Review: CalDigit AV Pro 2 Combines External USB-C Storage With a USB Hub and 30W of Charging Power

CalDigit recently launched its AV Pro 2 storage hub, a USB-C accessory that serves not only as an external drive with up to 8 TB of storage, but also acts a peripheral hub with two additional Type-A USB 3.0 ports and can charge a connected computer at up to 30 watts.


The AV Pro 2 is available in a range of capacities in both traditional 7200 rpm hard drive and solid-state drive models, ranging from 3 TB to 8 TB for the HDD models and coming in at 1 TB or 2 TB for the SSD models. I've been able to spend time with a 3 TB HDD model, and I've come away impressed with its capabilities. Stepping up to an SSD model would offer even more performance, although at substantially higher cost and lower capacities.

Overview


The AV Pro 2 can be oriented either vertically or horizontally, with small cushioning pads provided on one of the large faces for horizontal placement. For vertical placement, CalDigit includes a clear plastic stand, also equipped with cushioning pads, to provide stability.

A large green LED power button is located on the front of the AV Pro 2, making it easy to turn the drive on and off. The LED shines steady when there is an active connection, flashes while the drive is being accessed, and turns off when the drive goes to sleep, keeping you informed of its status and helping protect against data loss. As always, you should eject the drive from your system before physically disconnecting it, and you can use either the built-in eject function in macOS or a dedicated menu bar utility from CalDigit.

MacBook Pro with AV Pro 2 and Tuff external drive

CalDigit is still in the process of finalizing the utility software for the AV Pro 2 and it should be available as a download from the company's support site "in a few weeks," although I was able to use CalDigit's existing menu bar utility for other docking stations and it worked fine with the AV Pro 2.

The AV Pro 2 itself measures 9.5 inches deep by 5.8 inches wide by 1.8 inches tall (in horizontal orientation), and weighs approximately 4.37 pounds. It's not light, as there is quite a bit of aluminum making up the enclosure and the drive module, plus the drive itself and the electronics inside the enclosure.

It certainly has a hefty feel, so this is something you're going to want to leave on a desk rather than take with you unless absolutely necessary. The enclosure is made of a silver brushed aluminum that matches Apple's Mac finishes, with aluminum ribbing along the narrow sides.

Storage Drive


One of the great features of the AV Pro 2 is the removable drive module, which is compatible with both traditional hard drives and solid-state drives in 3.5-inch form factors. The removable module, which is fairly rare in a single-drive system, offers flexibility for easily moving the drive to and from other enclosures or managing multiple drives, and is fully compatible with some of CalDigit's other storage products such as the T4 RAID array line.

Traditional hard drive options for the AV Pro 2 include 3 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB, 6 TB, and 8 TB capacities, and CalDigit advertises speeds up to 200 MB/s for these models. In my testing, the HDD model came close to that 200 MB/s mark for both read and write. CalDigit says the 1 TB and 2 TB solid-state drive models max out at 430 MB/s.


The AV Pro 2 includes support for USB attached SCSI protocol (UASP), which can improve single-drive storage device performance by allowing for simultaneous bidirectional commands and thus faster transfers.

The drives arrive pre-formatted for Mac in HFS+ format, although they can obviously be re-formatted as needed.

Swapping out the drive module is a simple two-step process involving a pair of keys provided in the box. The first step is to use the larger drive key to gently twist a drive module lock counterclockwise to unlock it, and then inserting the smaller drive pin into the release hole to release a large spring-loaded lever on the front of the module that can then be easily grasped to pull the module out.


Installing a drive module is even simpler, only requiring you to slide the module in while making sure the lever catches the rim of the enclosure opening and then snapping the lever closed. A quick twist on the module lock with the drive key secures it.

With a spinning hard drive and a small fan inside the AV Pro 2, there is a little bit of noise while the disk is active, but it's not overly distracting. When the disk goes to sleep, the AV Pro 2 is silent.

Ports


The AV Pro 2 includes a USB-C port and a USB Micro B port, both on the 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard, and CalDigit includes a 0.5-meter USB-C to USB-C cable and a 1-meter USB Micro B to USB-A cable in the box to allow you to connect to both the latest USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 computers and older computers offering only legacy USB-A ports.


The AV Pro 2 also includes a mini USB hub built into it, consisting of a pair of USB 3.0 Type-A ports on the rear of the enclosure. The Type-A ports can be used to connect peripherals such as mice and keyboards, add additional hard drives, or even daisy chain more AV Pro 2 units. The USB ports also include support for Apple's external SuperDrive, and they can provide up to 1.5A/7.5W of standalone charging, so you can recharge an iPhone or other device even if the AV Pro 2 isn't connected to a computer.

I tested CalDigit's fast Tuff external SSD hooked up to one of the AV Pro 2's rear USB ports, and I saw speedy data transfers from my MacBook Pro in the range of 425 MB/s read and write. That performance is actually surprisingly fast considering the connection is only 5 Gbps USB 3.0 and has the AV Pro 2 between the Tuff and the computer.


Beyond its various USB ports, the rear of the AV Pro 2 also includes a DC-in port for the power supply connection, a vent for the small fan to keep things cool, and a Kensington lock slot if you wish to secure the AV Pro 2.

USB-C Power


While MacBook owners will appreciate the 30 watts of power the AV Pro 2 can supply to their computers over a USB-C connection, MacBook Pro owners may find it coming up a bit short depending on their usage patterns, as the 13-inch MacBook Pro can draw up to 60 watts while the 15-inch model can draw up to 87 watts at peak demand.

I did test the charging capabilities of the AV Pro 2 with a Late 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, and over the course of a workday the AV Pro 2 was able to keep my Mac topped off at 100 percent charge. Granted, I wasn't doing any heavy lifting like video processing with my Mac, but for moderate uses the AV Pro 2 can actually keep up with or at the very least significantly slow the rate of battery discharge.

