With the help of a Thunderbolt 3 dock, you can greatly expand the functionality of your computer. As long as it’s equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 port (many Mac computers are), you can connect more devices such as printers, hard drives, and more. There are many situations when a Thunderbolt dock can become useful. For example, if you regularly work on your laptop, but then need to move over to your desk computer which has lots of peripherals. To make the transition smoother and connect everything at once, just connect the laptop to the Thunderbolt dock and you’re done.
One common computer problem you can experience is the lack of enough connections or ports. This can happen for both laptop and desktop users, and a solid solution would be a Thunderbolt 3 dock if your device is compatible with this interface. A Thunderbolt dock is not the same thing with a hub which only expands the availability of the same type of port. Docks are more useful because you can connect multiple different devices to cover all your workstation needs.
What are the particular features of a Thunderbolt 3 dock that can help you discover the ideal model for your needs? Find out by taking a look at the following guide. You might also be interested in our articles about the best thunderbolt to hdmi adapters and the best hard drive docking stations.
It depends on your particular needs, but most people are probably better off by going for a model with more ports. Even if you currently consider a certain port unnecessary, it might prove useful to have it in the future. Some ports like USB-A and video output are very handy to have. There are more obscure port choices like eSATA and FireWire that you can probably live without, but you never know.
It’s recommended to visually inspect Thunderbolt docks to figure out if any particular model would be a fitting choice. There are different sizes, colors, and designs for the products on the market. A common design choice for manufacturers is to create docks that lie horizontally, but there are also models designed to stand upright. With a smaller and more compact dock, you can save some important desk space. This kind of Thunderbolt dock should be your primary option unless you really need extra ports or features that require a larger device.
3. Charging capability
Having the ability to charge your MacBook Pro can be a worthy feature to consider in a Thunderbolt dock. Look for a special connection option in that sense. If that’s something you’d be interested in, make sure you check the power delivery capabilities too. Some bigger MacBook laptops require more power to get an adequate charge.
Thunderbolt 3 docks aren’t really popular products considering they can only be used by those with computers properly equipped with the necessary Thunderbolt port. This is why the market doesn’t contain that many products. Despite this fact, your choice isn’t necessarily easier to make. There are some strong contenders out there if you know where to find them. To simplify your selection process, we’ve assembled the best models here considering the value per cost. Check out the best Thunderbolt 3 docks for the money.
Our first option for a Thunderbolt 3 dock is the Plugable TBT3-UDV. This is a very performant device which comes equipped with pretty much all the ports you might need. There’s also an ability to deliver a maximum of 60W of charging power for any compatible host. This docking station has a lot of expandability potential. You can connect up to 5 USB devices via the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports. One of these ports can be used for charging devices and is placed on the front panel of the device along with the audio jack for quicker access.
A DisplayPort output allows you to make the connection with a 4K display. There’s also the possibility to add an HDMI display if you use the provided adapter. Wired Gigabit Ethernet networks are within your reach as this dock can accept connections to them. Up to 60W of power can be supplied to help with the charging process of your laptop. Not all devices can support charging through the Thunderbolt 3 port, so make sure yours can do that. In terms of overall compatibility for this Thunderbolt dock, the issue is not a simple one. It depends on your specific model, but in most cases, Apple and Dell systems work well.
When it comes to construction and exterior design, this docking station seems to get things right. Its robustness is quite evident to the touch considering the anodized aluminum used. The metallic gray finish offers a professional look for the device and it’s nice to see you can place it both horizontally or vertically. Overall, this elegant-looking dock by Plugable deserves the top spot on this list of the best Thunderbolt 3 docks. The TBT3-UDV model works flawlessly with a wide range of systems and enables users to hook up plenty of extra peripherals. The support from Plugable is also one of the best in the industry, so you know you’re making a smart investment here.
- Can deliver a maximum of 60W of power
- DisplayPort output
- Premium anodized aluminum construction
- Vertical or horizontal orientation
- Great system compatibility
Another capable unit from Plugable is the UD-ULTCDL. This model has a more affordable price tag and comes with somewhat more limited features. This little dock doesn’t support newer macOS versions. Any later editions than 10.13.3 aren’t supported, but the good news is that certain Windows computers are compatible. There’s a lot you can do with this capable little Thunderbolt dock. One of its most appreciated features is the ability to hook up more displays to create a bigger workstation. You can connect a maximum of three other monitors and there’s even support for higher resolutions such as 4K.
