Thunderbolt 3 Docks Ranked From Best to Worst

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As more laptops come with Thunderbolt 3 ports built in, there’s a new generation of docks that promise to charge your system, exchange data with peripherals and output to dual 4K monitors (or one 5K screen) over a single cable. With prices ranging from $249 to $349, Thunderbolt 3 docking stations don’t come cheap, but they offer the opportunity to connect with high-speed peripherals and newfangled Thunderbolt displays, without installing any software.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops

To help you pick the Thunderbolt 3 dock that’s right for you, we tested seven leading products by attaching them to both a Dell XPS 15 with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics. We found that, despite having very similar sets of ports, not all of the docks worked as advertised, with many failing to charge the Dell laptop, even though all charged a MacBook Pro we attached.

In addition to the Thunderbolt 3 docks we rated below, we also have a list of best docking stations overall, which contains many USB docks. Though they require you to install extra software, USB docks are cheaper, are compatible with more computers and aren’t limited to the maximum resolution that your video card supports like Thunderbolt 3.

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station (TBT3-UDV)

Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is our favorite Thunderbolt 3 dock, because it fulfills all of its promises at a solid price. While it doesn’t include a forward-facing USB Type-C port like some of its competitors, it includes an extra two USB 3.0 ports on the back (a total of four), which I think are ultimately more valuable. The 7.5 x 4 x 1.5-inch device can be laid down on your desk horizontally like most of its competitors, but it also comes with an optional, sturdy stand if you prefer to save some real estate on your desk. Don’t have a DisplayPort monitor? While there’s no HDMI port on the back of the dock, Plugable throws in a complimentary DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, which is a nice touch. However, unless you have a Thunderbolt 3 monitor, you’ll need a Thunderbolt-to-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt-to-HDMI cable to attach a second monitor. Best of all, Plugable’s dock was one of the few docks that charged our test Dell laptop while also outputting to both monitors in 4K.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line Out, Line In, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops

With its lengthy but accurate name, the StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops also fulfilled its promises, powering two 4K monitors while also charging our XPS 15. However, it’s slightly pricier than the Plugable, and it’s less customizable. The StarTech dock is 8.7 inches long and lies horizontally, so it takes up a nice chunk of desk space. It includes a free cable: a USB Type-C to DisplayPort for outputting video from its second Thunderbolt 3 port. If you have lots of peripherals, the USB Type-C port on the front may be helpful, though that means you’ll need to plug your headphones into the back of the dock.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

OWC 13-Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock

OWC’s 13-Port Thunderbolt 3 dock is made for Macs, but worked fine with our Dell XPS 15, providing enough power to charge it. The OWC has more ports than any other dock we tested, offering four USB 3.0 connections, an SD card reader and — for old-timers — a FireWire 800 port. It comes in space gray or silver, just like MacBooks.

Front Ports: SD card slot, headphone jack, USB 3.0
Rear Ports: 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, S/PDIF Out, FireWire 800, Ethernet, 2x Thunderbolt 3, Mini DisplayPort

Kensington SD5000T

If you value security over all else, there’s an expensive dock out there for you. The Kensington SD5000T is a whopping $350 and includes a lock slot, so that your dock will never be stolen from your desk. (You’ll still need a separate lock for your laptop.) Unfortunately, while the dock ran two 4K monitors off our test laptop, it didn’t charge the machine. If you’re a stickler for looks, though, you’ll appreciate Kensington’s restraint; an attractive metal casing surrounds the dock’s black plastic body.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, Kensington Lock Slot, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

IOGear Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station

At best, the IOGear Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is inoffensive. It powered two 4K monitors, but didn’t charge our XPS 15 test laptop. The silver-and-white color scheme is bland, but at least the company put a USB Type-C port on the dock. (Again, I would prefer to see this switch places with the headphone jack, which is on the back.) With a price of $300, this dock is expensive, especially since it includes no other adapters or special features.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD

Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD has the same charging issues as IOGear’s offering, except that, at $349.99, it’s even more expensive. It feels like it’s built solidly, but the 8.2-inch casing takes up a fair bit of space, and its curved edges don’t offer a clean look.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, Headphone/mic
Rear Ports: Ethernet, Headphone jack, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock

When I took it out of the box, I didn’t expect the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock to be this low on the list. It has a modern design reminiscent of both Apple and Alienware, so it made a good first impression. Like Plugable’s dock, Elgato’s offering doesn’t have a regular USB Type-C port, but it also doesn’t add any other ports to make up for it. But on our XPS 15 laptop, it powered two 4K monitors, but didn’t charge the computer. In the box, though, were instructions to download Mac software — something you don’t need in order to use the dock, but the software does give you the ability to safely detach external drives.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out
Rear Ports: Ethernet, 2x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

(laptopmag.com, https://goo.gl/hGXUMM)

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