I asked CalDigit why the AV Pro 2 is limited to 30 watts of charging power, and a representative told me it was a combination of factors. For many users like myself, 30 watts is actually enough. Boosting power output to 60 or 85 watts would require a much larger power supply, and given the relatively small size of the AV Pro 2 as a single-drive storage device, a larger power supply would be an extra cost and a bit of an inconvenience. The AV Pro 2 already includes a 60-watt power adapter, with 30 watts going to the drive itself and 30 watts able to be passed through to a connected computer.

From a more general perspective, CalDigit views storage as being the primary function of the AV Pro 2, with the charging capabilities being a bonus. Under many circumstances, 30 watts will be enough to keep even a MacBook Pro topped off, but if you're putting your machine under heavy loads or need to recharge a depleted battery quickly, you'll want to use a higher-powered charger.
A customer will get the convenience of single cable charging but if they're in a rush they'll need to connect the factory charger. It's really only for instances when someone needs to charge quickly before they go somewhere. When working with the files on the AV Pro 2 or overnight charging they won't see much difference.
While tradeoffs in size and component costs are understandable, it's still a bit disappointing that the AV Pro 2 can't fully support charging a MacBook Pro over a single USB-C connection. It seems that it would likely be sufficient as an everyday power source for my needs, even with a 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it definitely wouldn't be for users with heavier workloads, and for many users it could be hard to tell until they really spend some time with it.

Wrap-up


Pricing on the AV Pro 2 starts at $249.99 for a 3 TB HDD model, with higher-capacity options available at 4 TB ($299.99), 5 TB ($349.99), 6 TB ($399.99) and 8 TB ($449.99). If you're looking for faster speeds but with lower capacities, CalDigit offers the 1 TB SSD model for $549.99 while the 2 TB SSD model costs $849.99. All models come with a one-year warranty.

CalDigit is currently offering a 15 percent discount on all capacities through November 6 simply for signing up for the company's newsletter through a pop-over on the AV Pro 2 product page.

Amazon is currently knocking $50 off of several of the lower-capacity models including 3 TB, 4 TB, and 5 TB HDD options for an even better deal, although stock is quite limited.

CalDigit also offers extra drive modules bundled with HDDs ranging from 1 TB ($109.99) to 6 TB ($349.99). Standalone SSD modules will be available in 1 TB ($449.99) and 2 TB ($749.99) capacities, and they should be added to CalDigit's site in the very near future. Each package also includes an archive box for storing and organizing extra modules.

Note: CalDigit provided the AV Pro 2 to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Elgato Eve Light Switch and Eve Motion Add Versatility to Your HomeKit Setup

Elgato's Eve lineup of smart home devices is one of the largest contributors to the HomeKit ecosystem, with a variety of sensors and switches for inside and out, including five more products announced a couple of months ago.

We reviewed a set of the early Eve products two years ago, when we found a solid set of sensors that were hampered by bugs in the early days of HomeKit. HomeKit has come a long way since that time, making it much more stable and useful, so many of our early qualms have been resolved and we were impressed by the new Eve Degree temperature monitor released earlier this year.

Two of the other products in the Eve lineup are the Eve Light Switch, a rather typical smart light switch, and Eve Motion, a battery-operated motion sensor. I've been using both of these for a few months, and I've found them to be quite useful in automating my home.

Eve Light Switch



There are a number of HomeKit-compatible smart switches on the market, including one from iDevices that I looked at earlier this year. The Eve Light Switch was, however, the first entrant into this category late last year, and it remains a worthy competitor.

Installation and Setup


If you've ever swapped out a light switch, it's a pretty straightforward process, and installing the Eve Light Switch isn't much different. As always, make sure you turn off power at the circuit breaker for safety before getting inside the junction box.

The Eve Light Switch is a lot bulkier than a traditional switch in order to accommodate all of the electronics, so you'll need to make sure you have enough room in your junction box, and you'll also need to have a neutral wire present at the switch location in order to provide continuous power to the switch. If you don't have one, you'll have to run some new wiring to the switch (which may not be a do-it-yourself job) or else select another location.

Unlike the iDevices Wall Switch, the Eve Light Switch can only be used in single-pole configurations. So if you've got a three-way circuit where a single light is controlled from two different switches, for example, you won't be able to use the Eve Light Switch.

Once you've determined the switch you want to replace is an appropriate location for the Eve Light Switch, it's just a matter or removing the old switch, transferring the wires over to the Eve Light Switch using the included wire nuts, shoving everything back into the wall, and screwing it all together.

Included snap-on plate (left) vs. standard wall plate purchased separately (right)

From there, you have a decision to make. Elgato includes a two-piece face plate for a clean look, which requires that you screw on a snap plate over the switch and then snap on the face plate. Alternatively, you can skip those two pieces and put your own face plate on. Metal face plates may decrease the Bluetooth range of the switch, but I haven't experienced any issues with mine.

With everything put back together, it's time to turn the circuit breaker back on and make sure tapping the switch properly turns your light on and off. From there, head to the Eve app to get finish setting up the switch and getting it registered with your HomeKit network.


When you're done with setup on your device, you'll be all set to control the Eve Light Switch using the Eve app, the built-in Home app on iOS, or Siri. And as always, you can set up scenes to control the switch in conjunction with other HomeKit accessories, such as a "Good night" scene that turns off the lights, locks the doors, and adjusts the thermostat when heading to bed.

Usage


One thing my whole family loves about the Eve Light Switch is that the switch is actually just one big capacitive touch sensor. Tapping anywhere on the switch will turn the light on or off, and a green light in the center of the switch when it's off helps make it easy to find and hit in the dark.