This dock works using an Alt Mode video output which goes directly to the GPU for the best processing power. The great thing about this is that any connected monitor in this way will perform just as well as your primary connected display. The problem is that you need to carefully check to see if your system supports this type of video output because many are incompatible. Besides video outputs, this unit comes with one USB-C port in the rear. With this one, you can supply power to certain host systems that accept it. A more basic USB-C port is also placed in the front and to connect some more peripherals you can rely on the nice collection of four USB 3.0 ports (three in the back, one in the front).
Other important connections include the Gigabit Ethernet port to gain access to the high-speed wired Internet and the audio jacks on the front for convenient headset connectivity. As mentioned in the introduction, this dock will only be able to work well with select Windows systems and older Mac computers. Easy to set up and use, the Plugable UD-ULTCDL could be considered a reliable contender if you’re searching for a Thunderbolt 3 dock. At this cost, it’s difficult to find a better alternative taking into account all its ports and features. The charging power is a nice bonus.
- Can connect a maximum of three extra displays
- 60W charging power
- Two extra video outputs
- Alternate Modes support
The CalDigit TS3 Plus is a great all-around Thunderbolt 3 dock which comes with an impressive array of connectivity ports. We can count 7 USB 3.1 ports as well as LAN, DisplayPort, and SD card slot. It’s compatible with many Mac and Windows systems and promises the ability to have dual 4K displays. The initial impression you get by visually inspecting the exterior of the dock is definitely a positive one. The dock looks sleek and compact in its reliable aluminum construction with a silver finish fitting for any desk space. No fans will bother you with their noise in this device as it comes equipped with an incorporated heat sink. Place the device either horizontally or vertically.
If you have a power-hungry laptop, you might be pleased to find out that this unit provides an impressive 85W of power. You can use it as a charging station assuming it’s compatible with the host system. It can also be used to deliver power to peripherals that demand it. Having multiple displays connected can definitely enhance your productivity. This dock enables you to do just that and without compromising on viewing quality. Using the DisplayPort and USB-C outputs you can hook up two 4K monitors. There’s also the option to add just one 5K display if you wish to.
The total amount of ports you can take advantage from in this Thunderbolt 3 dock is 15. Besides the video ports, you can add all your favorite USB devices thanks to the 5 USB-A slots. Other connectivity options include the Gigabit Ethernet, audio jacks, and SD 4.0 card slot. While the CalDigit TS3 Plus is the most expensive product from this list, it’s safe to say the cost is fully justified. The Thunderbolt 3 dock works in a very reliable manner when it comes to connecting dual 4K displays, charging your laptop, or reading your SD cards. Highly recommended to save up some more and get this model.
- 15 connectivity ports
- 85W laptop charging
- Can connect a maximum of two 4K monitors
- UHS-II SD 4.0 card slot
- Mac and Windows compatible
A compact budget-friendly Thunderbolt 3 dock to consider is the UD-CAM Mini made by Plugable. Despite being so small, this dock is quite powerful as it features a good variety of ports, as well as 85W of charging power. It can take the functionality of many compatible systems to the next level. This docking station is designed to have a small impact when it comes to taking up space on your desk. It’s one of the smallest Thunderbolt 3 docks from Plugable and can help to improve the abilities of your system in some interesting ways. Two of the most appreciated features of this unit are the Alternate Modes and Power Delivery.
Thanks to Alternate Modes you can transmit specific non-USB data and stuff like native video over a USB-C cable. This is especially useful when you wish to add a bigger display to your setup and still enjoy a fluid high-resolution. The maximum you can get with this model is a single 4K display. The other feature that can be found appealing by many is the Power Delivery. This allows for convenient charging of supported laptops. You can take advantage of 85W of power assuming your host system offers compatibility.
Some other capable ports to use in this device are the four USB 3.0 slots, Ethernet, and audio jacks. Those who want to save up even more desk space could rely on the included VESA mount to enjoy more freedom of placement for the docking station. All things considered, the Plugable UD-CAM Mini represents a viable option if you’re in the market for a Thunderbolt 3 dock and lack more funds. It may not be as fully-featured as other units out there, but the low cost could be very attractive to many people who don’t have particularly high demands from this kind of device.
- 85W charging power
- Small lightweight design
- Single HDMI output
- Four USB 3.0 ports
- Includes VESA mount
If you’re searching for a Thunderbolt 3 dock with power delivery and balanced features for its cost, the StarTech TB3DK2DPPD might be an ideal choice. This universal docking station has a lot in store for those who plan on connecting more peripherals to their system, especially when it comes to multiple high-res monitors. You can add a maximum of two 4K monitors using this Thunderbolt 3 dock as it comes equipped with DisplayPort and USB-C ports. Creating an expanded workstation is right within your grasp thanks to the multitude of connections possible, besides just video outputs.
