Review: CalDigit’s ‘TS3 Plus’ Dock Gives You 15 Ports, 85W Charging, and an SD Card Reader for $250

If you've followed all of my Thunderbolt 3 dock reviews over the past year, you know that in general these docks carry a lot of the same features in slightly different combinations. But usually, there's at least one fairly important feature that's missing in each model, whether it be enough USB ports, an SD card reader, or enough power output to fully support a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Price tags pushing to $300 and beyond are also an issue for many potential customers.

So if any of those concerns resonate with you, you're going to want to read on to learn more about CalDigit's upcoming model, the Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus.


The TS3 Plus takes the original TS3 dock that I reviewed last May and addresses nearly every concern I had with it and even lowers the price during the promotional pre-order period to $250 with a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable included. Packages with a 1.0-meter or 2.0-meter cable are also available for $270 and $280 respectively.

Design


The general design here is nearly identical to that of the earlier TS3 and even the Thunderbolt 2-based TS2 dock that preceded it. While most Thunderbolt docks have horizontal designs, CalDigit has generally opted for a boxier design that can sit either horizontally or vertically on a desk. Oriented vertically, the TS3 Plus stands just over 5 inches tall, a little under 4 inches deep, and just over an inch and a half wide, and weighs a hint over a pound. That makes it almost exactly the same size as and quite a bit lighter than the TS3.

If that's too tall for your desktop, just slide on the included pair of rubber strips for cushioning and tip the dock over on its side, and it'll fit just about anywhere. The aluminum casing has a ribbed design that gives it a bit of an industrial look while also offering some extra surface area for heat dissipation.


CalDigit touts a total of 15 ports on the TS3 Plus, with the front of the dock housing one USB-A port, one USB-C port, separate analog audio in and out ports, and even an SD card slot. A small blue LED lights up to let you know the dock is powered up and has a connection to the host computer.


Turn the TS3 Plus around and you'll find a host of other ports, including four more USB-A ports, another USB-C port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a DisplayPort 1.2 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an S/PDIF digital optical audio port, and the DC-in connection from the power supply.

USB Ports


If you did the math in the previous section, you've realized that the TS3 Plus has a total of seven USB ports. The previous TS3 had just three, while about the most I've seen in other competing docks is five. The inclusion of five USB-A and two USB-C ports and their distribution between front and back of the dock give you some great flexibility in what you can connect to this dock. The USB-C port on the rear is even a 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard, the first time I've seen that in a dock I've reviewed. The remainder of the USB ports are 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1, which is the speed typically seen on these docks.

In my testing with a 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 CalDigit Tuff external SSD and Blackmagic's speed testing software, I saw read and write speeds come in around 350 MB/s and 315 MB/s respectively through all of the 5 Mbps USB ports, both Type-A and the front Type-C style. Those are very typical speeds for these types of docks.

CalDigit Tuff connected to 5 Gbps USB-A port

Where the TS3 Plus has a leg up on the competition in the speed department is the extra Type-C 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 port on the rear of the dock. Connecting the CalDigit Tuff to that port yielded a 45–50 percent increase in transfer speeds, coming in at around 500 MB/s read and 475 MB/s write.

CalDigit Tuff connected to rear 10 Gbps USB-C port

Other docks can match that performance if you use the downstream Thunderbolt 3 port, but then you have to sacrifice connecting a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C display to that port. With the TS3 Plus, you can have both, and transfer speeds over the 10 Gbps USB-C port aren't impacted by also having a 5K display connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port, as there is enough bandwidth over Thunderbolt 3 to support both without compromise.

SD Card Reader


An SD card slot is another one of those features that a lot of people like to see on these docks, eliminating the need for a separate reader to plug into one of the dock's USB ports. For a long time, OWC was about the only major company to offer an SD card reader on a Thunderbolt 3 dock, but Promise Technology joined the club a few months ago with its TD-300 that I just reviewed last week.

CalDigit is now joining the club by offering an SD card reader in the TS3 Plus, and it even supports the SD 4.0 spec over a UHS-II bus interface for the faster speeds with compatible SD cards. Theoretical transfer speeds of 312 MB/s are three times that of the UHS-I bus with SD 3.0 used on other docks. The reader supports standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards.

