4 best Thunderbolt 3 portable docks you should buy

4 best Thunderbolt 3 portable docks you should buy

If you have one of the new compact laptops like the MacBook Pro or the HP Specter x360, you should already know all the benefits that these laptops bring to the table. Not only are they slim and elegant to look at, they are also super flexible. The inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 ports provides both speed and flexibility, and the laptop’s powerful processors let you do your work without sweating. But these compact laptops have a huge downside: the lack of ports.

Most laptops bundle USB-C or Thunderbolt ports, and that’s about it. There are no HDMI or DisplayPorts ports for connecting to external monitor screens or an Ethernet port for connecting to a wired network. And that’s where the docking stations come in. These laptop docking stations allow you to connect to a multitude of ports like HDMI, DisplayPort in addition to connecting to storage solutions such as SD cards and external drives.

But at the end of the day, not all docks or laptop docking stations are built the same way. While some are thin and easy to transport, others are a bit bulky, which makes it a little difficult to transport them from one place to another.

In this article, we’ll explore the first one and examine the best Thunderbolt 3 portable docks you should buy to expand your laptop usage. But before that,

USB-C against Thunderbolt 3

USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are similar. However, this is where the similarities end. When it comes to speed, these two have a significant difference. While USB-C transmits at 10 Gbit / s, Thunderbolt 3 speeds up the game with a theoretical bit rate of up to 40 Gbit / s. This massive increase allows you to connect multiple devices at the same time. If you look at it, the USB-C can connect a maximum of two HD displays, and that’s about it.

Thunderbolt 3 Tech

If we look at the Thunderbolt 3 docks, you get the flexibility to connect two UHD (60 Hz) displays without any problems, which means you can continue your creative work without compromising the quality of the connection.

However, do not expect the docks to function properly from the start. Some laptops may require several restarts to recognize the connected docking station, while others will take time to recognize the connected screens.

So if you’re still on board, let’s see some of the best Thunderbolt 3 portable docks you can get.

1. Thunderbolt 3 aluminum cable matters dock

  • Ports: 5 x USB-A, Ethernet, 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x HDMI, UHS-I SD card reader, 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Power supply: Yes, 60W
  • Maximum video resolution: 4k @ 60Hz

Aluminum Mattbars Thunderbolt 3 Dock

The Cable Matters Aluminum Thunderbolt 3 docking station offers a large number of ports for connecting your laptop. Whether it’s operating two 4K displays at 60 Hz or reading data from your SD card, you can do a lot. At the same time, you benefit from a 60W power supply, sufficient to power your laptop. The crux of this docking station is its small and elegant construction, which ensures that you can throw it on your backpack and laptop and go there. Plus, the aluminum look goes well with most modern notebooks.

Again, small construction doesn’t eat up your office space. You can put it under the monitors, connect the necessary ports, and that’s it. It’s simple, see.

Compared to most docks, you won’t find as many ports. For example, there is no DisplayPort, dual HDMI port, or power supply. But at the end of the day, this dock does the job in most cases, the small (and elegant) construction being one of its first advantages.

Display support is reliable and you can connect two 4K monitors seamlessly.

2. Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Mini

  • Ports: 2 x HDMI, 1 x USB-A 3.0, 1 x USB-A 2.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Power source: No
  • Maximum video resolution: 4k @ 60Hz

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Mini

If you are looking for an affordable yet portable docking station, the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Mini is your best choice. Its price is less than $ 150 and you get a mixture of HDMI and USB ports. In addition, you can expect dual 4K resolution (see the best 4K IPS monitors) to work without any issues, however you will need to exchange some features. On the one hand, this Belkin docking station does not have Power Delivery and USB-C ports. On the good side, it is compact and allows a configuration without clutter.

The best thing is that the ports are evenly distributed between the front and the back of the device. Here you have the option to route the monitor and power cables as per your preference. The main advantage is that the Ethernet port is located on the back of the device, which means that you will not have a thick cable snaking on your desk.

As we noted above, you will have to compromise on certain features. For example, the Thunderbolt 3 is limited to one. The video link is made via the HDMI port. And if you have USB-C devices like mice or keyboards, you’ll have to hook them up to your laptop because it doesn’t have one.

All of these limitations are removed if you upgrade to Belkin TB3 Pro. It is fully equipped with several ports and SD card readers as well as DisplayPort connectivity. It costs about $ 100 more than its counterpart above.

3. CalDigit USB-C Pro docking station

  • Ports: 2 x DisplayPort 1.2, 3 x USB-A 3.2, 1 x USB-C 3.2, SD card reader, Ethernet, 3.5 mm jack
  • Power source: Yes, 85W
  • Maximum video resolution: 4k @ 60Hz

CalDigit USB-C Pro Docking Station

Another very portable dock that is worth your money is the CalDigit USB-C Pro. This one is designed to gel well with the Apple MacBook Pro, in particular the Space Gray variant. The main highlight of this laptop is that it allows you to switch between your USB-C tablets and your Thunderbolt 3 compatible laptops, thanks to USB-C compatibility. And it doesn’t stop there. These laptop docking stations also have two DisplayPort connections, allowing you to connect your DisplayPort-compatible monitors.

Most importantly, it provides power up to 85W and will keep the charge on your laptop.

Regarding the screen, you can get a UHD display at 60 Hz when connected to Thunderbolt ports, while connecting to a USB-C laptop will allow you to manage two FHD screens. The increased number of ports allows easy connection to peripherals such as keyboards, mice and wired headphones.

4. Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt Dock

  • Ports: 2 x USB-C, 3 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x Audio, 2 x DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, Ethernet, Thunderbolt 3
  • Power source: Yes, 180 W (130 W power supply)
  • Maximum video resolution: 4k @ 60Hz

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt Dock

If you have a Dell laptop with Thunderbolt ports, the Dell WD19TB is your best choice. This elegant docking station combines a large number of ports with Power Share capabilities and can provide up to 130 W of power to your Dell laptop. Well, I have to say. What sets it apart from the rest is that it can support up to three monitors. The good thing is that connected monitors go to sleep when the laptop is turned off, which can be a bit difficult on some docks.

The Dell WD19TB also seamlessly connects to non-Dell notebooks and provides up to 90 W of power. The two DisplayPort connections allow you to take full advantage of this display technology as long as you have monitors with that port.

The best portable Thunderbolt 3 docks you should buy Dell 2

Note that this Dell dock is a little more expensive than its counterparts above, but the good news is that it works as advertised on compatible systems. So far it has managed to get an average rating of 4.2 stars out of 5, and FakeSpot estimates that 90% of these reviews are reliable.

Give power to the breech

A mention of the Thunderbolt 3 docks is not complete without mentioning the CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock. It has many ports and is one of the most popular docks on the market. In addition to grouping a large number of ports, it also contains two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is a bit unusual, at least for now. Well, when it comes to performance, it’s one of the best on the market.

The best portable Thunderbolt 3 docks you should buy Cal Digit 2

However, it’s a bit bulky and not as stylish as some laptop docks. It measures approximately 5.15 x 1.57 x 3.87 inches, and height can be an issue for many to carry it around easily.

However, if it’s a compromise you’re willing to make, the CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock is one of the best Thunderbolt docks you can buy.


Messy office? Check out the article below for some of the coolest vertical laptops.

Last updated Jul 16, 2020

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