With the help of this device, you can utilize more USB peripherals and you can even charge certain mobile devices using the special USB Fast-Charge ports. Speaking of charging, the dock supports Power Delivery up to 85W for powering various laptops and other connected devices. Many Thunderbolt 3 systems should play nice with this dock, and some examples include HP Spectre and MacBook Pro. The device supports the maximum throughput of Thunderbolt 3 for maximizing your productivity. Other included goodies are the network port and audio jack.
The construction of this docking station gives off a well-polished feeling to the touch. It seems durable enough, but the design seems a little uninspired. The horizontal orientation is not an ideal solution for this kind of device when it comes to using desk space more efficiently. The audio port is found on the rear which is a bit strange too. A sleek and compact solution for a docking station, the StarTech TB3DK2DPPD deserves some more recognition at this cost. With the help of this device, you can take advantage of the fast Thunderbolt 3 technology to boost your productivity with an expanded workstation. The compatibility is solid, and the charging feature works just as expected.
- Can connect dual 4K monitors
- 85W charging power
- DisplayPort video output
- Multiple cables included
- Compatible with various MacBook Pro and Windows laptops
The last Plugable product to take a look at is the TBT3-UD1-83. While it lacks host charging, it does come with some interesting abilities for its reasonable cost. Some standout features worth mentioning are the 4K monitors support, solid USB expansion, and powerful daisy-chain performance. Via its DisplayPort++ port, this unit allows you to maintain a steady connection with an extra high-res display up to 4K. Thanks to the large bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3 you can benefit from native performance when connecting the monitor. There’s also no drop in performance for the other peripherals.
Wired networks can be accessed using the dedicated Ethernet port on the dock. Stereo headphones can be attached with ease via the audio input/output jacks. Some space exists to connect a couple of USB 3.0 Type A devices. Other docks provide more than two, so that’s a bit disappointing. Compatibility-wise, this docking station is optimized for Late 2016/2017 Apple computers and select Dell systems. The manufacturer doesn’t guarantee perfect compatibility with other Thunderbolt 3 systems, so you should carefully check to see if your model is fully supported. In some cases, you might need an additional adapter to benefit from certain features of this dock.
There’s no Power Delivery feature available for this Thunderbolt 3 dock, so that’s another slight drawback for some people. One great aspect of this device is the ability to have a maximum of 5 daisy-chained compatible devices. Taking into account what it can do for this cost, the Plugable TBT3-UD1-83 represents a well-built docking station to cover all your Thunderbolt 3 needs. The documentation for the device is a little thin so you might have some issues with certain connections if you’re a novice, but all in all, the dock works like a charm.
- Support for 4K monitors
- Accepts a maximum of 5 daisy-chained Thunderbolt 3 devices
- Gigabit Ethernet port
- Great USB expansion
- Decent system compatibility
Although it’s a less popular option compared to Thunderbolt 3 docks from Plugable, the TD-300 from Promise Technology seems to have great potential. It enables users to connect either two 4K monitors or just a single 5K display. There’s also a reasonably high daisy chain limit for Thunderbolt 3 devices. With this Thunderbolt 3 dock, you can do many things. Using both the HDMI and Thunderbolt 3 port, you’re able to hook up two extra 4K monitors. That’s the maximum for two displays, but a single 5K monitor is supported as well. Having more screens can definitely help you achieve the workstation of your dreams.
Power Delivery charging is available for this dock, though there’s a 60W charging power limit. Still, it’s nice to know you can keep certain connected devices powered up. A total of 5 USB 3.0 ports can be used to add all the required peripherals such as cameras, printers, and mobile devices. Thanks to the Ethernet port you can access a wired network and the built-in audio jack lets you connect your headphones or any compatible audio system. These features are usually found in Thunderbolt 3 docks, so it’s no surprise to find them here. One thing that’s not always found is an SD 3.0 card reader. This device comes equipped with one that allows you to quickly import camera photos. It would have been nice to see a more recent version for the SD card reader, but that’s already asking for too much.
The only little flaw of this handy docking station is the brightness of the front lights which can be inconvenient during nighttime. Still, that’s a small price to pay considering the impressive selection of features available. The Promise Technology TD-300 has an efficient design with reliable ports to get more out of your compatible system.
- Two 4K displays can be connected
- One 5K monitor supported
- 60W charging power
- 6 Thunderbolt 3 maximum daisy chain limit
- 5 USB 3.0 ports