The sensor makes for a big target, and it's easy to activate it when carrying things, even if you have to use an elbow. That's in contrast to the iDevices Wall Switch, which is a more traditional paddle design that requires you to physically press the top or bottom half of the switch to turn it on or off.

The Eve Motion communicates via Bluetooth, which conserves energy but somewhat limits its range. It can connect directly to your phone via Bluetooth, but if you have an Apple TV or iPad set up as a hub for your HomeKit setup, it'll ensure that all notifications and scenes function properly even when your phone isn't in range. Bluetooth range is much shorter than Wi-Fi, however, so you could run into some difficulty if your hub is located far from the switch.

Eve App


Once you've set up your light switch in the Eve app, you'll find that it's also a very full-featured HomeKit control app, showing all of your HomeKit devices around the house with options to set scenes, timers, rules (triggers), rooms, and zones (groups of rooms).

I won't go into too much detail on the app, as we've covered it fairly extensively in previous reviews such as the Eve Degree, but it's definitely a high-quality app for managing not just Eve products but a variety of HomeKit-compatible accessories.


The Eve app keeps a log of events such as when the light switch is turned on and off, which you can view in graph or table form. The various rules and scenes also make it easy to set up products to work together in scenarios such as activating multiple products at once or using an event on one accessory to automatically trigger a change in the state of another one.

Eve Motion


The Eve Motion is a simple product designed to do only one thing: sense motion in a room. Its 120º field of view and 30-foot detection range help it recognize whenever someone enters a room, and the fact that it's powered by a pair of AA batteries means you can put it almost anywhere. The Eve Motion is also IPX3 water resistant, meaning it can withstand splashes and sprays, and with an operating temperature range of 0º to 130º F, it can be used outdoors as well as inside.


Setup is straightforward, and once you insert the batteries and set the Eve Motion in an appropriate location, the Eve app walks you through step-by-step to allow you to pair with the Eve Motion, set sensitivity for the motion sensing, and set a Siri name for the sensor. If you'd like to integrate with other Eve or HomeKit products, you can set up scenes by specifying triggers and conditions.

As with the Eve Light Switch, the Eve Motion connects to your iOS device over Bluetooth, and if you have an Apple TV or iPad set up as a HomeKit hub, it'll be able to integrate with all of your other smart home devices at all times.

On its own, the Eve Motion is rather limited, basically restricted to pushing notifications whenever motion is sensed. This can come in handy if you want to mount it on your front porch, inside your front door, or in a seldom-used room if you want to be alerted whenever anyone's presence is detected. Within the HomeKit ecosystem, you can restrict notifications to only certain times of the day or, using geofencing, to only times when you either are or are not home.

Notification preferences in Home app for Eve Motion

The real power of the Eve Motion, however, is its wireless connectivity that integrates with the rest of the Eve platform and HomeKit, which lets you use the Eve Motion to trigger actions by other smart home components. For example, you could automatically turn on a light when motion is detected. Rules can also use multiple criteria, so you could set up an "I'm home" scene that turns on lights if it detects motion at your front door but only if it's after sunset. Or you could arrange to have a fan turn on when you enter a room, but only if the temperature is above 72º F.


One of the setups I tried with the Eve Motion was inside a pantry in my kitchen, pairing it with an iDevices Switch to try to automatically turn on a light in the pantry when the door was opened. The setup worked, but it's not instantaneous, sometimes taking as much as five seconds for the Eve Motion to recognize the motion of the door opening and me moving around in front of it, passing the event to HomeKit for processing the trigger, and sending a signal to the iDevices Switch to turn the light on it.

It wasn't ideal, considering I am frequently spending less time popping my head into the pantry than it takes for the light to come on, but it was an interesting test to push the limits of how HomeKit products can work together.

Other less time-sensitive setups worked better, such as triggering lights to come on when motion was detected on my front porch. The slight lag in response for the scene to activate once motion is detected isn't really significant in these contexts.

Wrap-up


The Eve Light Switch carries a list price of $49.95, and a few third-party sellers at Amazon are even knocking a few dollars off of that, which makes for a pretty decent deal in the world of connected light switches where many are closer to $100. It's a lot more than the buck or two you can spend on a traditional toggle switch at the low end, but there's obviously a lot more technology packed in and it comes with much more functionality. Your cash outlay will add up quickly if you want to use any of these smart switches throughout your home, so at least for now most users will want to be fairly selective about where they choose to install them.

The Eve Motion is priced at $49.95, and it's available through a number of retailers including Amazon or directly from Elgato. As a simple motion sensor without any other Eve or HomeKit products, it's not really worth investing in, but as part of a larger smart home setup, it can be a handy addition to help your other accessories do more.

Note: Elgato provided the Eve Light Switch and Eve Motion to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Ring’s Floodlight Cam Offers Convenient Home Security, but HomeKit Support Still Missing

Back in January, Ring introduced its motion-activated Floodlight Cam, pairing a security camera with two bright floodlights to help protect users' homes. The Floodlight Cam began shipping in April, and I've been using one for about six weeks to monitor the rear of my house. It's a handy product that lets you keep tabs on movement around your home, with push notifications, live and recorded camera views, and the ability to use two-way talk and a siren to communicate with people approaching your home.


The hardwired Floodlight Cam includes a pair of floodlights with a 270-degree motion sensor, combined with a camera capable of 1080p HD video, enhanced night vision, 140-degree field of view, and a cloud recording subscription plan. It's priced at $249 (or $449 for a two-pack) and is available in black or white.
Continue reading Review: Ring’s Floodlight Cam Offers Convenient Home Security, but HomeKit Support Still Missing

Review: Emerson’s $200 Sensi Touch HomeKit Thermostat Offers a Large Color Display and Easy Setup

Fueled by the popularity of Nest, thermostats remain one of the more popular categories of smart home devices. I recently took at look at Honeywell's Lyric Round thermostat with HomeKit support, and today I'm following up with Emerson's latest HomeKit model, the Sensi Touch.


