Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (2022)

Updated

Thunderbolt docks can be expensive, with gobs of ports—but more manufacturers are designing low-cost options to fit more budgets.

By Mark Hachman

PCWorld

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (1)

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (2)

Mark Hachman / IDG

As Thunderbolt ports become more common in laptops, a Thunderbolt dock becomes a necessary accessory, providing I/O access for legacy mice, keyboards, external drives, and more. It’s a key ingredient for a productive office, whether at work or home.

Thunderbolt docks help fill the gaps as laptop makers slim down, cut costs, and eliminate multiple ports in favor of a do-it-all Thunderbolt port instead. That may seem like they’re pushing those costs on to you (which they are) but it also means you can pick and choose a dock with exactly the ports you need. Not only are there budget Thunderbolt docks, but you may even be able to get by with one of our best USB-C hubs and dongles, alternatively.

Note: More bandwidth allows for more devices to be connected. Thunderbolt and USB-C devices share the same physical USB-C interface, but Thunderbolt delivers 40Gbps versus USB-C’s 10Gbps. (A good laptop—and dock—will label these ports to help you distinguish between the two.) The key difference is in display support: Thunderbolt allows for up to two 4K displays at a standard 60Hz, while USB-C allows only a single 4K display, at a 30Hz refresh rate that will tire your eyes. Good Thunderbolt docks also supply power to charge your laptop and smartphone.

While there are extremely subtle differences between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4, they’re essentially the same. Our FAQ at the end of this article explains more.

Our recommendations use some specific terminology: We use the term dock as one that supplies the ports you need for legacy devices, like USB-A and HDMI. We define a Thunderbolt hub as mainly Thunderbolt-in, Thunderbolt-out. The latter is useful if you’re among the small number of people who own dedicated Thunderbolt displays. If you don’t, that’s fine—just buy a Thunderbolt dock instead. DisplayLink USB-C docks try to offer Thunderbolt capabilities over a USB-C cable, but with middling success.

IOGear Quantum Dual Mode Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro (GTD737) – Best budget Thunderbolt dock

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (3)

Pros

  • Great mix of features
  • Budget price
  • 60W of passthrough charging power

Cons

  • Two DisplayPort ports limit display I/O options
  • Might be difficult to find in stores

Best Prices Today:$226.50 at B&HNot Available at Adorama

About the only knock against IOgear’s GTD737 is its use of two DisplayPort 1.2 ports on the rear of the dock, which serve as the only dedicated display outputs. (We suspect HDMI is more popular.)

Otherwise, this dock is excellent, providing almost all the features you’ll want at an affordable price: a 10Gbps USB-A port on the front for 7.5W smartphone charging; on the rear, two 5Gbps USB-A ports for legacy mice and keyboards and two 10Gbps USB-C ports for further expansion. There’s also a gigabit ethernet port and a headphone jack. The 2.3-foot Thunderbolt 3 cable supplies 60W for your laptop via the associated 135W power brick. Performance details can be found in our review.

Note that this dock is essentially identical to the Kensington SD5500T (review), which at press time was priced slightly higher. Double-check our review to make sure.

Read our full IOGear Quantum Dual Mode Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro (GTD737) review

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core – Best budget Thunderbolt dock runner-up

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (4)

Pros

  • Compact
  • HDMI 2.0 + DisplayPort 1.4 port covers two displays

Cons

  • Unlabeled USB-A ports look identical
  • Bus-powered

Best Prices Today:$199.99 at Belkin$199.99 at Dell Home$199.99 at Dell Small Business

(Video) Top 5 Best Thunderbolt 3 Docking Stations

Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core is a smartly designed “powered” Thunderbolt 3 travel dock, and an inexpensive one as well.

At a nearly square5.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches, the Thunderbolt Dock Core black doesn’t take up much room, and the included 8-inch Thunderbolt 3 cord provides ample length for flexibility. Ports are adequately spaced around the flat, black plastic cube, with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports providing a stable 4K/60Hz experience to both of my 4K displays. There’s gigabit ethernet and a 3.5mm audio jack, but good luck telling the USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 Type A ports apart—they’re not labeled.

Read our full Belkin Connect Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core review

Plugable TBT3-UDZ Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station – Best overall Thunderbolt dock

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (5)

Pros

  • Tons of ports
  • Space-saving vertical stand

Cons

  • Heavy (4.1 lb)
  • Expensive

Best Prices Today:$299.00 at Amazon$369.00 at Newegg$369.00 at Walmart

Plugable’s TBT3-UDZ is simply one of the best Thunderbolt 3 docks we’ve tested, with a boatload of ports. It’s expensive, however.