Displays


As with other docks of this type, the TS3 Plus includes a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, one for connecting to the host computer and one for connecting other peripherals such as a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C display. The dock can support a single 5K external display at 60 Hz over Thunderbolt 3, or a pair of 4K displays using the Thunderbolt 3 port and the DisplayPort 1.2 port. Various adapters sold separately allow the Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort connectors to be used with various types of displays including HDMI and DVI.

The TS3 Plus and other CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 docks support a variety of combinations of displays up to 4K from the two ports, and I experienced no issues testing with several LG 4K displays. A single LG UltraFine 5K display connected via Thunderbolt 3 also worked fine, maintaining a 60 Hz refresh rate.

It's worth noting that the two USB-C ports on the TS3 Plus, including the 10 Gbps one on the rear, are data-only, so they can not be used for connecting additional USB-C displays.

Charging


While many other Thunderbolt 3 docks offer up to 60 watts of upstream charging for a host computer, the TS3 Plus offers a full 85 watts of charging power to support even the 15-inch MacBook Pro. If you're running your 15-inch MacBook Pro under very heavy loads or you want to ensure the fastest recharge of a depleted battery, 85-watt support is a feature you definitely want to look for in a dock. Unlike some other docks, the TS3 Plus can also support charging of PCs over Thunderbolt 3.

The higher 85-watt charging power of the TS3 Plus drives up the size of the external brick, which is quite large, but many users will have the ability to hide it away behind other items on their desks or even off their desks entirely.

Nearly all of the USB ports also support pass-through charging, allowing connected devices like iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches to charge even when the dock doesn't have an active connection to a host computer.

The TS3 Plus will also support CalDigit's downloadable drivers and software utility to boost USB power output to 1 A for slightly faster iOS device charging and to support Apple's external USB SuperDrive. The software utility is a menu bar item that makes it easy to eject all peripherals connected to the dock with a single click.

Wrap-up


Of all the Thunderbolt 3 docks I've tested so far, CalDigit's TS3 Plus is my new favorite. It has all of the features I'm looking for in a dock, including a plethora of USB ports with both Type-A and Type-C options and even a 10 Gbps Type-C port. It also has an SD card reader, 85-watt charging, and a compact footprint in either vertical or horizontal orientation. And to top it all off, it’s currently priced at just $250 during pre-orders, below the $300–$350 pricing seen on most other feature-rich docks. Pricing for the TS3 Plus will rise to $350 once the pre-order promotion ends.

The TS3 Plus does away with the pair of eSATA ports found on the original TS3, but with eSATA usage dwindling, I find it a very worthwhile tradeoff to instead make room for many more USB ports, optical audio, and an SD card reader.

The TS3 Plus begins shipping on February 20, but CalDigit will be offering pre-orders through its own site with a temporary $100 discount off the regular price. For pre-orders, the TS3 Plus with 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable is priced at $249.99, while versions with 1-meter ($269.99) and 2-meter ($279.99) cables will also be available.

It's important to note, however, that these longer lengths require active cabling in order to maintain the full 40 Gbps bandwidth and 100-watt charging maximum of Thunderbolt 3, but that also prevents compatibility with USB 3.1 and USB 3.0 standards. As a result, it's best to stick with the 0.5-meter cable that has full backwards compatibility if you can, even if it means rearranging your desk to get the dock close enough to your computer.

B&H Photo will be CalDigit's exclusive retail launch partner for the TS3 Plus, but won't be offering the pre-order discount.

In addition to the new TS3 Plus temporarily starting at $249.99, CalDigit is also dropping the price of its TS3 to $199.99, down from $299.99. CalDigit claims this makes the TS3 the first Thunderbolt 3 dock with 85-watt charging priced under $200, so be sure to check out our earlier review of the regular TS3.

Note: CalDigit provided the TS3 Plus to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with B&H Photo and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: CalDigit’s ‘TS3 Plus’ Dock Gives You 15 Ports, 85W Charging, and an SD Card Reader for $250

If you've followed all of my Thunderbolt 3 dock reviews over the past year, you know that in general these docks carry a lot of the same features in slightly different combinations. But usually, there's at least one fairly important feature that's missing in each model, whether it be enough USB ports, an SD card reader, or enough power output to fully support a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Price tags pushing to $300 and beyond are also an issue for many potential customers.

