accessories at the same time. Most of the other docks we tested had a single USB A port.
The DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 ports on this hub allow users to connect up to two 4K 60Hz displays or a 5K 60Hz display. You need an adapter to get the highest possible refresh rate and screen fidelity when connecting more than one screen at a time. But the option is there for you.
The design of the TS3 Plus sets it apart from the competition. The relatively small silver metal box measures 5.15 x 1.57 x 3.87 inches and distributes its connections thoughtfully on the two longest sides. The back panel contains the Thunderbolt 3 connector on the PC, as well as an additional Thunderbolt 3 connector, four USB-A 3.1 connectors, a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 connector, a DisplayPort, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, a digital optical S / PDIF audio connection and DC connection. The front panel houses an SD card slot, analog audio input and audio output connectors, a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 connector, and a USB-A 3.1 connector.
I've especially appreciated the variety of forward-facing ports, as they allow the port to make temporary peripherals and accessories easier. Depending on your configuration, access to the back of the dock may be blocked or obscured by a network of cables. It would be very frustrating in this situation to find a port like a headphone jack between a variety of other ports on the back of a dock.
On the underside of the TS3 Plus is a light gray, rubbery pad that allows you to position the dock horizontally or vertically without damaging your desk. Most other docks take up a lot of space because they are horizontal on your desk. The added flexibility of the TS3 Plus design is therefore a practical advantage. The dock is enhanced by CalDigit's Docking Station Utility program (available as a free download from the support site), which allows you to detach individual accessories from the dock. You can uniquely and securely disconnect the eGPU from the external drive without the need for other accessories, such as the eGPU. For example, disconnect screens and mice, or select the option to disconnect all devices at the same time.
CalDigit's TS3 Plus is the dock I want on my desk, not just for its design, but for its performance and rounded port selection. It's slightly more expensive than our other top picks, but its benefits justify the price of $ 299. Good
- Compact design with numerous connections.
- Supports digital optical audio output.
- Includes additional USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 ports.
- Adapter required to get the highest possible refresh rate when connecting more than one display.
CalDigit TS3 Plus
Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 Dock
|Technical data at a glance: Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 Dock|
|Connectors|| 2 x Thunderbolt 3
5 x USB-A 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x SD Card Reader
1 x Headset / Microphone Combination
|Power Supply||60 W|
|Display Options||Two Displays (up to 4K @ 60Hz)|
|Dimensions||9.1 x 3.4 x 1.1 inches|
|Compatibility||MacOS 10.12 and later, Windows 10|
Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3-Dock makes compromises in versatility, but fortunately not in performance. Compared to CalDigits TS3 Plus, this dock has the same number of USB-A ports, but it lacks extra USB-C ports, it does not support S / PDIF output, and it only has a 60W charging power for your device host laptop. In addition, only one of the USB-A ports supports charging, so you can only charge one phone, tablet or other device at a time.
However, the performance is quite good. The Dock Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 outperformed the CalDigit dock in most benchmark tests, albeit with a slight lead. Our three top options have all produced fast transfer and read / write speeds, so they all work fast and efficiently when transferring data. However, if speed is the most important factor in choosing a Thunderbolt 3 dock, you should choose the Cable Matters device.
The device has an HDMI port for video output and not a DisplayPort Buy the right cables and adapters for your monitors. It is also possible to connect a second 4K display via the second Thunderbolt 3 port (which is not intended for connection to the host PC).
The Cable The Thatterbolt 3 Dock by Matters does not look as elegant on your desk as the CalDigit because it's just a long metal and plastic panel that can only be placed horizontally on your desk. I appreciated the ports on the front of the device (two USB-A ports, the SD card reader and a headphone / microphone port), but the rest is at the back edge of the device. While there's nothing wrong with the design, it's boring compared to the CalDigit and Plugable (the former will be discussed in the next section). However, this is one of the tradeoffs you will make for the $ 219 device. Overall, it's a solid dock with excellent performance at a reasonable price.
- High read / write speed and data transfer performance.
- More affordable than the CalDigit TS3 Plus. Bad
- Boring, bulky design.
- Does not support S / PDIF output.
Cable Matters TB3 Dock
CalDigit Pro Dock
Specifications at a Glance: CalDigit Pro Dock Price $ 199 Connectors 1 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3 x USB-A 3.3 Gen 1
2 x DisplayPort 2.1
1 x SD Card Reader
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack
Power supply 85 W Display options Thunderbolt 3-PC: two displays (4K @ 60Hz) / USB-C-PC: two displays (720p) or one display (4K @ 30Hz) Dimensions  8.43 x 3.15 x 0.98 inches (214 x 80 x 25 mm) Compatibility macOS, Windows 10
The new Pro Dock by CalDigit is not just a reasonably priced Thunderbolt 3 Accessories for $ 199, but also works smoothly when connected to one of the two computers Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C PC. As explained above, there are a number of differences between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, and some features are only available on devices with Thunderbolt 3 ports. The Pro Dock by CalDigit adapts to the way it works, regardless of which USB-C port you connect it to. This is a good option for those who do not know which port their PC has (or receive as a gift and not received) know the specifications of the recipient's PC.
When connected to a Thunderbolt 3 PC, the Pro Dock supports data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps, charging a dual monitor output for 4K monitors up to 60 Hz through its two DisplayPorts and a maximum of 85W from laptop charging. When connected to a USB-C Gen 2 device, data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps, dual 4K with 30 Hz monitor output, and 85 W laptops are supported. First-generation USB-C devices expect 5 Gbps maximum data transfer speeds, a dual HD monitor output, and a maximum load of 85 W for laptops.
The Pro Dock is also compatible with the latest iPad pros, allowing users to connect the tablet to an external display, and connect peripherals and accessories such as external hard drives.
We were impressed with the data transfer speeds of the Pro Dock, and as we tested these docks with a MacBook Pro and an XPS 13, you'll find that the speeds are quite high as the Thunderbolt 3 ports on these laptops support faster data transfer speeds ,
Although the device has a good range of ports, it only has one additional Thunderbolt 3 port that supports only data transfers. You can not daisy chain a monitor through this port, but CalDigit has added two display ports on the back edge of the device to compensate for this. However, the Pro Dock can be sequenced in a sequence when appended to the very end of a Thunderbolt 3 chain. Note, however, that the Pro Dock (and other devices as well) have lower performance farther away in the chain it receives from the host PC.
Despite the inconvenience of concatenating, the CalDigit Pro dock is priced at $ 199 and offers great value for money. Most Thunderbolt 3 docking stations are still over $ 200. This is a great option for those on a tight budget who want the convenience of a docking station that works well with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C PCs.
- Solid and relatively affordable dock that works with Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C PCs.
CalDigit Pro Dock