On the front, the TBT3-UDZ includes a 10Gbps USB-C and a 10Gbps USB-A (USB 3.1) port, microSD and SD card slots, plus a headphone jack. On the rear, five USB-A (USB 3.0 ports) and gigabit ethernet complement a pair of DisplayPort 1.4 portsandHDMI 2.0 ports. (It’s all based on Intel’s Titan Ridge chipset.) A 29-inch 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable connects the dock to your laptop, and is capable of delivering 96W of power. Naturally, this is a powered dock, with a hefty 170W (!) charger.

Read our full Plugable TBT3-UDZ review

Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt Dock – Best overall Thunderbolt dock runner-up

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (6)

Pros

  • A less expensive version of the Plugable TBT3-UDZ
  • Supplies 96W of power

Cons

  • Just two display ports, but an adapter dongle is included

Best Prices Today:$269.99 at Newegg$269.99 at Walmart$364.69 at Amazon

Plugable’s TBT3-UDC3 is a smaller, less-expensive version of the TBT3-UDZ, with less I/O flexibility but more focus. The dock includes a pair of USB-A 5Gbps ports on the front for a mouse and keyboard, and then a second USB-A (10Gbps) port on the back. A pair of two 10Gbps USB-C ports sit alongside it for further expansion. There’s gigabit ethernet, too. Smartly, Plugable includes one HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 port for display connections, plus an HDMI-to-DisplayPort dongle in the box in case you own two HDMI displays.

Read our full Plugable TBT3-UDC3 Thunderbolt Dock review

HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G4 (4J0A2AA) – Best Thunderbolt dock for business

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (7)

Pros

  • Ports aplenty, plus charging
  • Solid performance
  • No thermal concerns

Best Prices Today:$329.00 at HP$369.00 at HP

(Video) What you need to know about Thunderbolt 4 docks and 11th Gen / 12th Gen Core laptops before you buy!

This squat little Thunderbolt 4 dock feels a lot more solid than its rated 1.68 pounds would indicate, and sprouts ports to all sides: a 10Gbps USB-C port capable of 15W charging on the front, a 5Gbps USB-A port on either side, plus two more on the back, all capable of 7.5W out. The back also houses two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, ethernet, and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port designed for video. We only tested this dock with two 4K/60 external displays, but it’s capable of driving three 4K/60 displays provided you have a DisplayPort 1.4-capable laptop with Display Stream Compression, or DSC.

The 4J0A2AA supplies up to 100W to the host laptop via the Thunderbolt cable—still among the highest we’ve seen. Even then, there were no thermal issues at all.

Read our full HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W G4 (4J0A2AA) review

Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station – Best Thunderbolt 4 dock

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (8)

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • 96W (rated) of downstream laptop power
  • Pretty solid mix of ports, including downstream Thunderbolt 4

Cons

  • One of the most expensive docks we've tested
  • Rear USB-A ports deliver less power than expected
  • One display port, requiring an additional dongle for two displays

Best Prices Today:$300.07 at Amazon$399.99 at Kenisngton$399.99 at Lenovo

The Kensington SD5780T replaces the Kensington SD5700T as our pick for the best premium Thunderbolt 4 docking station right now, but the price is also extravagantly high. The SD5780T improves on its predecessor by adding a dedicated HDMI 2.1 port and more laptop charging power. The dock performed excellently in our tests, though the external power was a bit lower in places than we’d hoped. (It counts where it matters, however, which includes charging a smartphone.)

Read our full Kensington Thunderbolt 4 Dual 4K Dock (SD5780T) review

Plugable 5-in-1 Thunderbolt Hub (USB4-HUB3A) – Best Thunderbolt 4 hub

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (9)

Pros

  • Incredibly compact
  • USB-C to HDMI adapter included
  • 15W/60W of charging power to phones/PCs

Cons

  • Limited ports
  • Best for Thunderbolt-attached displays

Best Prices Today:$183.99 at Tiger Direct$189.00 at Newegg$189.00 at Walmart

The Mac world tends to emphasize Thunderbolt-connected displays far more than the Windows world does, so this might be a niche product for most of you. But this thing is tiny (4.75 x 2.88 x 0.5 inches) even if, unfortunately, the associated power brick isn’t. It will send 15W of power via the Thunderbolt/USB-C connections to charge smartphones, and 60W to the host PC.

We lack Thunderbolt-connected displays among our test bed, so we can’t fully test this. But the box does include a USB-C to HDMI adapter, so you can certainly connect one display natively out of the box, then attach a USB-C hub to connect another.