So if any of those concerns resonate with you, you're going to want to read on to learn more about CalDigit's upcoming model, the Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus.


The TS3 Plus takes the original TS3 dock that I reviewed last May and addresses nearly every concern I had with it and even lowers the price during the promotional pre-order period to $250 with a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable included. Packages with a 1.0-meter or 2.0-meter cable are also available for $270 and $280 respectively.

Design


The general design here is nearly identical to that of the earlier TS3 and even the Thunderbolt 2-based TS2 dock that preceded it. While most Thunderbolt docks have horizontal designs, CalDigit has generally opted for a boxier design that can sit either horizontally or vertically on a desk. Oriented vertically, the TS3 Plus stands just over 5 inches tall, a little under 4 inches deep, and just over an inch and a half wide, and weighs a hint over a pound. That makes it almost exactly the same size as and quite a bit lighter than the TS3.

If that's too tall for your desktop, just slide on the included pair of rubber strips for cushioning and tip the dock over on its side, and it'll fit just about anywhere. The aluminum casing has a ribbed design that gives it a bit of an industrial look while also offering some extra surface area for heat dissipation.


CalDigit touts a total of 15 ports on the TS3 Plus, with the front of the dock housing one USB-A port, one USB-C port, separate analog audio in and out ports, and even an SD card slot. A small blue LED lights up to let you know the dock is powered up and has a connection to the host computer.


Turn the TS3 Plus around and you'll find a host of other ports, including four more USB-A ports, another USB-C port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a DisplayPort 1.2 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an S/PDIF digital optical audio port, and the DC-in connection from the power supply.

USB Ports


If you did the math in the previous section, you've realized that the TS3 Plus has a total of seven USB ports. The previous TS3 had just three, while about the most I've seen in other competing docks is five. The inclusion of five USB-A and two USB-C ports and their distribution between front and back of the dock give you some great flexibility in what you can connect to this dock. The USB-C port on the rear is even a 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard, the first time I've seen that in a dock I've reviewed. The remainder of the USB ports are 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1, which is the speed typically seen on these docks.

In my testing with a 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 CalDigit Tuff external SSD and Blackmagic's speed testing software, I saw read and write speeds come in around 350 MB/s and 315 MB/s respectively through all of the 5 Mbps USB ports, both Type-A and the front Type-C style. Those are very typical speeds for these types of docks.

CalDigit Tuff connected to 5 Gbps USB-A port

Where the TS3 Plus has a leg up on the competition in the speed department is the extra Type-C 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 port on the rear of the dock. Connecting the CalDigit Tuff to that port yielded a 45–50 percent increase in transfer speeds, coming in at around 500 MB/s read and 475 MB/s write.

CalDigit Tuff connected to rear 10 Gbps USB-C port

Other docks can match that performance if you use the downstream Thunderbolt 3 port, but then you have to sacrifice connecting a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C display to that port. With the TS3 Plus, you can have both, and transfer speeds over the 10 Gbps USB-C port aren't impacted by also having a 5K display connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port, as there is enough bandwidth over Thunderbolt 3 to support both without compromise.

SD Card Reader


An SD card slot is another one of those features that a lot of people like to see on these docks, eliminating the need for a separate reader to plug into one of the dock's USB ports. For a long time, OWC was about the only major company to offer an SD card reader on a Thunderbolt 3 dock, but Promise Technology joined the club a few months ago with its TD-300 that I just reviewed last week.

CalDigit is now joining the club by offering an SD card reader in the TS3 Plus, and it even supports the SD 4.0 spec over a UHS-II bus interface for the faster speeds with compatible SD cards. Theoretical transfer speeds of 312 MB/s are three times that of the UHS-I bus with SD 3.0 used on other docks. The reader supports standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards.

Displays


As with other docks of this type, the TS3 Plus includes a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, one for connecting to the host computer and one for connecting other peripherals such as a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C display. The dock can support a single 5K external display at 60 Hz over Thunderbolt 3, or a pair of 4K displays using the Thunderbolt 3 port and the DisplayPort 1.2 port. Various adapters sold separately allow the Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort connectors to be used with various types of displays including HDMI and DVI.

