Find the best Thunderbolt 3/USB-C Dock for your laptop

Category: Features, Reviews

Getting a dock for your laptop is a great decision if you cart your machine between home and work often. Instead of taking the laptop out of your bag and fiddling around plugging in half a dozen cables for your keyboard, mouse, monitor, external hard drive, ethernet, speakers and who knows what else, you can simply hook up a single cord and everything’s ready to go.

So which one should you get? There’s bloody dozens of the bastards on the market! That’s where Reckoner comes in. For this article we’re gonna look at some Thunderbolt 3 docks that meet the following specs:

  • Thunderbolt 3
  • Can charge a 15″ MacBook Pro (85W)
  • 3840×2160 @ 60Hz DisplayPort output
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 3.5mm audio output
  • At least 2x USB 3.0 Type-A ports
  • Available from an Australian retailer with warranty

The good news is that there are heaps that will meet those requirements. The bad news is that there’s heaps that will meet our requirements! Let’s quickly go over the ports available on each unit:

Lenovo Thinkpad Thunderbolt 3 Dock (40AC0135AU) – $329
Front: USB-A, USB-C & 3.5mm audio
Rear: 4x USB-A, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, dual DisplayPort, HDMI
Notes: 135W charger, Kensington lock

Aten UH7230 – $380
Front: USB-A & USB-C
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, USB-A, 3.5mm audio in & out, 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort
Notes: supports 5K graphics output via the USB-C port

Dell Thunderbolt Dock TB16-240W – $403
Front: 2x USB-A & 3.5mm combo audio
Rear: 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, VGA, HDMI, Mini DP, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm audio out
Notes: includes a beefy 240W charger

Kensington SD5000T – $437
Front: 1x USB-A & 1x USB-C
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm audio in & out, Kensington lock, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, DisplayPort
Notes: you can hook up two monitors via the DisplayPort & USB-C/TB3 socket

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock (F4U095au) – $445
Front: USB-A, 3.5mm combo audio
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm audio out, 2x USB-A, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, DisplayPort
Notes: includes 1m Thunderbolt 3 cable

Startech TB3DOCK2DPPD – $459
Front: SD card reader, USB-A, 3.5mm audio combo
Rear: 4x USB-A ports, Kensington lock, Gigabit Ethernet, USB-C, TB3/USB-C, DisplayPort
Notes: you can hook up two monitors via the DisplayPort & USB-C/TB3 socket

CalDigit TS3 Plus – $449
Front: SD card reader, 3.5mm audio in & out, USB-C & USB-A
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio out, USB-C, 4x USB-A, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C
Notes: includes 0.7m Thunderbolt 3 cable

HP Thunderbolt Dock 230W G2 (2UK38AA) – $315
Front/side: 3.5mm combo audio, USB-A, Kensington lock
Rear: 2x USB-A, USB-C DisplayPort, 2x Displayport, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet
Notes: may be slightly dodgy in regards to display mirroring or extending

Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock – $419
Front: USB-A, 3.5mm audio in & out
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB-A, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, Displayport
Notes: Elgato also has a “Pro Dock” with an SD card reader and extra USB-C ports for $499

OWC 14-port Thunderbolt 3 Dock – $500
Front: microSD & SD card slot, 3.5mm audio combo, USB-A, USB-C
Rear: 4x USB-A, optical audio output, Gigabit Ethernet, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, MiniDP
Notes: includes a short 50cm Thunderbolt 3 cable

So, the million dollar (or $500) question – which one should ya get? Personally, I’d go for the CalDigit TS3 Plus. It’s got heaps of USB ports, an SD card slot and sits vertically on your desk, taking up less space. It also doesn’t look as weird next to an Apple machine like the Dell or Lenovo units. That said, if you don’t need anything fancy, the Lenovo Thinkpad Thunderbolt 3 Dock for $329 will get the job done.

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