Announced back in May and launched in June, the Sensi Touch offers a horizontal design with a color touchscreen taking up much of the front of the device. Aside from onscreen controls, the Sensi Touch can also be managed via app or through HomeKit, offering a number of options for controls.

Installation


I've had a bit of previous experience swapping out thermostats, so I was already familiar with what needed to be done, and all told it took me less than 30 minutes to remove my old thermostat and get the Sensi Touch installed. After making sure the circuit breakers for my heating and air conditioning system were turned off, I launched the Sensi app on my iPhone and it walked me through all of the steps to get up and running.


It's a great setup process, with easy to follow instructions that integrate with the iPhone's Camera app to take a photo of your existing thermostat wiring for reference, as well as a terminal picker that lets you tell the app exactly which wires your current system uses so that it can guide you in connecting the Sensi Touch.


As with most other thermostats, the Sensi Touch comes in two pieces, a rear plate that is screwed to the wall and contains the terminals for the wiring coming out of the wall, paired with a main body that snaps onto the rear plate for a clean look.

The Sensi Touch's rear plate is well designed, using small paddles under each terminal to secure the wires in their terminals. The paddles are big enough to press with your finger, yet the terminal array remains compact on the rear plate.

The rear plate also includes a handy light that can be operated by switch to help you see what you're doing while connecting the wires. Once the thermostat is fully operational, this light can also be used as a night light to backlight the entire thermostat, but allowing it to be used during setup even without the main body of the thermostat installed is a really nice touch.


The Sensi Touch rear plate includes a pair of screw holes for mounting, one each with play in the horizontal and vertical directions to allow some flexibility. A built-in bubble level makes it easy to ensure everything is lined up properly. Unfortunately, my troublesome thermostat wiring setup with a full junction box located in the wall caused a few problems for me, albeit in a slightly different way than with the Honeywell Lyric Round.

On the positive side, the holes in the Sensi Touch rear plate line up perfectly with the junction box holes, making it simple to mount the thermostat. But its slim profile means the entire thermostat isn't much larger than the junction box itself, and so a bit of rough drywall cutout around the box as well as a screw hole from my Lyric Round installation are visible even with the Sensi Touch fully installed. The screw hole is easy enough to patch, but cleaning up the ragged drywall along the top will be a bit more work.

Setup and App Controls


After the Sensi Touch is mounted to the wall and the circuit breakers are turned back on, the Sensi app continues to walk you through the setup process, allowing you to configure Wi-Fi and connect to HomeKit.


Once it's connected, you can use either the thermostat interface itself or the Sensi app to set up schedules based on time and day of the week, automatically changing temperature set points throughout the day to account for comfortable sleeping conditions, times when you're up and about, and times when you're away.

Setting up schedules on the thermostat

Oddly, schedules can only be set directly on the Sensi Touch if you turn off Wi-Fi on the thermostat, and as I unfortunately discovered, once you turn off Wi-Fi there's apparently no way to turn it back on and reconnect to the app without completely resetting the thermostat.

Display


While the Sensi Touch includes a color display, it retains a relatively monochromatic appearance to keep the look simple, opting for white text on various shades of either blue when in cooling mode or orange when in heating mode.

Home screen in heating mode

If you choose to manage schedules through the app, the functionality available through the thermostat is rather basic, primarily consisting of adjustments to the temperature setting and changing the fan and heating/cooling modes. Manually adjusting the temperature when a schedule is in effect will temporarily hold the new temperature until the next schedule change or for at least two hours.

Night light

Other options include preferences for the home screen such as whether to show indoor humidity and the time of day, as well as whether to use Fahrenheit or Celsius units. A separate page in the settings lets you turn on the backlight for use as a night light.

Sleep display while in heating mode

When you're not interacting with the thermostat, you have the option of showing a blank screen or a dimmed screen that shows only the current inside temperature, again on a blue background for cooling or an orange background for heating. It's a very bland look considering the large, color display, and I'd definitely prefer something a bit more interesting.

Sensi App


The app is pretty straightforward, offering a main screen that lets you manage multiple thermostats and then a summary screen for each thermostat that prominently displays the current temperature and humidity, as well as the weather for your location and the set point of the thermostat. Adjusting the set point is simple, requiring just a tap on arrows along the right side of the screen to raise or lower the temperature.


At the bottom of the main display are a pair of buttons, one that lets you change the mode among heating, cooling, automatic, or off, and the other that sets the fan to automatic or always-on. I wish those buttons were a little bigger as hit targets, but you're not going to need to use them very often, so it's not a big deal.


Additional tabs for each thermostat are accessible along the bottom of the screen. One is a Settings tab that primarily displays your setup information but also lets you adjust a few options such as whether temperatures are displayed in Fahrenheit or Celsius and whether the humidity and current time are displayed. More advanced settings include the ability to delay cooling on rapid cycles to prevent system damage, lock out control for the thermostat itself, customize an offset if the thermostat reads a different temperature than you expect, and change heating and cooling cycle rates.


The final tab is for Scheduling, which allows you to create or edit schedules based on time and day of the week and adjust temperatures based on activity in the home. A couple of advanced options let you create multiple schedules in case your needs vary from week to week and turn on an "Early Start" toggle that intelligently starts your heating or cooling early so that your home reaches your desired temperature right at the scheduled time.

The Sensi Touch also includes a beta geofencing feature, which will automatically set back the thermostat by three degrees once you're more than three miles from home in order to save energy. It's not as advanced as Honeywell's geofencing which lets you define a custom radius and customize the set point for when you're away, but at least it's something.