Read our full Plugable 5-in-1 Thunderbolt Hub (USB4-HUB3A) review

Anker Apex 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Dock – Best Thunderbolt dock for HDMI displays

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (10)

Pros

  • Two HDMI ports
  • An extra 40Gbps downstream Thunderbolt 4 port
  • Power button

Cons

  • Expensive
(Video) I stole it. - Caldigit TS4 Dock and Element Hub

Best Prices Today:$249.99 at Amazon$349.99 at Anker

The Apex Thunderbolt 4 Dock features one 40Gbps upstream TB4 port (that connects to the computer with the included Thunderbolt 4 cable) and one 40Gbps downstream TB4 port for other devices, such as a fast SSD storage drive. The upstream Thunderbolt port can supply up to 90W of power to your laptop, while the downstream port can charge other devices at 15W.

Anker’s inclusion of two HDMI ports means you don’t need any adapters to connect displays, provided you own two with HDMI connections. In total, the dock supports the two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports (10Gbps, 4.5W of power), another two USB-A ports (480Mbps, 4.5W), and a USB-C port (10Gbps, 20W) alongside gigabit ethernet, a UHS-II SD card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The dock is powered, with a 120W power supply.

Read our full Anker Apex 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Dock review

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (CalDigit TS3 Plus) – Most flexible Thunderbolt dock for I/O

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (11)

Pros

  • Ports, ports, ports
  • Vertical orientation, no stand necessary

Cons

  • Only a single DisplayPort port

Best Prices Today:$269.99 at B & H

CalDigit’s Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus is one of the most popular Thunderbolt 3 docks available, and it’s easy to see why: a space-saving vertical orientation, 87W charging, gobs of available ports, and even niceties like a S/PDIF optical connection and an external Thunderbolt jack for daisy-chaining devices.

Port selection includes: two Thunderbolt 3 ports (one from the laptop, and one for an external connection), and a single DisplayPort 1.2 port. That’s ideal for a single 4K display, but awkward for two. The TS3 Plus includes one full-sized SD (SD 4.0 UHS-II) card reader, the S/PDIF port, gigabit ethernet, and two 3.5mm audio jacks—one in, one out. Five USB Type A ports are also included (all 5Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1) and two USB-C ports (one 5Gbps port, and one 10Gbps port).

Read our full CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (CalDigit TS3 Plus) review

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 (TS4) – Best for Apple Mac users

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (12)

Pros

  • Thunderbolt 4
  • A whopping 18 ports
  • 98W power delivery to your Mac
  • 2.5 gigabit ethernet
  • 230W power supply

Cons

  • Only two downstream TB4 ports
  • Pricey

Best Prices Today:$399.99 at Amazon

This recommendation comes courtesy of our colleagues at Macworld, who have compiled their own list of best Thunderbolt docking stations for the Apple Mac market. “All the ports you could want coupled with high-wattage charging justify the price of this full-featured dock,” and who are we to argue? We can personally vouch for its progenitor, the TS3 Plus, which we ranked favorably among other Thunderbolt docks.

While we have yet to review the TS4 ourselves, a simple gander at the price re-affirms our certainty that this is a product for the Mac market.

FAQ

1.

How do I know if my laptop has Thunderbolt?

The short answer: Look at the laptop’s published specifications to be sure. A Thunderbolt port may look indistinguishable from a USB-C port, since they both use the same physical USB-C connection. Put another way, all Thunderbolt ports are USB-C, but not all USB-C ports are Thunderbolt-equipped.

(Video) CalDigit TS4 - The Best Thunderbolt Dock

Thunderbolt ports aresupposed to have a small lightning-bolt icon to identify them. But some laptop makers use a similar lightning-bolt icon to indicate that a USB-C port can be used for charging your phone, andnot for Thunderbolt. Laptop makers sometimes don’t want to clutter the clean lines of their products by adding additional logos, it seems.

Adding to the confusion, you may also see USB-C hubs marketed as “Thunderbolt compatible.” That’s true. You can plug a Thunderbolt dock into a non-Thunderbolt, generic USB-C port. But it will be limited by the available bandwidth that the port provides, so it’s somewhat deceptive in that regard.

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (13)

IDG

2.

I already own a USB-C dongle. Can I use it with Thunderbolt?

A USB-C dongle won’t replace a Thunderbolt dock, as there’s circuitry within the dock that allows it to work your laptop’s high-speed Thunderbolt port. However, there’s nothing saying that you can’t connect the dongle to an available USB-C port on the Thunderbolt dock itself to add even more ports.

That solution will add more clutter to your desk, but it might allow you to buy a cheaper, budget dock, too. It’s up to you!

3.

How fast is Thunderbolt?

Most USB-C ports are built on the second-generation USB 3.1 data-transfer standard, which transfers data at 10Gbps. Thunderbolt 3 ports, the most common standard, transfer data at up to 40Gbps. Thunderbolt 4 differs very slightly in that it supports a theoretical maximum of 32Gbps for external storage devices, but you probably won’t notice the difference.