The TS3 Plus and other CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 docks support a variety of combinations of displays up to 4K from the two ports, and I experienced no issues testing with several LG 4K displays. A single LG UltraFine 5K display connected via Thunderbolt 3 also worked fine, maintaining a 60 Hz refresh rate.

It's worth noting that the two USB-C ports on the TS3 Plus, including the 10 Gbps one on the rear, are data-only, so they can not be used for connecting additional USB-C displays.

Charging


While many other Thunderbolt 3 docks offer up to 60 watts of upstream charging for a host computer, the TS3 Plus offers a full 85 watts of charging power to support even the 15-inch MacBook Pro. If you're running your 15-inch MacBook Pro under very heavy loads or you want to ensure the fastest recharge of a depleted battery, 85-watt support is a feature you definitely want to look for in a dock. Unlike some other docks, the TS3 Plus can also support charging of PCs over Thunderbolt 3.

The higher 85-watt charging power of the TS3 Plus drives up the size of the external brick, which is quite large, but many users will have the ability to hide it away behind other items on their desks or even off their desks entirely.

Nearly all of the USB ports also support pass-through charging, allowing connected devices like iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches to charge even when the dock doesn't have an active connection to a host computer.

The TS3 Plus will also support CalDigit's downloadable drivers and software utility to boost USB power output to 1 A for slightly faster iOS device charging and to support Apple's external USB SuperDrive. The software utility is a menu bar item that makes it easy to eject all peripherals connected to the dock with a single click.

Wrap-up


Of all the Thunderbolt 3 docks I've tested so far, CalDigit's TS3 Plus is my new favorite. It has all of the features I'm looking for in a dock, including a plethora of USB ports with both Type-A and Type-C options and even a 10 Gbps Type-C port. It also has an SD card reader, 85-watt charging, and a compact footprint in either vertical or horizontal orientation. And to top it all off, it’s currently priced at just $250 during pre-orders, below the $300–$350 pricing seen on most other feature-rich docks. Pricing for the TS3 Plus will rise to $350 once the pre-order promotion ends.

The TS3 Plus does away with the pair of eSATA ports found on the original TS3, but with eSATA usage dwindling, I find it a very worthwhile tradeoff to instead make room for many more USB ports, optical audio, and an SD card reader.

The TS3 Plus begins shipping on February 20, but CalDigit will be offering pre-orders through its own site with a temporary $100 discount off the regular price. For pre-orders, the TS3 Plus with 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable is priced at $249.99, while versions with 1-meter ($269.99) and 2-meter ($279.99) cables will also be available.

It's important to note, however, that these longer lengths require active cabling in order to maintain the full 40 Gbps bandwidth and 100-watt charging maximum of Thunderbolt 3, but that also prevents compatibility with USB 3.1 and USB 3.0 standards. As a result, it's best to stick with the 0.5-meter cable that has full backwards compatibility if you can, even if it means rearranging your desk to get the dock close enough to your computer.

B&H Photo will be CalDigit's exclusive retail launch partner for the TS3 Plus, but won't be offering the pre-order discount.

In addition to the new TS3 Plus temporarily starting at $249.99, CalDigit is also dropping the price of its TS3 to $199.99, down from $299.99. CalDigit claims this makes the TS3 the first Thunderbolt 3 dock with 85-watt charging priced under $200, so be sure to check out our earlier review of the regular TS3.

Note: CalDigit provided the TS3 Plus to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with B&H Photo and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Review: Promise’s $249 TD-300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers Lots of USB Ports and an SD Card Reader

Thunderbolt 3 docks continue to hit the market, and today we're taking a look a recent entrant from popular data storage company Promise Technology, the TD-300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock.


I've tested quite a few Thunderbolt 3 docks over the past year, and the TD-300 ranks right up with the best I've seen due to standout features like five USB 3.0 ports and an SD 3.0 card reader. At $249, it's also priced very competitively against other full-featured Thunderbolt 3 docks.

Design


In the box, you'll find the typical contents for a dock of this type, including the dock itself, an external power brick, and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. Any other cables such as for USB devices or an HDMI display need to be provided separately, although they frequently come with the devices you'd be connecting.