The Sensi Touch will send alerts in a variety of situations to let you know of problems with your heating and air conditioning system, such as if inside temperature reaches 99ºF or 45ºF, humidity exceeds 78 percent, or inside temperature goes up or down by 5ºF even though the system is trying to cool or heat. It would be nice if these thresholds were customizable, but at a minimum the 5º alert should cover most circumstances where your system has failed. It would also be nice if the app could send reminders to change your air filters.

HomeKit


As a HomeKit thermostat, the Sensi Touch works with the Home app on iOS to help you see all of your HomeKit-compatible smart home devices in one app. You can easily adjust the thermostat's temperature setting via the Home app or Siri, and you can incorporate it into scenes and triggers to integrate with other HomeKit accessories. For example, you can include the thermostat in a "Good night" scene that locks your front door, turns off lights, and adjusts the thermostat when you're heading for bed.


Beyond simple temperature and mode settings and automation through HomeKit, other settings must be adjusted either on the thermostat itself or through the Sensi app.

Wrap-up


Emerson's Sensi Touch is a nice addition to the HomeKit thermostat market. Its large color display is visually engaging when you're interacting with it, although I wish it took better advantage of the display even when you're simply glancing at it. The Sensi Touch's touchscreen controls are responsive and setup is extremely easy, with a great app that walks you through everything you need to do.

On the downside, I wish the geofencing features were a little more robust, as I appreciated the customizability offered by Honeywell. The Sensi Touch also lacks many of the learning features that are the hallmark of Nest's thermostats and which contribute significantly to energy savings. Finally, the inability to easily adjust schedules directly from the thermostat can be inconvenient.

At a list price of $200, the Sensi Touch is obviously much more expensive than a traditional thermostat, even digital ones that offer scheduling features, but it's competitive with other smart thermostats, particularly if you can find it cheaper such as through Amazon where we've occasionally seen it for as low as $159 through third-party sellers, but availability varies significantly and pricing is more typically in the $180–$200 range.

Note: Emerson provided the Sensi Touch to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Plugable’s Flagship TBT3-UDV Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers Lots of USB Ports at a Reasonable Price

I've covered a lot of Thunderbolt 3 docks in recent months, but there's one more upcoming model that's worth taking a look at. The TBT3-UDV is Plugable's upcoming flagship Thunderbolt 3 dock, featuring five USB 3.0 Type-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort, stereo in/out, and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. The dock isn't available for purchase yet, as Plugable is still awaiting Thunderbolt certification, but the company tells me it's aiming for an early October launch assuming the certification comes through in a timely fashion.


In the box, you'll find the typical components including the dock itself, an external power brick, and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. One nice touch I haven't seen with other docks is an included DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 active adapter, normally sold separately for $19, which makes it easier to hook up a broader array of displays, televisions, and projectors to the dock.


Notably, the TBT3-UDV can be oriented either horizontally like most other Thunderbolt 3 docks or vertically using an included stand. It's a nice feature that the dock has in common with CalDigit's TS3, but differences in their designs mean the Plugable dock is taller and more slender in its vertical orientation compared to the TS3's block-like design.

Design


While it might have an awful name, the design of the TBT3-UDV stands out on a desk, particularly in its vertical orientation. The enclosure is constructed of a matte aluminum that's fairly close to Apple's Space Gray color and which has a few deep grooves on each side to add some style. The curved front edge of the dock is made of a glossy black plastic, as is the rear port panel.


There are somewhat prominent white Plugable logos on each side, as well as some model and regulatory information near the bottom of one of the sides. A bit cleaner look would have been nicer, especially considering the eye-catching hardware design, but it's not terrible. A pair of status lights, green for power and blue for data connection to a computer, are hidden beneath the black plastic on the front edge of the dock.

USB Ports


One of the key features of the TBT3-UDV is its five USB Type-A ports, four on the rear and one on the front. This array of USB ports is only matched by OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Dock, with nearly every other dock on the market offering only three ports.

SSD speeds connected to USB-A port

All five ports are 5 Gbps USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1, so you'll get solid transfer speeds like the 325 MB/s write and 350 MB/s read I saw with a fast external SSD, typical for these types of docks. If you want even more speed, you'll have to use the available Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port on the rear for 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, which clocked in at 470 MB/s write and 495 MB/s read with the external SSD.

SSD speeds connected to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port

Unfortunately, the four USB ports on the rear of the dock are clustered very closely together. It helps keep the overall dock footprint compact, but it means if you have oversized USB peripherals like card readers or certain flash drives plugged into the back, they will likely block access to some of the other USB ports.

Ill-fitting oversized flash drive in front USB port

I also have one fairly wide flash drive that won’t even plug into the front USB port because of the recessed design. It doesn't really even fit in the two rear USB ports closest to the edge of the dock, although I can insert it just far enough to make a connection. This might not be a deal breaker if you're mostly connecting USB cables and skinny sticks, but it's something to be aware of.

Displays


As with other Thunderbolt 3 docks, the TBT3-UDV can support up to either a single 5K display over Thunderbolt 3 or two 4K displays using a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port and the DisplayPort port (potentially with adapters to convert to other standards). Hooking up an LG UltraFine 5K display to the downstream Thunderbolt 3 port worked fine, with the display running at 60 Hz and experiencing no lag or other hiccups.

In addition to the DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 cable included in the box with the dock, Plugable also sent me two of the company's USB-C cables: the USB-C to DisplayPort and USB-C to HDMI 2.0 cables that have proven popular with customers on Amazon for their quality and pricing (currently $21.95 each).

Plugable's USB-C to DisplayPort (top) and USB-C to HDMI 2.0 (bottom) cables

The cables, which it's important to emphasize are sold separately and not included with the TBT3-UDV dock, expand the number of display options for use with the dock, and can also be used on a standalone basis with USB-C Macs to connect to external displays that don't directly support USB-C.

