HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 Review: For people that want a specific array of ports
As far as Thunderbolt 4 docks go, HP’s solution is a solid one, all depending on what you want. It has either 100W or 230W output, depending on the model you choose, so even if you have a powerful ZBook Fury G9, the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 can charge it.
That’s not all. This is one of few Thunderbolt 4 docks I’ve seen that has two DisplayPort ports. Most docking stations I come across sacrifice this in favor of more Thunderbolt ports, which can be a problem. After all, unless you already have a USB Type-C monitor, having only Thunderbolt ports means you still need more dongles, the thing the dock was supposed to solve in the first place.
The big issue I take with it is that the cable that connects to your laptop is not removable. Yes, there’s a warranty, but still, this is an expensive product. If something happens to that 0.8m cable, it’s not like you can just plug in another one.
But ultimately, I do think that this is my favorite selection of ports on a Thunderbolt 4 dock that I’ve seen so far. However, you do have to want specifically this.
Navigate this review:
- HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 price and availability
- HP Thunderbolt Dock G4: Specs
- Design: One of few docks with two DisplayPort ports
- Who should buy the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4?
HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 price and availability
- The HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 starts at $329 for the 120W model and maxes out at $439 for the 280W model.
- It will be released in May 2022 (this month).
HP just announced the Thunderbolt Dock G4, and it said that it’s going to arrive in May, which is this month. Unfortunately, despite only 20 days being left in the month at the time of announcement, it didn’t provide a specific date.
There are two different models, one that’s 120W with 100W output and one that’s 280W with 230W output. The former is $329 while the latter is $439.
HP Thunderbolt Dock G4: Specs
|Dimensions||3.9 x 3.9 x 2.7 in (98 x 98 x 68 mm)|
|Weight||120W: 1.68 lbs (762 g)
280W: 1.76 lbs (798.3 g)
|Security||HP Sure Start|
|Top components||LED and power button to power or wake host system|
|Front components||(1) USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) port with data and power out (15W)|
|Side components||Right side: (1) Kensington Standard Lock Slot
(2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports – 1 on each side (5 Gbps each)
|Back components||(2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps each) Charging ports, power output: 7.5W
(1) HDMI 2.0 port
(2) DisplayPort 1.4 ports
(1) Power barrel port (120W or 280W)
(1) Ethernet port: 2 internal NIC cards to support 1 Gb and 2.5 Gb Ethernet4
(1) USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 DisplayPort
(1) ThunderboltTM 4 port
|Network manageability features||vPRO (wired or wireless)
Disconnected Firmware updates
Wake on LAN (from the Off, Sleep or Hibernation States)
MAC address pass-through (from the On, Off, Sleep or Hibernation States)
|Networking||Supports 1 Gb and 2.5G Ethernet|
|Power to host||Up to 100W via USB-C / 230W to host using 280W power supply via combo cable|
|External monitor support||Up to 4|
|Power delivery (PD) profiles||PD 3.0: 5V/5A, 9V/5A, 12V/5A, 15V/5A, 20V/5A|
|Operating voltage and current||120W: Input 100 to 240V 1.7A 50 to 60Hz. Output is 19.5V at 6.15A
280W: Input 100 to 240V 1.7A 50 to 60Hz. Output is 19.5V at 14.35A
|Temperature (operating)||0° C to 35° C (32° F to 95° F)|
|Relative humidity noncondensing (operating)||10 % to 90 %|
|Maximum altitude unpressurized (operating)||15 m to 3,048 m (- 50 ft to 10,000 ft)|
|Security slot type||Standard Kensington lock slot|
|What’s in the box||Dock, power supply, power cord, warranty|
Design: One of few docks with two DisplayPort ports
- While most Thunderbolt 4 docks include multiple Thunderbolt ports, HP opted for DisplayPort and HDMI instead.
- The connecting cable is non-removable and there is no SD card slot.
Compared to the size of its predecessor, which is oddly the G2, the Thunderbolt Dock G4 is exactly the same. In fact, with the exception of the port selection, it looks almost the same. Well, except that there’s a button on top for power, whereas the previous generation actually used the entire top as a power button, causing people to accidentally turn off their PCs.
