The best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop in Summer 2021: CalDigit, Anker, Elgato, and more
Thunderbolt is finally catching up as more and more laptops are now offering the super-fast port. Thunderbolt 4 replaced Thunderbolt 3 last year and while it isn’t faster, there are upgrades in several other areas. The latest version defines new specifications to support full speeds of 40Gbps with cables of up to 2m in length, support for two 4K displays instead of one (or one 8K display), support at least one port for 100W power for laptop charging, allow all docks to support wake from sleep, and provide DMA protection against Thunderspy attacks. Thunderbolt 4 also doubles the PCIe bandwidth to 32Gb/s which means more robust support for external GPUs.
One of the best use cases of Thunderbolt is that you can expand the I/O connectivity options on your desktop or laptop using a simple dock. This allows you to connect multiple devices including 4K displays, USB drives, audio devices, memory cards, and more. So here are some of the best Thunderbolt docks that you can buy. We’ve selected a mix of Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 so you can choose depending on your requirements.
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Thunderbolt 4 Docks
CalDigit Element Hub
The CalDigit Element Hub is one of the few Thunderbolt 4 docks available today that helps in expanding the number of Thunderbolt and USB Type-A ports on your laptop, Mac, or desktop PC. It’s backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, and USB 4, and offers support for dual-4K or a single 8K monitor and power delivery of 60W to charge various devices including laptops, smartphones, etc. It’s fairly compact and suitable for users who primarily need multiple fast USB ports.
Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station
Kensington is known for its device security solutions but it also makes docks and hubs. Their latest offering is the SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station. The dock offers a total of 11 ports including an SD card reader, four Thunderbolt 4 ports, four USB-A ports (one 5V/1.5A charging port on the front, and three Gen2 10Gbps ports on the rear), a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. The dock also supports 90W power delivery which means you can charge any Thunderbolt 4 or Thunderbolt 3-enabled Windows or Mac-based notebook. You need to note there are no DisplayPort or HDMI ports on this dock, so you can only connect a monitor that supports USB-C, or you will have to add another adapter.
Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock
Anker is a well-known and reliable brand when it comes to charging accessories and USB hubs. The company offers the PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock which, as the name suggests, is a small Thunderbolt 4 dock capable of expanding your connectivity. It features an 85W Thunderbolt 4 upstream port, three Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports, and 1 USB-A port. The Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports support 15W Power Delivery and a single 8K monitor at 30Hz, or dual monitors up to 4K at 60Hz.
Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma
A Thunderbolt dock with RGB? Why not? Razer is known for its high-quality gaming peripherals and the company has come up with its own Thunderbolt 4 dock. Apart from the swanky RGB lighting, the dock offers an SD card reader, a 3.5mm audio jack, three Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports, a Thunderbolt 4 upstream port, Gigabit Ethernet, and three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports. This is pretty much the same as the Kensington SD5700T, in fact, even the placement of the ports is similar. Again, there are no DisplayPort or HDMI ports, however you can plug dual 4K monitors using the additional Thunderbolt ports.
Thunderbolt 3 Docks
CalDigit TS3 Plus
The CalDigit TS3 Plus is a highly recommended Thunderbolt 3 dock, as it offers a wide range of I/O and the ability to connect not one, but two laptops at the same time. In fact, we’ve also recommended it as one of the best docks for the new Surface Laptop 4. It comes with two Thunderbolt ports, five USB 3.2 Type-A, a USB 3.2 Type-C, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, DisplayPort 1.2, 3.5mm audio in, 3.5mm audio out, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio, UHS-II SD card slot, and support for 87W Power Delivery.
Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock
‘One cable. No compromises’ is what Elgato says about its Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock. It looks sleek and comes with a solid set of I/O ports including two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm audio combo port, an SD card slot, and a microSD card slot on the front. At the back, it offers gigabit ethernet, a 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a DisplayPort. The company claims that you can connect a 4K display using the DisplayPort and attach a second 4K monitor using one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Dell Thunderbolt Dock WD19TBS
Dell’s very own Thunderbolt dock is great for expanding your connectivity options. The dock notably doesn’t come with any audio ports, nor does it have any memory card readers. At the front, there’s a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. At the back of the dock, there are two DisplayPort 1.4, one HDMI, a USB-C port with DisplayPort support, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and Thunderbolt 3. According to Dell, the dock offers support for up to three displays, including a single 5K and dual 4K monitors and up to 130W Power Delivery.
Plugable 14-in-1 USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 Dock
This Thunderbolt 3 dock is loaded! It offers a total of 14 ports making it one of the best connectivity solutions. It offers five USB 3.2 Type-A ports, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, one Thunderbolt, two HDMI, two DisplayPort, a 3.5mm combo audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and support for 96W Power Delivery. It can also accommodate a microSD or a full-size SD card, which is useful if you’re into photography. The dock can also support up to two 4K 60Hz displays via Thunderbolt 3 or two 1080p 60Hz displays via USB-C.
FlePow 18-in-1 Quadruple Display Laptop Docking Station
We’ve added this product as it’s one of the most unique docks we’ve seen in a while. The company doesn’t clarify whether it’s a full-fledged Thunderbolt dock, but it offers a wide variety of I/O ports including three HDMI, one DisplayPort, three USB 3.0 Type-A, two USB 2.0 Type-A, one USB Type-C with 100W PD, two USB Type-C host, an SD Card Slot, RJ45, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Best of all, the top of the dock can open up to accommodate an M.2 SSD of all sizes. Sadly it only supports the SATA interface, so you won’t get fast speeds as you would get on NVMe PCIe drives.
- Looking for a dock that offers support for built-in storage? Well, here's one that can accommodate an M.2 SSD based on the SATA interface.
With more Thunderbolt 4 laptops creeping into the market, we’re expecting more brands to come up with docking solutions in the coming months. Make sure you also go through our list of some of the best laptops that you should buy in 2021, and if you’re into gaming, here’s our recommendation of the best gaming laptops.