While the debate between laptop and desktop may never come to a satisfying conclusion, what everyone can agree on is that high performance is always heavily desired, often above all else. Introducing the Thunderbolt made this a reality, and now anyone searching for optimum performance across a variety of peripheral devices needs to consider the best Thunderbolt 3 Docks.
Devices with a Thunderbolt port can introduce power users to a whole new world of high speed connectivity, more streamlined operation, and multiscreen efficiency that puts every mid-90s hacker movie to shame.
Much like the best gaming routers transform your online dominance, and the best ethernet switches ensure you never lose that precious connection again, Thunderbolt 3 Docks can give you everything you need to efficiency and productivity throughout the magic of a single cable. It’s not really magic, of course, but it works so well and with such ease – often with no need for drivers and installations – you’ll be disappointed in yourself for not investing in one sooner. There’s no time like the present, after all.
Best Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Caldigit TS3 Plus is our top pick for a Thunderbolt 3 Dock which with 15 ports is the most extensive option you’re likely to find, at least until the next generation bursts on the market. Included in these ports is 5 USB-A and 2 USB-C boasting 5Gb/s transfer speeds for fast and efficient files moving across and allowing you to keep everything organized and stored with ease.
The Ultra High Speed II SD card slot provides further transfer options, making it a superb option for those who use portable storage solutions daily and also find themselves in more of a hurry than most. This boasts an optimum 312Mb/s transfer speeds, so the days of stressing over slow migration are a thing of the past. You could even say it’s as fast as, well, a thunderbolt.
15 ports of connectivity including USB ports
Power 85W laptop charging
Single 5K or dual 4K extended displays
Fast SD card reader for streamlined data transfer
- Weight2.85 pounds
Vertical or horizontal storage minimizes desk footprint
Compatible with both Mac and Windows
Easily accessible front ports
High power demands large adapter which could obstruct around outlet
The StarTech Mini Thunderbolt 3 is a compact option for those shopping on a budget or looking for a smaller, more portable option with no need for all the bells and whistles of more substantial and more expensive models. Still, despite its size, this Thunderbolt Dock offers a variety of useful features including the Dual DisplayPort capabilities boasting 4K, 60Hz display and 50Hz when staying traditional and using a single display.
Considered by some to be a single cable to rule them all, it has a Gigabit ethernet port and a single USB-A port (with the two display ports we’ve already mentioned). This USB makes setup simple and also flexible, and the lack of a power cable port means it’s one of the most portable options around. The bus-powered technology saves jumbled cables causing trip hazards at your local cafe, but the included cables save you the hassle of sourcing them yourself.
Dual 4K 60Hz display capabilities
4 output ports including Gigabit ethernet and USB
Bus-powered design ensures easy portability
USB cable allows flexible setup
- Weight5.1 ounces
Easy installation and deployment
Compatible with a variety of computers
Cables included for convenience
Power users may demand more ports for increased productivity
For versatility and range, the Cable Matters Aluminum Thunderbolt 3 Dock is a great choice for those looking for something reliable but with enough oomph to ensure you don’t get what becomes only a shiny aluminum paperweight after just a few months. Using AC outlets, you’re guaranteed a consistent power source with no need to worry about random failures or lack of charge. For those who need reliability as much as they do connectivity options, this is crucial for efficiency and productivity.
Like other Thunderbolt options, it provides Dual 4K displays at 60Hz for ultra-clear graphics, while the multiple USB ports provide input options for all your peripheral accessories but also leave enough space to plug other gadgets in when needed. Not only is this convenient, it also eliminates many of the lagging and slow processing issues you’ll find with ‘older’ technology, even if that tech is just the previous generation.
AC powered docking station with 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable
Dual 4K display at 60Hz
Compatible with Windows, Mac, and other operating systems
5 USB 3.0 ports for multiple connectivity options
- BrandCable Matters
- Weight3.3 pounds
Ideal for Macbooks compared to other OS
True plug and play operation for easy access and installation
High read and write speeds for fast file transfer
Supplied Thunderbolt 3 cable isn’t long enough for some demands
Compatible with Macs, the Kensington SD500T Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station comes with 40Gbp/s of data transfer speeds, it provides Ultra-HD resolution whether you’re using dual or single displays, and also delivers 85W of power for consistent and wholly reliable performance that is completely hassle free, or at least mostly hassle free.
The 85W power means it’s easy to charge your Macbook even during strenuous situations and keeps you connected at all times, while the peripheral devices, including your keyboard and mouse, connect easily and save space on your Macbook for other connection options. The fast ethernet port is also crucial for those who need reliable network connection, while the speaker or headphone port means you can enjoy your favorite tunes uninterrupted, which is really all anybody wants, isn’t it?