It comes in at 3.9×22.214.171.124 inches, so it has a more rectangular shape than some other docks. A lot of competing solutions are longer and shorter, with options for whether to use them horizontally or vertically. Personally, I like the look of this one, just because I find those longer designs to be a bit unattractive.
And then there’s the port selection. As far as rear ports go, you’ll find two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports (5Gbps), an Ethernet port, a Thunderbolt port, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port with DisplayPort, two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and an HDMI 2.0 port. Essentially, the change from the HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 is that the company replaced the VGA port with an HDMI 2.0 port.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I really like that there are two DisplayPort ports. To me, the biggest benefit to Thunderbolt is the ability to connect dual 4K displays on a single port, but if my monitor doesn’t have USB Type-C, I’ll still need that DisplayPort. If I need an extra dongle, it feels like it defeats the purpose of the dock.
Another improvement over the last generation is that you’ll find USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports on both sides, as opposed to just one. This makes for a total of four USB Type-A ports, and the nice thing about having them on the sides is that you don’t have to reach around back to access them. For example, you might plug a keyboard and mouse into the ports on the back, but then you can use the ones on the sides for things you unplug frequently, like external storage.
One thing I’d have liked to have seen on the sides or the front is an SD card reader. This is something you’ll find on a lot of Thunderbolt docks, because it’s something that’s missing on modern ultrabooks. It’s a real shame there isn’t one here.
The USB Type-C port on the front is USB 3.2 Gen 2 for 10Gbps speeds, which is interesting because all of the other USB ports are USB 3.2 Gen 1. You’ll also notice that the cable that’s going to connect to your laptop is attached to the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4.
This is an issue. The cable is 0.8m long, which feels like the perfect length for something that’s on your desk. There’s no doubt about that. But if something happens to the cable, it’s not like you can unplug it and plug in a new one. The same goes for if you do need a longer cable length.
Like I said earlier, there is a warranty, which should be a year, but even after that, this is an expensive unit to have to replace if something goes wrong with a cable. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about plugging in the right cable, as that’s an actual pain point when it comes to Thunderbolt.
120W vs 280W: Which one is better?
- The more expensive, 280W model will mostly benefit you only if you have an HP ZBook workstation.
As I mentioned, the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 comes in two models: 120W and 280W. While the latter is a bit heavier, the biggest difference between the two is the wattage. The 120W model, which is the one that HP sent me for review, has 100W output, which will charge up any regular laptop and even some beefier ones.
The 280W model can charge at 230W, but frankly, your laptop probably doesn’t support that. This model has dual Thunderbolt connections, and it’s designed to be used with an HP ZBook or something along those lines. The dual cables are separated now though, so you can plug them into any laptop with two Thunderbolt 4 ports. You just won’t get 230W charging because most laptops don’t support that. You will get more bandwidth though, and that will help depending on how many high-resolution displays you want to connect.
I think that for most, the 120W model is a lot more sensible. Output maxes out at 100W, because that’s the most that Power Delivery supports for this, although at some point, we’re going to see 230W Power Deliver. That just doesn’t seem to be here yet.
Who should buy the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4?
With a wide range of Thunderbolt docks on the market, the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4 isn’t for everyone.
Who should buy the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4:
- Customers that have an HP workstation and can benefit from the 280W model
- People connecting dual monitors via DisplayPort
Who should not buy the HP Thunderbolt Dock G4:
- People who need an SD card reader
- Users that want multiple Thunderbolt ports on the dock
- Users that have USB Type-C but not Thunderbolt (Qualcomm and AMD-powered machines)
When choosing a Thunderbolt dock, you should really take stock of what your needs are. If you need an SD card reader, it’s probably not sensible to spend over $300 on a dock that doesn’t have one and then buy a dongle. There’s a big market for Thunderbolt 4 docking stations, and they all have variations.
The big difference I see from HP’s entry is that it has two DisplayPort ports and an HDMI port, so if your monitors use those, you don’t need dongles for that. On the other hand, if you have two USB Type-C monitors, this dock will let you hook those up, but now you’re running out of ports. Those additional display ports do take the place of additional Thunderbolt ports, so again, just make sure that that’s what you want.