There are very rare exceptions: A newUSB 3.2 Gen 2×2 spec can pair two 10Gbps channels together, creating an aggregate 20Gbps hub. And while the vast majority of Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptops are designed with four PCIe lanes for a total of 40Gbps, some laptops only ship with two PCIe lanes for a total of 20Gbps. (A Dell support page, for example, details its four-lane and two-lane laptops.) Essentially, a 20Gbps connection should be enough for a single 4K monitor running at 60Hz, with a bit of extra bandwidth for other data transfers among connected peripherals.

4.

What’s the difference between Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB4?

The short answer: Not that much, and we consider Thunderbolt 3 docks and Thunderbolt 4 docks to be functionally equivalent for most users. The longer answer, which we’ll describe below, is that there are differences, and parsing the nuances can be confusing. Think of Thunderbolt 4 as the more restrictive version of Thunderbolt 3, with little room for any gotchas.

Essentially, Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 allow up to 40Gbps maximum bandwidth, enough for two 4K/60 displays. “Up to” is the key phrase: Thunderbolt 3 is only required to support a 10Gbps connection, allowing for a single external 4K display (a 16Gbps PCIe connection, paired with USB 3.2). Most manufacturers go beyond this, however, and our recommended docks support the full specification (and two 4K displays) unless noted. Thunderbolt 3 also supports a slower (16Gbps) PCIe connection for connecting to external storage.

Thunderbolt 3 is also the only specification (not Thunderbolt 4) that we’ve seen connecting to external GPUs, in case you’d like to try that approach.

Thunderbolt 4 doesn’t allow for any leeway—you’re getting a full-fledged 40Gbps connection (32Gbps PCIe + USB 3.2), no questions asked. For external storage, Thunderbolt 4 supports 32Gbps of data transfer—this really only matters for video, external GPU connections, or possibly games. Thunderbolt 4 supports “wake on sleep” from an external keyboard or mouse, which allows you to tap your external keyboard or wiggle your mouse to wake up your PC, which is handy. Thunderbolt 4 allows for longer cables and more Thunderbolt ports on laptops, too.

USB4 is essentially a subset of Thunderbolt 4, mainly designed as an an I/O specification. USB4 can only support one display, and manufacturers can choose whether it supports a 20Gbps connection or a 40Gbps connection, according to Thunderbolt dock designer Plugable. As a subset of Thunderbolt 4, a USB4 device will run just fine plugged into a Thunderbolt 4 port. But a Thunderbolt 4 device may not work as expected when plugged into what is specifically a USB4 port. Don’t worry about this too much, as it’s rare to see a USB4 hub. Instead, most hubs and docks are marketed as Thunderbolt 4, while most devices (like an external SSD) are designed around USB4.

USB4 Version 2 is an upcoming standard that will propel USB4 to 80Gbps, which is the only 80Gbps standard yet announced. The first products will debut (as a guess) in early 2023.

Note that Thunderbolt 3 and 4 require at least 15W to power devices plugged into the Thunderbolt port, such as a bus-powered hard drive. USB4 requires just half that.

Device maker Anker has a nice summary of all of the technical features associated with Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB4, if you really want to get into the fine distinctions (below).

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (14)

Anker

5.

What cable should I use with a Thunderbolt dock?

Virtually every Thunderbolt device will ship with its own cable. We’d recommend that you use Thunderbolt 3 cables with Thunderbolt 3 products, and Thunderbolt 4 cables with Thunderbolt 4 products.

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (15)

IDG

Buying Guide: what to look for in a Thunderbolt dock

Ports, cables, peripherals: Those are the three major considerations when buying a Thunderbolt dock.

We’re beginning to see the Thunderbolt dock market break down in a few different ways. First, there’s the budget versus full-featured docks we’ve highlighted above. But you also may see something similar to the USB hubs of old: Devices that take Thunderbolt in and then provide several USB-C (including Thunderbolt) ports out. There are a small number of displays with Thunderbolt inputs, which can be plugged directly into these hubs. Do you have an existing cheap USB-C dongle? You can certainly plug that in into a Thunderbolt dock and add even more I/O functionality.

Basically, consider what you’ll want to plug into the dock as a guide for buying one. We prefer devices with ports built in (such as HDMI, USB-A, and so on) as the USB-C device ecosystem is still in its infancy. But ask yourself some questions. Do you want a basic Thunderbolt dock, with just a pair of HDMI ports for connecting two displays? Does an SD card slot matter? How many USB Type A peripherals do you plan to attach? Do you want to use the Thunderbolt cable to charge your laptop, too?

