(Pocket-lint) – Thunderbolt is a super-speed technology first invented by Intel. While it initially used Mini DisplayPort connectors, it now uses USB-C and is, essentially, a super-speed version of it.
Thunderbolt 3 is part of the upcoming USB 4 standard, but many of us don’t have the new USB-4 ports on the recent MacBooks. What many of us have – whether a recent Mac or a high-end notebook Windows PC – is a Thunderbolt 3 port that works on top of the USB-C standard. If you don’t have Thunderbolt on your computer but you do have USB-C, why not check out our guide to the best USB-C docks?
Thunderbolt’s benefit is the amount of data it can throughput – up to 40Gbps with the right cables. So it’s the best technology if you’re often transferring large files onto a compatible Thunderbolt drive. The docks here are fully Thunderbolt 3 compatible but they also have the key benefit of USB-C – you can connect up display, power and data to your laptop via a single cable.
All of these docks are designed for on-desk use. Again, if you need a portable hub, check our our guide to USB-C hubs.
Coincidentally, Intel has now announced Thunderbolt 4, coming to future Intel machines.
Our guide to the best Thunderbolt docks
Anker PowerExpand Elite
This 13-in-1 Thunderbolt 3 dock is a beast. Not only does it boast 85W charging for your laptop, but it’ll give you 18W charging for your phone via USB-C.
There are also dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-C ports, four USB-A ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, SD/microSD card slots, and a 3.5 mm headphone or auxillary port. Plus there’s Gigabit Ethernet, too. There’s pretty much no compromise here.
The Thunderbolt 3 port supports 5K at 60Hz while the HDMI port supports a resolution of 4K at 60Hz. You’re able to connect displays to both simultaneously for maximum performance.
Basically, it’ll connect to pretty much anything remotely modern. An 80cm/2.3ft Thunderbolt 3 cable is included.
Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock
Corsair’s TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock has a definite advantage over rivals in that it’s nicely sleek and can sit neatly under a display without drawing attention to itself.
It also offers plenty of connectivity options on its svelte frame with two USB-C ports, two USB-A, two HDMI and a 3.5mm combo headphone jack. There’s also an SD card reader, too, in addition to a Gigabit Ethernet port.
Indeed, the only disadvantage of the TBT100 is that there’s no USB-A on the front for connecting a USB stick or similar quickly and easily.
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro
The Belkin dock is the best if you have stacks of legacy USB-A gear that you need to connect into your Thunderbolt Mac or PC.
That’s because this fairly compact dock not only has four USB-A ports on the rear but also one on the front in addition to an SD card slot and headphone jack. It also supports 85W upstream charging.
However, there’s no HDMI on the rear of this unit – it’s designed for DisplayPort monitors and you can connect up dual 4K 60hz displays.
An 80cm/2.3ft Thunderbolt 3 cable is included.
CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock
This simple Thunderbolt 3 dock is a good solution if you want to connect displays via DisplayPort – there are dual DisplayPort 1.2 connectors that support 4K at 60fps.
There’s also a USB-A 3.0 port for flexibility plus Gigabit Ethernet for connections to wired networks. An alternative version of this dock features dual HDMI instead of dual DisplayPort.
Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro
This dock – from Corsair brand Elgato – is great if you have several devices that use the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connector – there are 2 x standard USB-C ports on the rear as well as dual Thunderbolt 3 ones, meaning there are plenty of options for newer devices.
Dual USB-A pon the front joins SD/micro SD card, Gigabit Ethernet and DisplayPort connectivity, too.
Plugable Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Dock
With a whole host of connectivity, this Plugable device is great value for money – it has a stack oof ports including dual USB-C on the back (data only) and three USB-A ports – two on the rear and one on the front.
You can drive dual 4K displays at 60hz over Thunderbolt 3 using the dual DisplayPort connectors.
There’s also Gigabit Ethernet for good measure plus an 80cm/2.3ft Thunderbolt 3 cable is included.
Writing by Dan Grabham. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills.