Intro

There is no scarcity of Thunderbolt dock choices in the marketplace. We took a have a look at 5 totally different models and in contrast them by worth, options, and pace.

The new Apple M1 Mac Mini has loads going for it: it is an incredible machine in a small type issue. Sadly, in what appears to be a seamless Apple pattern, it has misplaced a few Thunderbolt ports over the earlier model. Enter the Thunderbolt dock: vital answer for lots of photographers and videographers seeking to join a number of high-speed drives and/or different peripherals to machines with minimal connection factors.

On this article, we’ll examine 5 standard Thunderbolt Three Docks based mostly on worth, options, and pace to crown a winner. All the docks on this comparability are able to connecting to quick drives by way of USB-C and most supply built-in high-speed SD card readers in addition to further connectivity for numerous peripherals.

All the docks on this comparability are able to connecting to quick drives by way of USB-C and most supply built-in high-speed SD card readers in addition to further connectivity for numerous peripherals

Under you’ll be able to see how these 5 docks stack up, on paper:

Worth

Energy supply over Thunderbolt

USB-C ports

(10Gb/s)

USB-A ports

(10Gb/s)

Thunderbolt go although

USB-A ports

(5Gb/s)

StarTech TB3DK2DPM2

$330

85w 1 0 Sure 2
Hyperdrive GEN2 16-Port $300 85w 2 2 Sure 3
Plugable TBT3-UDC3 $219 96w 2 1 No 2
Corsair TBT100 $250 85w 2 0 No 2

OWC Thunderbolt Three Dock

$250 85w 1 0 Sure 5

Word: Producer availability was an element within the docks we included. In case your favourite Thunderbolt dock shouldn’t be represented right here, please point out it within the feedback. We’ll look to replace this comparability within the not-too-distant future.

We’ll begin first with an outline of every dock, together with its design, options and included equipment, and we’ll observe up with a sequence of benchmarks the place we pit all of the docks in opposition to one another to see which drives excel through which areas.


StarTech TB3DK2DPM2

$330 | StarTech

The StarTech hides its key function on the underside of the case.

This StarTech dock has a single front-facing USB-A port operating at 5Gb/s and a USB-C port operating at 10Gb/s. There’s additionally a UHS-II SD Card slot and separate microphone and headphone sockets. On the again is the place you discover the upstream and downstream Thunderbolt connections in addition to a Gigabit Ethernet jack, a second 5Gb/s USB-A socket, and eventually a DisplayPort connector. Included within the field is a 17-inch Thunderbolt Three cable.

This dock is the one product right here that provides the flexibility to insert an SSD into the enclosure

One factor that you simply discover instantly is the dimensions of the included energy provide, which is bigger than the dock itself. That is because of the energy supply necessities wanted for connected gadgets so {that a} single cable hookup can be utilized for charging your laptop computer and the information connection.

This dock is the one product right here that provides the flexibility to insert an SSD into the enclosure (particularly, an M2 80mm NVME drive) for built-in storage. StarTech says the enclosure helps switch speeds as much as 1.5GB/s, however your mileage could fluctuate. Word: it is not going to work with the SATA variant as the inner slot shouldn’t be suitable.

Some NVME drives could show a good match, particularly if they’re double-sided.

On to a small situation, the compartment’s lid already has a moderately thick thermal pad connected. I discovered this interfered with the match of my drive as equipped and you could discover a related situation in case your drive has a warmth spreader already connected. The XPG drive I used was double-sided, however the lid closed correctly after eradicating the pad.

Upstream and downstream Thunderbolt ports are useful for including quick SSDs.

All in all, I had no points with the StarTech dock, though it could get heat in use, particularly in the event you’re utilizing an NVME drive within the inner enclosure. However general, it gives a pleasant mixture of pace and connectivity.

What we favored

  • Potential so as to add inner SSD storage to the dock
  • Separate headphone and microphone sockets

What we didn’t like

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Hyperdrive GEN2 16-Port

$300 | Hyperdrive

Monolithic in design; the Hyperdrive takes up much less desk house and consists of a wide array of ports.

The second dock I checked out is the diminutive unit from Hyperdrive. This small and dense unit with its stable all-metal development has twin digital in addition to analog audio ports, which is uncommon. It additionally has full-size and micro SD slots supporting UHS-II playing cards.

If direct digital audio is essential to you then the Hyperdrive has each Coax and Toslink connections.

It helps 10Gb/s speeds by way of twin front-facing USB-A ports along with a USB-C port. It additionally has the standard single 3.5mm socket with headset help. Moreover, there is a front-mounted USB-A port that helps energy supply commonplace for charging gadgets (nevertheless it has no information functionality). On the again are the 2 Thunderbolt ports and connection factors for Gigabit Ethernet, a DisplayPort connection, and one other Three USB-A ports with 5Gb/s speeds. If direct digital audio is essential to you then the Hyperdrive has each Coax and Toslink connections.

There is a small energy LED on the entrance of the unit which may be troublesome to see in brilliant lighting. The included Thunderbolt cable is 17 inches lengthy. As is the case with any of those docks, you may discover the size of the included cable fairly quick, however that is to maintain to the marketed speeds. Longer aftermarket energetic Thunderbolt cables can be found, however these price extra and can be found in copper or optical variations.

Digital audio shouldn’t be one thing you typically discover on most Thunderbolt docks. This mixed with twin Thunderbolt connections and lots of USB sockets makes this dock extraordinarily versatile.

I ought to point out that the SD card sockets on this dock are inverted from the norm, so if you wish to put this horizontally in your desk, it’s essential to insert your playing cards with the label face-down or flip the entire unit.

This dock is designed primarily for vertical orientation and whereas there’s nothing to cease that from occurring, I discovered it to be a bit unstable in follow. The design could be higher if a stand or rubber ft had been equipped to cease it from slipping on a desk.

What we favored

  • Nicely-built, small footprint (when used vertically)
  • Massive variety of connections together with three at 10Gb/s
  • Devoted front-facing USB-A charging port
  • Digital and analog audio ports

What we didn’t like

  • Restricted stability in a vertical place

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Plugable TBT3-UDC3

$219 | Plugable

A funds possibility, nevertheless it’s lacking greater than a excessive price ticket.

The Plugable is essentially the most reasonably priced dock we checked out and likewise one of many smallest. It ships with an extended cable than a lot of the docks right here (28.5 inches) and likewise consists of an energetic DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor within the field. Contemplating the price of these things by themselves, this may be a deal clincher. Nonetheless, it does lack a second Thunderbolt port for daisy-chaining gadgets.

The Plugable is essentially the most reasonably priced dock we checked out and likewise one of many smallest

That is one other unit with three 10Gb/s ports, all around-back, together with two USB-C and one USB-A. It additionally has each DisplayPort and HDMI sockets, though on an M1 Mac you’ll be able to’t use each on the identical time.

As ordinary, you additionally get a Gigabit Ethernet help and a 3.5mm headset socket in addition to two extra 5Gb/s USB-A ports on the entrance. It’s additionally has a big LED energy indicator on prime and a side-mounted Kensington lock slot.

You get a complete of three 10Gb/s USB Ports on the Plugable.

With the smaller than ordinary quantity, it’s important to sacrifice one thing and with this dock, and we’ve misplaced the flexibility to make use of SD playing cards; there’s additionally no second Thunderbolt socket. Then once more, it’s all about balancing necessities with type issue and value.

What we favored

  • Included cable choices
  • Three 10Gb/s USB Ports
  • Worth and dimension

What we didn’t like

  • No SD Card slot
  • No Thunderbolt passthrough
  • Shiny black back and front panel are susceptible to point out scratches

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Corsair TBT100

$250 | Corsair

Corsair’s providing is the one one right here to incorporate an influence button.

The following dock comes from one of many heavy hitters within the PC house, Corsair. There is a sure visible enchantment to this dock with its rounded edges, matt gray and black end, and low profile design. Corsair has determined to incorporate an influence button and just like the Plugable dock, you additionally get a longer-than-normal 25-inch Thunderbolt Three cable.

This dock gives lots of versatility, so long as you do not want a second Thunderbolt port or front-facing USB-A connectivity

This dock gives a front-facing USB-C socket, an SD card slot (with UHS-II help), and a headset port. On the rear your discover a single Thunderbolt port, twin HDMIs, and two USB-A (5Gb/s) ports. There’s additionally a USB-C port in addition to the standard Gigabit Ethernet jack, in addition to a Kensington lock slot.

Initially, I had some disappointing outcomes when testing learn/write speeds for the SD card reader. For some purpose, the speeds had been nicely under what ought to have been potential. This was rectified by energy biking the dock.

There is no Thunderbolt pass-through right here, however you do get a second 10Gb/s USB-C port on the again.

This dock gives lots of versatility, so long as you do not want a second Thunderbolt port or front-facing USB-A connectivity. It is also one of many extra elegant designs.

What we favored

  • Interesting design
  • Size of included cable

What we didn’t like

  • No front-facing USB-A port
  • No Thunderbolt pass-through

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OWC Thunderbolt Three Dock

$250 | OWC

Whereas the OWC may offer you all the pieces you would wish when it comes to connections, the black plastic prime is vulnerable to exhibiting scratches and fingerprints.

This providing from OWC provides you 5 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, 4 on the again and one on the entrance. Two of those help excessive energy gadgets (1.5A) and a 17-inch Thunderbolt cable is included within the field. Like a few different docks right here you additionally get a Thunderbolt pass-through connection across the again in addition to the standard Gigabit Ethernet socket.

This dock provides you nearly all the pieces you need when it comes to connections. That mentioned we would fortunately hand over one of many many 5Gb/s USB-A ports for the sooner model

As with the Hyperdrive, it additionally provides you digital audio out, though this time it’s optical solely and also you do get the standard headset output on the entrance. It’s the one dock on this article that connects by way of mini DisplayPort for the video output and there’s no dongle within the field. You additionally get each a UHS-II SD and micro SD card slot on the entrance. Moreover, on the underside are two LEDs (inexperienced and blue) indicating host Thunderbolt connection and energy standing.

The OWC gives a Thunderbolt pass-through socket and a Mini DisplayPort socket to attach your monitor.

When testing the font USB-C port I used to be barely stunned to seek out that it was fairly a bit slower than the opposite docks on take a look at right here. It is because this socket makes use of a devoted PCI-e Gen Three x 1 lane. In follow, which means whilst you solely get about 8Gb/s it isn’t throttled by another port when in use. From a design standpoint, I used to be a bit dissatisfied to see that the highest and backside are each items of shiny black plastic that have a tendency to point out up fingerprints and scratches long run.

This dock provides you nearly all the pieces you need when it comes to connections. That mentioned I would fortunately hand over one of many 5Gb/s USB-A ports for the sooner model, though it does supply a few benefits over the equally priced Corsair dock.

What we favored

  • Good choice of ports
  • Optical digital audio out
  • Worth for cash

What we did not like

  • Shiny prime and backside panel
  • Mini DisplayPort output

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Pace take a look at

Thunderbolt and NVME speeds in these exams are with an ADATA XPG SX8200 Professional 1TB. For USB-C testing it was positioned in a Sabrent Instrument-Much less USB-C enclosure and for Thunderbolt speeds, the identical drive was positioned in an Orico Thunderbolt enclosure. A 32GB SanDisk Excessive Professional UHS-II SD card was used to check the cardboard reader speeds.

Assessments had been performed utilizing the Blackmagic Disk Pace Take a look at app, the file dimension was set to 5GB and outcomes had been averaged over 5 runs.

UHS-II learn UHS-II write TB learn TB write NVME write

NVME
learn

USB-C learn

USB-C
write

StarTech TB3DK2DPM2 244 186 1405 956 1356 1073 723 654
Hyperdrive GEN2 16-Port 265 231 1409 973 n/a n/a 930 903
Plugable TBT3-UDC3 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 928 922
Corsair TBT100 256 211 n/a n/a n/a n/a 945 929
OWC Thunderbolt Three Dock 255 205 1375 1043 n/a n/a 764 694

*All speeds recorded in MB/s.

The Hyperdrive dock gives the quickest UHS-II learn and write speeds of the bunch, however not by an enormous margin. Equally, these docks with Thunderbolt connections all delivered related learn and write speeds, with the OWC dock being only a bit sooner than the competitors. When it comes to USB-C speeds, the Corsair dock got here out on prime (once more, not by a lot), with the Plugable and Hyperdrive docks following shut behind.

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Conclusion

After working with every of those for some time, I selected the Hyperdrive for long-term use. The stability of fine switch speeds, the variety of ports, and the small footprint led me to decide on it as my every day driver.

Nonetheless, simply because that is one of the best dock for me does not imply it would work finest for you. You must work out what’s finest to your specific workflow. Do it’s essential to join up lots of package? How briskly do the ports must be? And in the event you’re utilizing these with a laptop computer, do they go by sufficient energy for charging your battery?

I selected the Hyperdrive for long-term use. The stability of fine switch speeds, the variety of ports, and the small footprint lead me to decide on it as my every day driver

The Plugable is the one one right here with 96W help for charging and the StarTech is the one one with an NVME drive slot built-in. If you happen to want digital audio then the Hyperdrive ticks that field and has sooner UHS-II speeds as nicely. The Corsair provides superb UHS-II speeds and likewise has two 10Gb/s USB-C ports. The OWC provides you a very good stability of the quantity and sort of ports and is a superb worth.

In fact, you may at all times mix a couple of in case your funds permits. And issues are about to get extra difficult with the introduction of Thunderbolt 4.

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