I tested hooking up to an LG 27UD88 Ultra HD display in a variety of configurations, including direct DisplayPort to DisplayPort connection from the dock, DisplayPort to HDMI via the dock using the included adapter, and USB-C to DisplayPort and HDMI from both the dock and directly from the MacBook Pro using the additional cables supplied by Plugable.

All of the connections to the DisplayPort port on the 27UD88 worked perfectly, running at 60 Hz with no issues. The HDMI connections, however, only ran at 30 Hz by default, despite the fact that everything in the chain should support HDMI 2.0 at 60 Hz.

Plugable was extremely helpful and responsive with troubleshooting, but ultimately the only way to get 60 Hz over HDMI was to force the refresh rate using SwitchResX, and even then it only worked with one of the two HDMI ports on the LG display. Testing with an Anker USB-C to HDMI adapter also required using SwitchResX to reach 60 Hz, so it seems likely my refresh rate problems are related more to the LG display than any issue with Plugable's products, and Plugable is in touch with LG in an attempt to diagnose the issue.

Charging


One important area of difference among the various Thunderbolt 3 docks is the amount of charging power they are able to output over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to power a connected computer. Some are as low as 15 watts, which won't be nearly enough to power a MacBook Pro. Others are capable of pushing out either 60 or 85 watts, and Plugable's TBT3-UDV comes in at the lower 60-watt figure. That's enough to fully power a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it won't be able to maximize charging of the larger 15-inch model.

If you're a 15-inch MacBook Pro owner, whether Plugable's dock will be able to provide enough power depends on your usage. In my testing, the 60-watt charging power was able to keep my MacBook Pro battery at 100 percent during an entire work day, but I wasn't doing highly demanding work like processing video.

Those users putting heavy workloads on their 15-inch MacBook Pro models will likely find the battery running down even while plugged in, albeit at a much slower rate than if you were on battery alone. If the work you do is less demanding, 60 watts might be enough to keep your battery topped off. Regardless, if your battery isn't already at full capacity, charging will be slower from the dock than from the MacBook Pro's own 87-watt adapter.

Wrap-up


As I noted up top, the TBT3-UDV isn't yet available for purchase, but Plugable says the pre-release unit I received for review should be identical to the shipping version unless any issues crop up during the final Thunderbolt certification process. Plugable is targeting early October for launch, with pricing set at $249.95 including the DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 active adapter. It's a competitive price point for such a full-featured dock that's really only lacking the full 85-watt charging power compared to other top-tier docks, with most of those priced in the $300–$350 range.

In addition to the relatively good pricing, the five USB ports offer great flexibility for connecting multiple peripherals like iPhone or Apple Watch charging docks, card readers, external drives, and more, although a bit more spacing between the ports would have been a good idea and a built-in SD card slot like on the OWC dock would have been nice bonus.

The option for vertical or horizontal orientation of the dock is also a nice feature to fit in with a variety of desk setups, and I like the slender vertical design with the separate stand to keep it stable. As a result, the TBT3-UDV looks like it'll be a great option for those considering a Thunderbolt 3 dock, as long as the 60 watts of charging is sufficient for your needs.

Note: Plugable provided the TBT3-UDV and the USB-C cables to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Plugable’s Flagship TBT3-UDV Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers Lots of USB Ports at a Reasonable Price

I've covered a lot of Thunderbolt 3 docks in recent months, but there's one more upcoming model that's worth taking a look at. The TBT3-UDV is Plugable's upcoming flagship Thunderbolt 3 dock, featuring five USB 3.0 Type-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort, stereo in/out, and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. The dock isn't available for purchase yet, as Plugable is still awaiting Thunderbolt certification, but the company tells me it's aiming for an early October launch assuming the certification comes through in a timely fashion.


In the box, you'll find the typical components including the dock itself, an external power brick, and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. One nice touch I haven't seen with other docks is an included DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 active adapter, normally sold separately for $19, which makes it easier to hook up a broader array of displays, televisions, and projectors to the dock.


Notably, the TBT3-UDV can be oriented either horizontally like most other Thunderbolt 3 docks or vertically using an included stand. It's a nice feature that the dock has in common with CalDigit's TS3, but differences in their designs mean the Plugable dock is taller and more slender in its vertical orientation compared to the TS3's block-like design.

Design


While it might have an awful name, the design of the TBT3-UDV stands out on a desk, particularly in its vertical orientation. The enclosure is constructed of a matte aluminum that's fairly close to Apple's Space Gray color and which has a few deep grooves on each side to add some style. The curved front edge of the dock is made of a glossy black plastic, as is the rear port panel.


There are somewhat prominent white Plugable logos on each side, as well as some model and regulatory information near the bottom of one of the sides. A bit cleaner look would have been nicer, especially considering the eye-catching hardware design, but it's not terrible. A pair of status lights, green for power and blue for data connection to a computer, are hidden beneath the black plastic on the front edge of the dock.

USB Ports


One of the key features of the TBT3-UDV is its five USB Type-A ports, four on the rear and one on the front. This array of USB ports is only matched by OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Dock, with nearly every other dock on the market offering only three ports.

SSD speeds connected to USB-A port

All five ports are 5 Gbps USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1, so you'll get solid transfer speeds like the 325 MB/s write and 350 MB/s read I saw with a fast external SSD, typical for these types of docks. If you want even more speed, you'll have to use the available Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port on the rear for 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, which clocked in at 470 MB/s write and 495 MB/s read with the external SSD.

SSD speeds connected to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port

Unfortunately, the four USB ports on the rear of the dock are clustered very closely together. It helps keep the overall dock footprint compact, but it means if you have oversized USB peripherals like card readers or certain flash drives plugged into the back, they will likely block access to some of the other USB ports.