Cables can be an unexpectedly important consideration, too. Virtually every dock ships with a Thunderbolt cable. But consider the displays you own (typically HDMI or DisplayPort) and consider whether the dock will accommodate them.

Check your laptop’s power supply. Does it plug into your laptop via USB-C? If so, a Thunderbolt dock will likely power it. You’ll need to understand how the dock supplies power, though. Check your laptop’s charger to learn how much power it supplies, and how much the dock will need to supply to replace it. If your laptop or devices aren’t receiving enough power, you may see a warning pop up.

A “bus-powered” dock won’t come with an external charger in the package, saving some cost, space, and power concerns. A dock with “power delivery” will supply its own powerand charge your laptop and/or a phone via your laptop’s existing USB-C charger. (Chances are that it won’t offer the quick-charging capabilities premium smartphones offer, though.) The more power your dock supplies, the greater the ability to charge your laptop and any bus-powered devices. This is a gotcha most people don’t think about, so if you plan to connect several bus-powered hard drives or SSDs, buy a dock with a hefty power supply. (USB keys, on the other hand, require tiny amounts of power. Don’t worry about these.)

Best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop (16)

Mark Hachman / IDG

There’s one more consideration: the length of the Thunderbolt cable between your laptop and the dock itself. You may have noticed or heard about USB-C ports wearing out on smartphones; a loose or wobbly connector on a Thunderbolt dock can cause a monitor to unexpectedly flicker or lose connection. Consider how much tension will be put on a cable. A Thunderbolt dock that’s dangling from a Thunderbolt port will stress the physical connector. You don’t want that!

If you’re a Mac user who has stumbled across this article, welcome. But please be aware that early Apple MacBook Pros powered by Intel silicon supported up to two 4K displays. The first MacBook Pros powered by the Apple M1 chip only support a single 4K display. Many Mac users have recently left negative reviews on Thunderbolt docks on shopping sites because of this. Buy a PC!

How we test Thunderbolt docks

We’re working from the premise that you’re buying a Thunderbolt dock for its unique ability to connect to two 4K monitors at 60Hz. Lower resolutions should be much easier to run successfully. Our first test simply connected each dock to a pair of 4K/60Hz displays, each of which could accept DisplayPort and HDMI cabling, and made sure there were no visual artifacts at 60Hz resolution.

Second, we checked to see whether the available ports delivered the bandwidth we’d expect, connecting them to an external SSD and transferring a collection of test files over the Thunderbolt cable and port. We also used AJA’s System Test tool to double-check our numbers and test whether read and write speeds were consistent.

(Video) BEST Thunderbolt 4 USB-C Hub / Dongle - What to buy 2022

Finally, we spot-checked the available power draw of the hubs and ports with a USB power meter, as well as simply connecting them to bus-powered devices to see if they could deliver enough power to allow them to operate. Here, we discovered that one of our testing laptops didn’t supply enough power running on battery to power a bus-powered Thunderbolt dock, so we enlisted a second, different laptop as a backup.

FAQs

Are Thunderbolt docks worth it? ›

The upside is, there is a very elegant solution for someone who uses their laptop at a desk, day in and day out. Buy a Thunderbolt 3 dock. They are not cheap, but they are so, so, worth it. If your daily routine involves sitting down at a desk and using a laptop, this is the best solution.

Are Thunderbolt 4 docks worth it? ›

The best Thunderbolt 4 hubs and docks all provide robust external monitor support, lots of USB-A connectivity, and charging back to a host laptop. If you need an SD card reader or an Ethernet port, the full-size docks are no doubt going to be a better choice.

Is a Thunderbolt dock better than a USB-C dock? ›

The latter has significantly better performance, operating at 40Gbps, while USB-C functions at 10Gbps. This means Thunderbolt 3 can present video on two 4K displays or one 5K screen, while USB-C is limited to a single 4K display.

What is the best Thunderbolt 3 docking station? ›

  • CalDigit TS3 Plus. Best overall. Today's Best Deals. ...
  • CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock. Runner-up. Today's Best Deals. ...
  • Corsair TBT100 dock. With HDMI. Today's Best Deals. ...
  • Kensington LD5400T docking station. Robust security. ...
  • HP Thunderbolt Dock G2. Best modular design. ...
  • Seagate FireCuda dock. Gamer's pick. ...
  • OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. Port variety.
29 Jul 2022

What's the difference between a Thunderbolt hub and dock? ›

Power Supply

Thunderbolt 4 docking stations supply more power than hubs. Among other features, this can add to the cost. Thankfully, the folks at OWC have implemented dynamic power in their docking stations. This allows them to supply additional power to your computer, but only when it's needed.