40Gbps of data transfer speeds
Ultra HD resolution for single or dual-display with max 60fps
Daisy chains with up to 5 additional Thunderbolt 3 devices
85W power ensures all devices are charged while working
- Weight3.6 pounds
Streamlined design for compact placement
Single cable solution reduces desk clutter and simplifies cable management
Reasonably priced for a Mac-compatible option
Some issues with screen flickering and resizing
For gamers, the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is a marvel of a product which is why we’ve made it our premium pick of the best Thunderbolt 3 Docks. Using an NVIDIA 1050 graphics card, you get high quality performance during processor-heavy games throughout the convenience of your laptop or ultrabook. These results are what you’d typically expect only from a desktop computer, but brought to you portable device.
For unrivaled display options, you can project across up to three monitors with seamless clarity in 4K resolution and even fast-paced games – especially ones which typically would not cope with the graphics on your laptop – blast from around 32 fps to over 100. The only issue with the dock is the absence of daisy chaining, but considering its dedicated design, this is to be expected and if you need maximum connection options, there are other choices around.
Integrated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics amplifies performance
Up to 40Gbps data transfer speeds
Definitive 4K performance using up to 3 displays
Continuous power to Ultrabook and mobile devices with Thunderbolt and USB-C ports
- Weight1.51 pounds
Ideal for a reliable on-the-go gaming solution
Almost silent operation to prevent noise and distractions
Compact and well-built for easy and reliable portability
No daisy chaining capabilities
The easily connectable Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is another option for those after the performance Thunderbolt systems but maybe aren’t too sure it’s for them right now. For the price, it’s a decent entry-level Thunderbolt 3 dock and while it doesn’t come with everything you’d find on more comprehensive models, it’s still a suitable candidate for increasing efficiency and performance.
This is in part thanks to the expandability, boasting daisy chaining capabilities where you can connect up to 5 additional Thunderbolt devices. While it’s unlikely novices will require such options, if you need multiple docks, the price of the Plugable makes this an economically viable choice. The multiple ports are also massively convenient and ensure you won’t want for additional connection options. These include both USB (both A and C types) and an SD card slot for fast data transfer.
Expands up to 5 daisy chained devices for wider connectivity
4 USB ports for multiple file transfers and connection options
DisplayPort++ with 4K support
10Gbps peer-to-peer networking when connected directly to second Thunderbolt 3 device
- Weight15.4 ounces
Easily connects most-used devices
Solid constructions ensures durability
Stable operation avoids rebooting and unplugging devices
Dock does not charge the attached computer
The Promise Technology Thunderbolt 3 Dock is an upper-tier option that’s both sleek and stylish and compatible with pretty much any device you connect to it. This is good news for everybody, and if nothing else will at least reduce the tired Mac vs. PC debates to nothing but a quiet murmur. It’s much better when everyone gets along, anyway, right?
Onto its features: you’ll have the option to daisy chain up to 6 devices, which is the highest we’ve found so far, and it supports 5K (single screen) and 4K (dual-screen) displays for superb graphics and dynamic colors you’d normally only find in real life (and sometimes not even then). You’ll also find yourself gifted easy, super speedy file transfer. There are 5 USB-A ports, and 1 SD card slot plus Gigabit Ethernet to ensure consistent and reliable connectivity for those days research looks like it’ll never end.
Daisy chain up to 6 Thunderbolt 3 devices
Supports a single 5K monitor or dual-4K displays
Compatible with PC or Mac devices for wide connectivity
Provides 5 USB Type-A ports and 1 SD card slot for easy, fast file transfer
- BrandPromise Technology
- Weight1 pound
All standard ports included for versatile connections
No installation drivers required for simple set up
Compact design ensures it fits comfortably on the desk
DisplayPort output would be preferred to HDMI
Boasting a not-the-biggest-but-still-substantial 14 ports, the OWC 14-Point Thunderbolt 3 Dock provides wide device versatility and helps you control all your charging, transferring, and connectivity options from one secure and reliable hub. These ports include DisplayPort, USB, and SD, and the DisplayPort ensures screen real estate is wide, giving you the chance to work on multiple projects (or games) at once without muddling yourself up.
The SD slot transfers data at speeds hitting as high as 312Mb/s, while all your other necessary desktop accessories (microphone, mouse, keyboard, and more) connect reliably to enhance productivity to levels that might – at first – scare you a little. To ensure you’re always ready to get down to work (or work towards some downtime) the 85W power throughput is an optimum option of notebooks and similarly small machines.
Includes 14 ports of connectivity including multiple USB, SD, and DisplayPort
Multi-display with dual 4K or single 5K
85W notebook charging and 7.5W power to additional services
Speedy import up to 312Mb/s
- Weight3.49 pounds
Headphone, speaker, microphone, and other audio gear
Reliable peripheral device connections improves productivity
Easy set up and excellent built quality to simplicity and durability
Display connection can flicker and disconnect more frequently than other options
So even though it doesn’t say Thunderbolt 3 in the title, the Cable Matters Gen 2 USB C Docking Station is still Thunderbolt 3 compatible. It brings fast read and write speeds through both UHS-II SD cards and microSD cards at the same time, which if you’re in a rush is ideal, and even if you’re not in a rush is still cool, because we all hate waiting around.