Ill-fitting oversized flash drive in front USB port

I also have one fairly wide flash drive that won’t even plug into the front USB port because of the recessed design. It doesn't really even fit in the two rear USB ports closest to the edge of the dock, although I can insert it just far enough to make a connection. This might not be a deal breaker if you're mostly connecting USB cables and skinny sticks, but it's something to be aware of.

Displays


As with other Thunderbolt 3 docks, the TBT3-UDV can support up to either a single 5K display over Thunderbolt 3 or two 4K displays using a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port and the DisplayPort port (potentially with adapters to convert to other standards). Hooking up an LG UltraFine 5K display to the downstream Thunderbolt 3 port worked fine, with the display running at 60 Hz and experiencing no lag or other hiccups.

In addition to the DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 cable included in the box with the dock, Plugable also sent me two of the company's USB-C cables: the USB-C to DisplayPort and USB-C to HDMI 2.0 cables that have proven popular with customers on Amazon for their quality and pricing (currently $21.95 each).

Plugable's USB-C to DisplayPort (top) and USB-C to HDMI 2.0 (bottom) cables

The cables, which it's important to emphasize are sold separately and not included with the TBT3-UDV dock, expand the number of display options for use with the dock, and can also be used on a standalone basis with USB-C Macs to connect to external displays that don't directly support USB-C.

I tested hooking up to an LG 27UD88 Ultra HD display in a variety of configurations, including direct DisplayPort to DisplayPort connection from the dock, DisplayPort to HDMI via the dock using the included adapter, and USB-C to DisplayPort and HDMI from both the dock and directly from the MacBook Pro using the additional cables supplied by Plugable.

All of the connections to the DisplayPort port on the 27UD88 worked perfectly, running at 60 Hz with no issues. The HDMI connections, however, only ran at 30 Hz by default, despite the fact that everything in the chain should support HDMI 2.0 at 60 Hz.

Plugable was extremely helpful and responsive with troubleshooting, but ultimately the only way to get 60 Hz over HDMI was to force the refresh rate using SwitchResX, and even then it only worked with one of the two HDMI ports on the LG display. Testing with an Anker USB-C to HDMI adapter also required using SwitchResX to reach 60 Hz, so it seems likely my refresh rate problems are related more to the LG display than any issue with Plugable's products, and Plugable is in touch with LG in an attempt to diagnose the issue.

Charging


One important area of difference among the various Thunderbolt 3 docks is the amount of charging power they are able to output over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to power a connected computer. Some are as low as 15 watts, which won't be nearly enough to power a MacBook Pro. Others are capable of pushing out either 60 or 85 watts, and Plugable's TBT3-UDV comes in at the lower 60-watt figure. That's enough to fully power a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it won't be able to maximize charging of the larger 15-inch model.

If you're a 15-inch MacBook Pro owner, whether Plugable's dock will be able to provide enough power depends on your usage. In my testing, the 60-watt charging power was able to keep my MacBook Pro battery at 100 percent during an entire work day, but I wasn't doing highly demanding work like processing video.

Those users putting heavy workloads on their 15-inch MacBook Pro models will likely find the battery running down even while plugged in, albeit at a much slower rate than if you were on battery alone. If the work you do is less demanding, 60 watts might be enough to keep your battery topped off. Regardless, if your battery isn't already at full capacity, charging will be slower from the dock than from the MacBook Pro's own 87-watt adapter.

Wrap-up


As I noted up top, the TBT3-UDV isn't yet available for purchase, but Plugable says the pre-release unit I received for review should be identical to the shipping version unless any issues crop up during the final Thunderbolt certification process. Plugable is targeting early October for launch, with pricing set at $249.95 including the DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 active adapter. It's a competitive price point for such a full-featured dock that's really only lacking the full 85-watt charging power compared to other top-tier docks, with most of those priced in the $300–$350 range.

In addition to the relatively good pricing, the five USB ports offer great flexibility for connecting multiple peripherals like iPhone or Apple Watch charging docks, card readers, external drives, and more, although a bit more spacing between the ports would have been a good idea and a built-in SD card slot like on the OWC dock would have been nice bonus.

The option for vertical or horizontal orientation of the dock is also a nice feature to fit in with a variety of desk setups, and I like the slender vertical design with the separate stand to keep it stable. As a result, the TBT3-UDV looks like it'll be a great option for those considering a Thunderbolt 3 dock, as long as the 60 watts of charging is sufficient for your needs.

Note: Plugable provided the TBT3-UDV and the USB-C cables to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: IOGEAR’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock Does the Job, but Comes Up Short on Charging Power

Thunderbolt 3 docks continue to flood the market, and today I'm taking a look at IOGEAR's Thunderbolt 3 Quantum Docking Station. IOGEAR's dock offers many of the same features typically seen on other Thunderbolt 3 docks, including multiple USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, headphone and microphone jacks, a DisplayPort port, and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports to allow for daisy chaining, all in a familiar horizontal design used by many other docks.


Most notably, the IOGEAR Thunderbolt 3 Quantum Docking Station looks identical to CalDigit's TS3 Lite that I reviewed a few months ago, with the exception of color and finish. While CalDigit's dock has an enclosure of brushed aluminum and black matte plastic, IOGEAR's has more of a satin matte finish that's slightly lighter in color, paired with white matte plastic. In size, shape, and port layout, however, these two docks are identical.

Caldigit's TS3 Lite (left) vs. IOGEAR's Thunderbolt 3 Quantum Docking Station (right)

The IOGEAR dock looks decent, with its aluminum finish coming close to the silver color Apple uses on its notebooks. A fairly unobtrusive IOGEAR logo is printed on the top of the dock, and it comes with an external power brick and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable for connecting to a host computer at maximum speeds.

