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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 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 Thunderbolt 3 docks to transform your MacBook Pro into a desktop workstation.
There’s no need to worry about a power brick and cable when using the CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock. The dock provides up to 85 watts of power, more than enough for most MacBook Pro models at full power. An additional Thunderbolt 3 port offers up to 15 watts of power for downstream devices.
In total, there are 15 ports on the dock, including five USB-A 3.1 ports and two USB-C 3.1 ports. Thanks to a DisplayPort 1.2 port, you can attach dual 4K monitors at 60HZ or a single 5K 60Hz display. A digital optical audio port allows you to connect directly to an amplifier, speakers, or a home theater receiver.
There is also an SD card reader to transfer photos and videos. Other ports include audio in/out and Gigabit Ethernet. As a nice touch, with two sets of feet, you can place the dock in a horizontal or vertical orientation on a desk.
Living up to its name, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock features a number of ports hard to find on other docks. An eSATA port provides access to multi-bay external drives. Another great feature is a CFast 2.0 Card Reader that can import media at up to 370MB/s on the front of the dock.
The device provides 60 watts of power, which is the maximum amount for a 13-inch MacBook Pro. The DisplayPort 2.1 port allows you to connect two 4K monitors or one 5K display. Other ports include three USB-A 3.1 ports, an SD card slot, a 10GB Ethernet port, a security slot, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
A fan switch allows you to work temporarily with no noise from the dock. The dock’s power connection is designed to be secure, so there won’t be any unexpected disconnections.
One Thunderbolt 3 port on Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 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. It helps save space on your desk as the dock is available for use in either a horizontal or vertical orientation.
Along with a DisplayPort on the rear, there’s an additional Thunderbolt 3 port to daisy chain another dock or connect another device. 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.
Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD provides a full 85 watts of power. Even a 15-inch MacBook Pro will charge at the maximum possible speed. With the additional Thunderbolt 3 plug and DisplayPort, you can connect 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.
Photographers will 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 your MacBook Pro.
Offering 85 watts of power, the Kensington SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is a great option for any MacBook Pro. There’s a unique option here 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 SD5000T 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 2.1A 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 Thunderbolt 3 Dock. The only major feature missing is the ability to quickly charge a MacBook Pro without a charging brick and additional cable, as it only offers a slow 15 watts of power.
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.
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. And instead of having to battle dodgy or non-existent hotel Wi-Fi, the dock has Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
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. 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.
The Best Thunderbolt 3 Docks for Your MacBook Pro
Using one of these Thunderbolt 3 docks, you can easily turn a MacBook Pro into a desktop powerhouse. That said, Thunderbolt 3 technology can do much more than just power docking stations. It also provides a speedy way to integrate a RAID external storage system to store important data.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of fast external storage, check out these best external hard drives for Mac, as well.