It supports dual screens on both Windows (10 or later) and Linux, and while it’s compatible with a Mac, there’s no dual screen capability, so you’ll have to make do with designing your cool spreadsheet no one will comment on at the meeting on a single screen. Such is life. If you are lucky enough to have a Windows laptop (which is most of you, we’re guessing) you’ll see vibrant, high-resolution graphics that pop and light up your dull home office like never before.
Read and write to both UHS-II SD and microSD cards simultaneously
10Gbps charging for USB-C connectivity
80W laptop charging through USB-C
Dual screen compatible with both Windows and Linux devices, MacOS only single display
- BrandCable Matters
- Weight2.85 pounds
Power-saving On/Off display switch
Multiple high definition settings for varied display options
Reasonably priced compared to more expensive but similarly performing products
Bandwidth allocation issues can freeze up Macs if used improperly
Thunderbolt 3 Dock Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection Of Thunderbolt 3 Docks
Brand - There are many brands that produce a Thunderbolt Hub, and so we needed to narrow down the wide range of these brands to ones we knew us and you could trust. These brands are well-known for providing high-quality products you can rely on. While it’s not always advised to follow the most popular brands, we feel that if you’re working with electronic devices, it’s perhaps best you do.
Reviews - We wish we had the time (and the dual or even triple screens) to test out these Thunderbolt Docks properly, but we don’t. Instead, we used part of our research to study reviews closely. These are written by those who have had the time to test out their Thunderbolt Dock and can give us an idea of what are the most important aspects including connectivity, reliability, and even size and weight.
Price - The best tech is never cheap, but just because something is expensive doesn’t mean those who can’t afford high-range options should miss out. Finding a range of Thunderbolt docks affordable for anybody who wants one was key here, and while they aren’t cheap, they should still be affordable for those interested.
Features To Look For In Thunderbolt 3 Docks
Read/Write Speed - Fast read/write speeds are essential for efficiency and productivity, especially when working with video files. This is essential for content creators and video editors, who can get a lot from Thunderbolt 3 Docks if they use them.
Charging - Providing charging options for your laptop can reduce cable clutter and ensures your battery will never run down regardless of where you are. This helps with portability, allowing you to work on the go.
Inputs - The more inputs the better, most of the time. If you need multiple screens, many peripherals and file transfer devices, more inputs save you plugging and unplugging your devices from your dock and keeping up your productivity. If you need more, you can also daisy chain your device.
Display Options - The best Thunderbolt 3 Docks offer at least dual screen capabilities, and other, more specialized options can provide as many as 3. This is great for gamers, coders, and anyone who likes to minimize their screen clutter. You can choose from either DisplayPort or HDMI ports
Compatibility - The Thunderbolt 3 is only compatible with Thunderbolt 3-ready devices. A new technology, this may minimize your options (although you may find a Thunderbolt to USB accessory). The best Thunderbolt 3 Docks work with both Windows, Mac, and other operating systems, but others are more restricted. Check before buying so you don’t end up with one that doesn’t work with your machine.
Size - Desk real estate is often overlooked when purchasing new gadgets, but if you can’t fit your Thunderbolt Dock onto the desk, you won’t get the most from it and it could impede other accessories. Its size could also affect how portable it is, with weightier options being awkward as you carry it around.
Thunderbolt 3 Dock FAQ
Q: Are Thunderbolt 3 and USB C the same?
A: Yes, kind of, no, not really. They certainly look very similar, so similar, in fact, that if you had to pick one out of a lineup of potential cable criminals, it’s unlikely you’d get it right first, second or even third time.
The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the symbol on the cable head. On the Thunderbolt 3 you’ll have a lightning bolt (or, we guess thunderbolt, but who’s ever actually seen one of those), whereas USB-C shows the much less cool but also obvious triple-prong symbol.
The difference between them is, while they look similar from the outside, that USB-C is determined by the shape of the port while the Thunderbolt 3 is the connectivity standard. While USB-C is a data transfer system, Thunderbolt 3 combines a variety of connection and display needs including USB, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, and power through what is a single USB-C connector.
This allows you to connect multiple devices without clogging up your Ultrabook or laptop ports which we all know is at best an inconvenience and at worst a miniature equivalent of the cumbersome and confusing Spaghetti Junction brought straight to your workstation.
- Thunderbolt 3 Explained: Why You Need the World’s Fastest Port - Laptop Mag
- FAQ - Thunderbolt Technology
- What is the Difference Between Thunderbolt 3 and USB? - Every Mac