The TD-300 comes in a horizontal form factor similar to many others on the market, and it sits nicely under an external display. It measures just over 9 inches wide, 3.5 inches deep and a little over an inch tall, and weighs just about a pound, so it's a pretty typical Thunderbolt 3 dock from a size perspective.


The enclosure is made of black plastic, matte on the top and glossy around the sides, which sets it apart from the silver and gray finishes seen on most of the other docks I've tested. There's a fairly small Promise Technology logo in the rear left corner of the dock's top, but it's not terribly obtrusive, and the top tapers slightly toward the front of the dock.


The front of the dock includes a pair of status lights, a green one letting you know there's power to the dock and a blue one signifying an active connection to a computer. The lights are fairly bright and can be distracting in a dark room. You'll also find the handy SD card slot, a pair of USB Type-A 3.0 ports (the left of which supports higher-power 5W/1.5A charging) and an audio in/out port.


On the rear, you'll find three more USB Type-A 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and the DC-in connection for power.

USB Ports


With all five USB ports being USB 3.0, they support 5 Gbps connections, which isn't the fastest standard but is typical for Thunderbolt 3 docks where bandwidth is frequently shared among a host of peripherals. Most other docks on the market offer only three USB ports, so the inclusion of five here offers some nice expandability, and with two of them on the front there's easy access for USB accessories that only need to be attached occasionally.

Testing transfer speeds using a 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 CalDigit Tuff external SSD and Blackmagic's disk speed testing software, I saw speeds around 350 MB/s read and 320 MB/s write through the Type-A USB 3.0 ports, which is typical for docks like this.

USB-A CalDigit Tuff speeds

If you want better transfer speeds and don't need the second Thunderbolt 3 port on the dock for a display, you can hook up a USB-C external drive that way, where I saw speeds in excess of 500 MB/s read and 475 MB/s write with the CalDigit Tuff.

USB-C CalDigit Tuff speeds over Thunderbolt 3 port

With a top-of-the-line Thunderbolt 3 drive like the new ThunderBlade V4 from OWC, I saw read and write speeds approaching 1900 MB/s, pretty close to what I previously saw with a direct connection to my MacBook Pro. Obviously if you start tacking other high-bandwidth peripherals like a 4K HDMI display on to other ports on the dock, the SSD speeds will drop.

SD Card Slot


The TD-300's SD 3.0 card reader on the front of the dock is a great feature that's missing on most other Thunderbolt 3 docks released so far. If you've got photos or other data stored on an SD card, it's great to be able to just pop the card into the front of the dock and have it show up on your computer without needing to connect a separate card reader over USB.

Displays


In line with other Thunderbolt 3 docks, Promise's dock can support either a single 5K display attached to the downstream Thunderbolt 3 port, or a pair of 4K displays attached through the Thunderbolt 3 port and the HDMI port. I tested extensively with an LG UltraFine 5K display hooked up via Thunderbolt 3 and it ran at the full 60 Hz refresh rate with no problems. The usual macOS System Preferences let you manage the monitors in terms of mirroring/extending and arrangement.

Charging


The TD-300 offers up to 60 watts of charging power over its Thunderbolt 3 connection to a computer, which is enough for a 13-inch MacBook Pro but falls short of what a 15-inch model might be able to draw at maximum load. In reality, 60 watts is often enough to keep even a 15-inch MacBook Pro charged up under normal use, but if you're doing a lot of heavy lifting with your machine it might not be able to quite keep up. Recharging a depleted battery via the TD-300 will also be a bit slower than from an 85-watt dock or the 87-watt power adapter that comes with the MacBook Pro.

Most Thunderbolt 3 docks seem to be going with the 60-watt power delivery, so the TD-300 is by no means unique in this limitation, but there are 85-watt ones on the market if that's a necessity for you.

Wrap-up


The Promise TD-300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock offers a solid set of features at a very competitive price point compared to similar docks. It doesn't have FireWire or eSATA ports like a few competitors have, but with those ports becoming less and less popular it makes sense for Promise to put its focus on the flexibility of USB while also including a built-in SD card reader.

Full 85-watt charging support would have been nice to see, so if you're a 15-inch MacBook Pro owner you'll need to decide if that's a dealbreaker based on whether you push your machine hard enough to need the full power, and if so, whether you're okay with using the standard MacBook Pro power adapter alongside the dock.

