While the modern MacBook Pro is powerful and portable, there may be times where you want more of a desktop setup, with a larger monitor and tons of peripherals.
Thanks to powerful Thunderbolt 3 technology, you can have the best of both worlds. While the ports look identical to USB-C, there are some significant differences between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C.
Thunderbolt 3 docks plug into a compatible port and can solve the dongle dilemma by offering USB, HDMI, and many other connections. We’re highlighting some of the best docks to transform your MacBook Pro into a desktop workstation.
With Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock, there’s no need to worry about lugging an additional power brick and cable for most MacBook Pros. One Thunderbolt 3 port on the dock provides up to 60 watts of power, which is the maximum for many 13-inch MacBook models. You can still use it to power up a 15-inch version. However, it won’t charge as quickly compared to using the Apple-provided 87 watt power adapter.
Along with a DisplayPort on the rear, there’s an additional Thunderbolt 3 port to daisy chain another dock or connect another device. Definitely take a look at how daisy chaining Thunderbolt 3 docks can power up your experience with Mac accessories.
A Gigabit Ethernet connection lives next to four USB-A 3.0 ports for other peripherals. On the front of the dock is a single USB-A 3.0 port and a headphone jack. As a nice touch to help save space on your desk, the dock is available for use in either a horizontal or vertical orientation.
Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD provides a full 85 watts of power. Even 15-inch MacBook Pro models will charge at the maximum possible speed. With the additional Thunderbolt 3 plug and DisplayPort, you can plug in two 4K displays at 60Hz or a single 5K monitor at 60Hz.
The dock features two audio out ports, one on the rear and another on the front of the dock next to a single USB-A 3.0 port. On the back, you’ll find two additional USB-A 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Docking stations aren’t just for home use. The CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock is perfect for traveling. Just insert the built-in Thunderbolt 3 cable into your MacBook Pro, and you’ll be ready to go. There’s no need for an additional power plug.
With its dual HDMI connections, you can easily connect up to two 4K displays simultaneously running at 60Hz. There is also a USB-A 3.0 and USB-A 2.0 port for additional legacy devices.
And instead of having to battle dodgy or non-existent hotel Wi-Fi, the dock has Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
A version of the dock with dual DisplayPorts, a single USB 3.0 port, and Gigabit Ethernet is also available. Both types are made with aluminum to help the dock withstand the rigors of travel.
Photographers will definitely enjoy the Promise Technology Thunderbolt 3 Dock, as it offers a built-in SD card reader. Along with that nice perk, you’ll find two USB-A 3.0 ports and an audio in/out jack on the front.
Instead of DisplayPort, the dock offers a single HDMI 2.0 port on the rear. You’ll also find three additional USB-A 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. One of those supports power delivery of up to 60 watts to a MacBook Pro.
Offering a full 85 watts of power, the Kensington SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is a great option for either version of the MacBook Pro. There’s a unique option to help control clutter if you’re low on desk space. You can purchase an optional mounting plate that will place the dock on the back of any VESA-compatible monitor. There’s also a Kensington lock slot on the rear to help prevent the dock from being stolen.
The front of the dock features a USB-C port and USB-A 3.0 port. The USB-C port offers up to 15 watts of power, while the USB-A 3.0 port is a fast-charging 2.1 amp version. On the back, you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB-A 3.0 port, audio in and out ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a DisplayPort plug.
If you’re looking to save some money compared to other options, take a look at the StarTech.com TB3DKDPMAW Thunderbolt 3 Dock. The only major feature missing is the ability to quickly charge a MacBook Pro without a charging brick and additional cable. It does offer a slow 15 watts of power. But that won’t do much to charge your laptop in a timely fashion.
On the front of the dock, you’ll find a USB-C and USB-A 3.0 port. The rear sports a number of ports, including Gigabit Ethernet, one USB-A 3.0, audio in and out, two Thunderbolt 3, and a DisplayPort.
More Power for Your MacBook Pro
Using one of these Thunderbolt 3 docks, you can easily turn a MacBook Pro into a desktop powerhouse. And Apple has made it even easier starting with the 2018 MacBook Pro models, since all four ports support the protocol.
Thunderbolt 3 technology can do much more than just power docking stations. It even provides a speedy way to integrate a RAID external storage system to store important data. And check out some of the best external hard drives for Mac if you need more space, too.