Is Thunderbolt 3 or 4 better? ›

Thunderbolt 4 supports sending a video signal to two 4K displays, or to one 8K display, where Thunderbolt 3 is required to support only a single 4K display. And where Thunderbolt 3 systems have to support only a 16Gbps data rate via PCI Express, Thunderbolt 4 doubles that requirement to 32Gbps.

Which is faster USB4 or Thunderbolt 4? ›

Thunderbolt 4 cables have the edge over USB4 as they support 40Gbps speeds over 2 meters. USB4 supports 40Gbps within one meter with the bandwidth reducing to 20Gbps on 2 meters or longer cables. Thunderbolt 4 will be backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices and cables.

Is there a big difference between Thunderbolt 3 and 4? ›

Thunderbolt™ 4 technology requires support for dual 4K monitors or one 8K monitor vs. Thunderbolt™ 3 technology, which only requires support for one 4K monitor. Note that while Thunderbolt™ 3 protocol-enabled computers aren't required to support dual 4K monitors, some can.

Which is faster Thunderbolt 4 or USB-C? ›

While both can transfer data at up to 40Gbps, a Thunderbolt 4 port is significantly better at outputting video. For example, a USB-C port that supports Thunderbolt 4 is capable of supporting two external 4K monitors or one 8K monitor.

Which is faster USB-C or Thunderbolt? ›

The Thunderbolt 3 cable doubles the max data transfer speed of USB-C, running as fast as 40Gbps. While it has a default charging speed of 15 watts (six times faster than USB-C's default speed), if you connect your device with USB PD, you achieve about the same 100 watts of power as USB-C.

Does it matter what docking station you use? ›

As with power delivery, it's important to match your laptop's video-output capabilities to those of the dock. The first thing to take into account are the monitor or monitors you have, or that you may intend to add. Note the maximum resolution and refresh rate of the monitor(s) you intend to connect.

Which is faster USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 3? ›

In addition, the Thunderbolt 3 can signal data and transfer power to connected devices. It's easy to see that the Thunderbolt standard is faster and more efficient than the USB. What's more, Thunderbolt can handle video files using the same cord.

Is Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 3 the same? ›

Thunderbolt 3 is released in 2015. It is the newest and fastest version of Thunderbolt that can offer a maximum throughput of 40 Gbps. Unlike Thunderbolt 2, in Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C connector is used and it is backward compatible with USB 3.1.

Is Thunderbolt 3 and 4 the same as USB-C? ›

Thunderbolt™ 4 is not the same as USB-C; however, Thunderbolt™ 4 uses the USB-C connector type, recognizable by its oval shape.

Why was Thunderbolt discontinued? ›

Apple's Thunderbolt Display has been criticized for being considerably overpriced and outdated, not having been updated since 2011. The display offers a 2560×1440 resolution, while the 5K iMac that includes an actual computer inside comes in at $800 more.

Should I get a dock or a hub? ›

Unlike USB-C hubs, docking stations can support connection to up to 3 external monitors, and can even support a maximum 8K resolution to a single screen. They also generally feature more ports than USB-C hubs.

Are expensive docking stations worth it? ›

Expensive hubs can handle more and handle it much faster.

The most advanced USB-C docking stations have newer ports with technologies, like Thunderbolt 3, that support faster charging and faster data transfer. The more expensive the laptop accessory, the more likely it is to support a high-resolution monitor, too.

Are laptop docks worth it? ›

A docking station extends the functionality of your laptop, achieving a desktop-like experience. You can connect an external monitor, have your external storage, connect your SD and micro SD card, have a mouse, and more devices plugged in simultaneously. You won't need to buy a desktop computer with such a setup.

How long should a dock last? ›

How long will my dock last? Even without maintenance, a professionally installed dock and boathouse will last an average of 15 to 20 years. With routine maintenance, you can add as much as ten extra years to your dock's lifespan.

Is there a Thunderbolt 5? ›

What's new in Thunderbolt 5? Intel officially started teasing the next generation of Thunderbolt in October 2022, and we already know some of its capabilities. Intel hasn't discussed the Power Delivery requirements, but we know it will significantly increase the available bandwidth to at least 80Gbps.

Is Thunderbolt 3 only for Apple? ›

Apple computers (and a few Windows workstations) are the only systems to support Thunderbolt, which ultimately led to limited adoption.

When should I use Thunderbolt 4? ›

Use a Thunderbolt™ capture device in a dual PC setup to stream at a high resolution and frame rate. Attach a high speed Thunderbolt™ SSD for fast loading times and read/write speeds over a PCIe connection. Use Thunderbolt™ 4 to connect a high refresh rate gaming monitor with DisplayPort 1.4 support.

What is so good about Thunderbolt 4? ›

It delivers high-speed data transfer, outputs a video signal, and can deliver power to compatible devices (including charging a lightweight laptop) simultaneously. Bandwidth. Thunderbolt 4 ports have a 40Gbps (gigabits per second) bidirectional bandwidth.

Can USB-C replace Thunderbolt? ›

USB-C cables are now entirely compatible with Thunderbolt ports, and USB-C ports are compatible with Thunderbolt cables. This makes it easier than ever for computer users to use the best cable they have available. And in many instances, either standard is fine.

What is the fastest Thunderbolt? ›

Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest port on the market today at 40 Gbps total bandwidth.

Can I plug a USB-C into a Thunderbolt 4 port? ›

Thunderbolt 4 uses the USB-C connector, and it's backward compatible with all USB standards. So, in the sense of (for example) whether you can connect your USB-C custom flash drives to your laptop's Thunderbolt port, the two are the same.

Is Thunderbolt 4 the future? ›

Thunderbolt 4 cables can also be beneficial over more traditional USB-C cables. Although overkill for some uses, the extensive Thunderbolt 4 backwards compatibility, as well as feature support, makes it the broadest, most capable cable type of 2021 and beyond, for the foreseeable future.

Is Thunderbolt 3 or HDMI better? ›

Thunderbolt is significantly faster than USB 3.0 or FireWire and provides more video bandwidth than HDMI.

Do I need Thunderbolt on my laptop? ›

You might also be wondering whether a Thunderbolt port requires that you use a Thunderbolt display. It doesn't. But if you have a Thunderbolt port, you do want to take advantage of its many benefits—not just for displays, but for high-speed connectivity and charging as well.

Will a Thunderbolt dock work with USB-C? ›

For the first time, there is a plug-and-play Thunderbolt 3 docking station that intelligently adapts to your Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2) laptop offering optimal performance and compatibility.

Is Thunderbolt 4 and Type C the same? ›

Thunderbolt™ 4 uses the oval-shaped USB-C connector type, features a lightning symbol, and is compatible with USB4. This communication protocol delivers powerful charging, data transfers, and video signals with a single cable.

Can I use Thunderbolt port to charge laptop? ›

The Thunderbolt port is designed to support charging, but it depends on the design of the computer. Some computers' Thunderbolt port can only be used to communicate with the device, but some computers' Thunderbolt port can be used for charging.

Which is faster Lightning or Thunderbolt? ›

It's known to all that Lightning cables transfer data at USB 2.0 speed, which is 480Mbps/60MBps while USB-C can handle USB 3.0 speed, with transfer speeds as fast as 5Gbps/640MBps (USB 3.1 Gen 1), or 10Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen2), and Thunderbolt 3, the superset of USB-C, is capable of 40Gbps.

Which is faster Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3? ›

Thunderbolt Speed

Thunderbolt has a maximum speed of 10 Gb/s, Thunderbolt 2 has a maximum speed of 20 Gb/s, and Thunderbolt 3 has a maximum speed of of 40 Gb/s, compared to 800 Mb/s for Firewire 800, 5 Gb/s for USB 3.0, and 10 Gb/s for USB 3.1.

Can a docking station slow down computer? ›

The docking station may be flawed, or it may have a software conflict with the computer, either of which can slow down wired internet speeds. You should also update the docking station's firmware (software that's downloaded to a particular device) from the manufacturer's website.

What can I use instead of docking station? ›

Hubs are the perfect solution for expanding the power of your existing ports, whether on a laptop or desktop. They're plug-and-play and ensure there's always an available port for connecting and/or charging another peripheral. While some hubs support audio and video, some people need to step up to a docking station.

Do laptop docks improve performance? ›

Amidst this, a question arises – does a docking station improve performance? Absolutely yes, because it helps in boosting productivity with multi-display functionality and ports availability.

Is USB 3.2 Type C the same as Thunderbolt 3? ›

Connection standard vs connection type

So a Thunderbolt 3 device will fit into a USB 3.2 port — both use USB-C port type, but it will not work.

Is USB-C 3.1 the same as Thunderbolt 3? ›

Where things get a little confusing is Thunderbolt 3 uses the same USB Type C port as USB 3.1, so you'll often see motherboards advertising one port for both connections. This is true, since Thunderbolt 3 fully supports all USB 3.1 cables and connections, any Thunderbolt 3 port is technically a USB 3.1 port too.

Is there anything faster than Thunderbolt 3? ›

Charging: Thunderbolt 4 can provide charging power up to 100W from a single port. Data Transfer: Thunderbolt 3 has a PCIe data transfer speed of 16 Gbps, while Thunderbolt 4 supoorts a PCIe data transfer speed of 32 Gbps.