But overall, the TD-300 stacks up very well against the competition and is worth a close look. The Promise TD-300 is priced at $249 and is available from a variety of retailers including B&H Photo and Amazon.

Note: Promise Technology provided the TD-300 to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with B&H Photo and Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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Samsung Announces First QLED Curved Monitor With Thunderbolt 3

Last month, LG announced a new set of Thunderbolt 3 monitors to be officially unveiled at CES 2018. Not to be outdone at the January event, Samsung today unveiled the first curved display with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

The 34-inch CJ791 monitor features a 3,440 × 1,440 UltraWide QHD resolution with a 21:9 aspect ratio, while the single Thunderbolt 3 cable delivers a connectivity speed of up to 40 Gigabits per second to a range of docks, displays, and peripheral devices, including Macs and external GPUs. The Thunderbolt 3 interface also allows the CJ791 to supply up to 85 watts (W) of charging power to USB type-C compatible MacBooks.


The specs can't quite match LG's upcoming 34-inch UltraWide 34WK95U, which has a 5K resolution of 5120 x 2160 pixels, but apart from multi-peripheral connectivity, Samsung is eager to promote the CJ791's QLED display as ideal for gaming and entertainment. With "precise" performance across 125 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, a 4 milliseconds response time, and a sharp 1,500R curvature and ultra-wide 178-degree viewing angle, the CJ791 should still turn some heads at this year's CES. The company is also touting the monitor's built-in Game Mode, with a dynamic gamma setting that allows the CJ791 to adjust the color and contrast of individual scenes as they're displayed.

There's no word yet on the price of the 34-inch CJ791, but hopefully more should be revealed when CES opens its doors on January 9 for four tech-filled days at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Stay tuned to MacRumors for all the highlights.



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Apple Now Selling 0.8m Thunderbolt 3 Cable for $39

Alongside the iMac Pro, Apple today updated its online store to add an Apple-branded 0.8m Thunderbolt 3 cable, which is the first Thunderbolt 3 cable Apple has offered that isn't manufactured by a third-party company.

The cable is priced at $39, which is more expensive than a similar Belkin Thunderbolt 3 cable also available from the Apple website for $29.95.


Apple's Thunderbolt 3 cable offers TB3 data transfer speeds up to 40Gb/s and USB 3.1 Gen 2 data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s, along with DisplayPort video output (HBR3) and charging up to 100W.

Aside from a Thunderbolt logo located at either end of the cable, there is no branding. It is, however, designed in the same style as Apple's traditional USB-C and Lightning cables.

The Thunderbolt 3 cable is compatible with all USB-C Thunderbolt 3 Macs, including the latest iMac Pro, iMac, and MacBook Pro models.


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Sonnet Launches Thunderbolt 3 to Dual HDMI 2.0 Adapter Compatible With Mac

Sonnet Technologies this week launched a Thunderbolt 3 to dual HDMI 2.0 adapter compatible with Mac and Windows PCs.


The plug-and-play adapter enables the connection of up to two 4K Ultra HD displays with HDMI 2.0 to a single Thunderbolt 3 port at 60Hz on computers such as the 2016 and later MacBook Pro.

The adapter is powered by the computer it is plugged into and also supports monitors with lower resolutions such as 1920x1080 and 1920x1200.

The adapter is available now for a suggested price of around $90 in the United States on Sonnet's website and Amazon. By comparison, StarTech and Plugable currently sell equivalent adapters on Amazon for around $110 and $90 respectively.


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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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Sonnet Launches Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort Adapter Compatible With Mac

Sonnet today released a Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter compatible with both Mac and Windows PCs.


The bus-powered device enables users to connect up to two 4K Ultra HD displays or one 5K display with DisplayPort to a single Thunderbolt 3 port, each at 60Hz, including the 2016 or later MacBook Pro. The adapter also works with displays with lower resolutions like 1,920×1,080 or 2,560×1,440.

The adapter is also compatible with "active" DisplayPort-to-HDMI, DisplayPort-to-DVI, and DisplayPort-to-VGA adapters.


Sonnet's Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter can be purchased on its website for $79 in the United States, although the company's press release says it has a suggested price of $89. DisplayPort cables are sold separately.

StarTech also sells a Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter for $78.99 on B&H, but it's only compatible with Windows.


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