Meeting the standard for Thunderbolt 3 docks, IOGEAR's version supports up to a single 5K display over Thunderbolt 3 or dual 4K displays over a combination of Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort. I experienced no hiccups connecting an LG UltraFine 5K display at up to 60 Hz through one of the dock's Thunderbolt 3 ports.


In line with every other dock I've reviewed with the exception of OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Dock, IOGEAR's dock includes three USB ports, with IOGEAR opting to go with one Type-A on the rear and one each of Type-A and Type-C on the front for easy access.


All three ports run at 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 speeds, and the inclusion of a Type-C port is a nice benefit as peripherals start to move in that direction. The USB ports operate at expected speeds once overhead is accounted for, with a CalDigit Tuff SSD running at 325 MB/s write and 350 MB/s read over both Type-A and Type-C, in line with other Thunderbolt 3 docks featuring 5 Gbps USB ports.


As with the TS3 Lite, one of the main limitations with IOGEAR's dock is that it only supports up to 15 watts of charging power over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, meaning it won't be able to power your MacBook Pro over the same cable used for data and video and you'll need to hook up your computer's power brick.

Attempting to power my 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro solely through the dock merely slowed the rate of battery life decrease, even under light usage. Depending on your setup such as willingness to use your Mac's power brick or having another monitor with higher charging power already connected, this might not be a deal breaker, but with many other Thunderbolt 3 docks offering 60 or even 85 watts of charging power it's an unfortunate limitation.

The real deal breaker, however, is price, unless you're very careful in shopping around. IOGEAR's dock carries a list price of $299.95, in the same range as docks with better features such as higher charging power, and a full $100 more than the essentially identical TS3 Lite from CalDigit. You can certainly find cheaper prices on IOGEAR's dock such as current $225 pricing at Amazon, but even that is still higher than the TS3 Lite.

Authorized reseller Provantage currently has it for $178, but with shipping starting at $27, the deal isn't quite as good as it first appears. Even with those deals, it's disappointing how much hunting you need to do to try find a good price on this dock.

As a result, it's hard to recommend the Thunderbolt 3 Quantum Docking Station unless you can find it at a really great price. The TS3 Lite is generally cheaper for identical features, while other docks like OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Dock with more USB ports and an SD card slot or Elgato's dock or CalDigit's TS3 with more features at the same list price offer better values.

Note: IOGEAR provided the Thunderbolt 3 Quantum Docking Station to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Honeywell’s $199 Lyric Round Thermostat Features a Nest-Like Design With HomeKit Support

Some of the more interesting types of smart home devices are thermostats, which can help save energy by optimizing scheduling, automatically sensing when the home is occupied or vacant, and more. One of the early entrants into the field on the HomeKit side is Honeywell, which has introduced several different smart thermostats, starting with the second-generation Lyric Round, which debuted early last year.


I've been using a Lyric Round for quite a while now, and I've come to appreciate its integration with HomeKit and its ease of use, while Honeywell has continued to improve its function and stability over time.
Continue reading Review: Honeywell’s $199 Lyric Round Thermostat Features a Nest-Like Design With HomeKit Support

Review: iDevices’ Switches and Outlets Bring HomeKit to Your Existing Lights and Home Appliances

iDevices was one of the first companies to announce plans for producing HomeKit-compatible products, focusing primarily on switches and outlets but also branching out a bit with a thermostat. Earlier this year, iDevices was acquired by major electrical equipment manufacturer Hubbell, but the iDevices brand and product lineup lives on.

I've been using a number of iDevices products, including the recently launched Wall Switch and Wall Outlet, as well as the Switch and Outdoor Switch that launched some time ago, and I've gotten a pretty good idea of how well these accessories fit into my home and integrate with other HomeKit devices through HomeKit. All of the devices are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but for my purposes I focused on HomeKit.

Wall Switch and Wall Outlet


iDevices' Wall Switch and Wall Outlet are the latest additions to the company's HomeKit family, and they're the most complicated to install since they require in-wall installation. It's a little bit of a hassle and some users such as renters may not be able take advantage of them, but installation is a pretty straightforward project and they provide a much cleaner and more integrated look to your HomeKit system.


As with any other time you're performing electrical work, you should turn off power at the circuit breaker and make sure electricity isn't flowing to the circuits where you're working. iDevices includes step-by-step instructions to walk you through the entire installation process and also includes some helpful videos on its YouTube channel.
Continue reading Review: iDevices’ Switches and Outlets Bring HomeKit to Your Existing Lights and Home Appliances

Review: Elgato’s $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers a Solid Set of Ports in a Slim Design

Over the past few months, I've taken a look at a number of Thunderbolt 3 docks that all hit the market around the same time, including models from OWC, CalDigit, Belkin, and Kensington. There's at least one more major player in the market, so today I'm sharing my thoughts on Elgato's $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock. Elgato's dock has a lot in common with many of its competitors, including a slim horizontal design of brushed aluminum and plastic, an array of ports for expanding the capabilities of your Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac, and more.


The dock looks nice on a desk, with a black matte plastic front and back wrapped by a brushed aluminum enclosure that's rounded around the sides. A small Elgato wordmark is printed in the front left corner of the dock's top, but it doesn't mar the overall look of the accessory, which remains rather unobtrusive. Measuring just under 8 inches wide, Elgato's dock is slightly narrower than some of the other docks, which to my eye makes it look a bit better sitting on the foot of my LG UltraFine 5K display. Belkin's dock at a little over 8 inches also fits pretty well, but wider docks like OWC's and Kensington's overhang a bit.

Of course, everyone's desk setup is different so variations of around an inch in the width of all of these docks may not be a deal-breaker, but it's worth noting this is the narrowest of the horizontal designs I've tested. At about 3.15 inches deep and an inch high, Elgato's dock is otherwise pretty much on par with competing docks in terms of size.
Continue reading Review: Elgato’s $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers a Solid Set of Ports in a Slim Design