Is Thunderbolt owned by Apple? ›

Apple registered Thunderbolt as a trademark, but later transferred the mark to Intel, which held overriding intellectual-property rights. Thunderbolt was commercially introduced on Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro, using the same Apple-developed connector as Mini DisplayPort.

Can I use a USB-C cable for Thunderbolt 3? ›

Are USB 3.1 (USB-C) cables and Thunderbolt 3 cables interchangeable? Thunderbolt 3 cables support Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 (USB-C) devices. USB 3.1 (USB-C) cables do not work with Thunderbolt 3 devices. A Thunderbolt 3 storage device requires a Thunderbolt 3 cable and a Thunderbolt 3 port on the computer.

How can I tell if my laptop has Thunderbolt 3? ›

If the computer supports Thunderbolt 3 this will typically be a main feature listed in the manual and on the product page for the computer on the manufacturer's website. Some USB-C ports, such as the ones pictured below, have a Thunderbolt logo printed next to them to identify the ports as Thunderbolt 3 compatible.

Can I charge my laptop with Thunderbolt 4? ›

It delivers high-speed data transfer, outputs a video signal, and can deliver power to compatible devices (including charging a lightweight laptop) simultaneously. Bandwidth.

How much power can Thunderbolt 4 provide? ›

It delivers a maximum of 100W power to any connected device. The Apple USB-C Charge Cable also supports charging, but data-transfer speed is limited to 480Mbps (USB 2.0) and it doesn't support video. The Apple Thunderbolt 4 Pro Cable has the Thunderbolt logo on the sleeve of each connector.

What is the point of a Thunderbolt dock? ›

A Thunderbolt expansion dock allows you to use a single cable connected to a Thunderbolt port and then provide a wide range of port types to your PC from the dock. These may include an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, various USB types, and a 3.55 mm audio jack for headphones.

Is it worth buying docking station? ›

A docking station extends the functionality of your laptop, achieving a desktop-like experience. You can connect an external monitor, have your external storage, connect your SD and micro SD card, have a mouse, and more devices plugged in simultaneously. You won't need to buy a desktop computer with such a setup.

Is Thunderbolt dock better than usb3? ›

In addition, the Thunderbolt 3 can signal data and transfer power to connected devices. It's easy to see that the Thunderbolt standard is faster and more efficient than the USB.

Is Thunderbolt better than display port? ›

Because Thunderbolt has PCI-E lanes shared with your computer, it is much ahead of Mini DisplayPort in terms of the performance it offers. If you are using a Mini DisplayPort, you can only use up to a 2560 x 1600 monitor, which might be decent for most users but falls short when you wish to use a 4K monitor.

Why is USB-C better than Thunderbolt? ›

Thunderbolt is a data-transfer technology that enables a USB-C port to deliver faster data transfer speeds. For example, a USB-C port that doesn't support Thunderbolt is capable of transfer speeds up to 20Gbps (this is referring to a USB-C 3.2 port; an older USB-C 3.1 port maxes out at 10Gbps).

Is Thunderbolt better than HDMI? ›

Thunderbolt is significantly faster than USB 3.0 or FireWire and provides more video bandwidth than HDMI.

Can a docking station mess up a laptop? ›

Keeping your laptop plugged into the docking station when it is not needed is also a bad idea because a power surge or flickering could also damage the laptop hardware.

Which is faster Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C? ›

The Thunderbolt 3 cable doubles the max data transfer speed of USB-C, running as fast as 40Gbps. While it has a default charging speed of 15 watts (six times faster than USB-C's default speed), if you connect your device with USB PD, you achieve about the same 100 watts of power as USB-C.

What is the main difference between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 for docking? ›

Thunderbolt™ Technology Key Takeaways

The Thunderbolt™ 4 protocol doubles the minimum video and data requirements of Thunderbolt™ 3 technology. The latest generation also supports accessories with up to four Thunderbolt™ ports and requires laptop charging1 of up to 100W on at least one computer port.

Does Thunderbolt support 4K? ›

Is Thunderbolt 4K compatible? Yes! A Thunderbolt 2 port can support a single 4K monitor, while Thunderbolt 3 and 4 can support two 4K displays at 60Hz per port, or a single 4K display at 120 Hz.

Is Thunderbolt 4 the same as USB-C? ›

Thunderbolt™ 4 is not the same as USB-C; however, Thunderbolt™ 4 uses the USB-C connector type, recognizable by its oval shape.

Is Apple Thunderbolt Display still good? ›

Despite being discontinued in 2016, the Thunderbolt Display still looks surprisingly good. Its design isn't bad, the picture looks good, and it has quite a few good bells and whistles baked in.

Videos

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5. Best Thunderbolt 3 Docks to Turn Your Laptop Into a Powerhouse Desktop
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