A premium pro-level docking station.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time working with various types of docking stations. It was a big transition for me to jump from a MacBook Pro with all the standard peripheral connections to a version that only have USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. Many MBP users have felt this struggle since Apple made this change, but fortunately, many accessory designers have taken it upon themselves to work tirelessly to create a variety of docks that help to supplement the need for dongles. I’ve found that there are three different styles of docking stations available — compact travel style, consumer-grade, and professional. The consumer grade is usually just enough to be able to connect an external monitor and a few USB-A connected devices whereas the pro version of these docking stations also includes card readers, Ethernet ports, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. One of my new favorites of the pro docking stations is the Thunder3 Dock Pro from Akitio.
Akitio is an international company specializing in the design, development and manufacturing of premium, high-quality external computer storage products with an emphasis on Thunderbolt technology. As of January 1, 2019, Akitio is now apart of Other World Computing, Inc. (OWC). OWC also produces premium docking stations, but the Thunder3 Dock Pro is unlike others I’ve seen from OWC.
With one single Thunderbolt 3 cable, you gain access to a 10GbE network, external monitor, card reader, USB hub, eSATA drive and power delivery for your laptop.
eSATAhost port supports port multiplier and is capable of recognizing more than one disk in a multi-bay enclosure without a RAID controller USBhub is compatible with USB 3.1 Gen 1 – Type-A connections
- 10 Gigabit Ethernet port supports auto-negotiation for 10Gbs, 5Gbs, 2.5Gbs, 1GBs
- Thunderbolt 3 daisy chain supports Thunderbolt 3 (up to 5 daisy-chained), USB 3.1 (10 Gbps), and DisplayPort devices
- Card Reader is compatible with CFast 2.0 and SD 4.0
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Thunder3 Dock Pro is the power delivery system. The dock supports up to 60W of power delivery to connected computers. That said, there are two TB3 ports that support power delivery on the dock — one that is 60W and the other that is 15W. This is sufficient for connecting a laptop and a secondary device like a tablet for charging.
- 2-year warranty
- Made with high-quality aluminum (case) and metal (chassis)
- Interface ports:
- 2x Thunderbolt™ 3 (USB-C) ports
eSATAhost port supporting port multiplier
- 3x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Type A) host ports supporting UASP
- 1x RJ45 Ethernet port supporting 100M/1G/2.5G/5G/10G Base-T
- 1x SD 4.0 (UHS-II) card reader
- 1x CFast 2.0 card reader
- 1x DisplayPort 1.2
- Data Transfer:
- Thunderbolt 3 up to 40 Gbps
- eSATA up to 370 MB/s
- USB 3.1 up to 370 MB/s
- Gigabit Ethernet up to 10 Gbps
- SD 4.0 in UHS-II (Ultra
High SpeedII), with bus speed up to 156 MBytes (full duplex) or 312 MBytes (half duplex)
- CFast 2.0 up to 370 MB/s
- DisplayPort 1.2 (4K at 60 Hz)
- System Requirements (PC): Windows 10 (64-bit), Thunderbolt 3 port
- System Requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.4 or later, Thunderbolt 3 port
Even though I’ve seen a lot of docks in the past few years, the Thunder3 Dock Pro really stood out to me. It’s slightly bigger than other pro-level docks I’ve used, but not so much larger that it’s restrictive to use on a desktop. I love that the card reader and ancillary USB 3.0 port are located on the front of the dock for easy access. I did use those ports to transfer files from flash drives and an SD card during my testing phase and I thought it worked admirably. One of the things I worry about with docks is if they physically move around on a desk. While this might seem like a small factor for some, to me, it taints the user experience completely if you have to fumble around with the dock as it slides around on your desk. There are four rubber feet on the bottom of the Thunder3 Dock Pro that keep it securely in place. I didn’t have any issues inserting the cards or flash drive or removing them from the dock.
The dock is packaged with a Thunderbolt 3 cable (2.2-feet), power adapter (Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC +12V/12.5A), and a setup guide. For the most part, it’s plug-n-play technology — at least it is for Mac users — but I’m glad that Akitio included the setup guide. The box is very nicely designed. It has an image of the dock on the front and lots of details printed on the exterior of the box. Sometimes I prefer minimal details for a product on its packaging because I feel like it takes away from the retail aesthetic for it, but in this case, I want more details and not less.
When I first reviewed the specs of the docking station, I was thrown by the fact that it is a ‘pro’ level dock, but didn’t support the higher level power delivery that the 15-inch MacBook Pro requires. I have, however, had situations in the past where the lower PD rated docks have indeed provided enough power to charge the 15-inch MBP and apparently, 60W is enough to power and charge the 15-inch MacBook Pro even though it ships with an 87W charger. The reason it comes with that large of a power brick is because it has four TB3 ports and needs to provide a lot of power outwardly to bus-powered peripherals…if they are connected. If they aren’t connected, 60W is enough to power and charge that laptop. I typically use a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro, which only requires 61W of power (according to the Apple power brick), but we do also have a 2018 (late) 15-inch MacBook Pro in-house. It’s nice to know we can use this with both laptops.
As far as connectivity goes, the Thunder3 Dock Pro has performed admirably. The two main devices I have connected to my laptop through the dock are an external monitor (Viotek GN34C Ultrawide QHD monitor) and a USB keyboard (ROCCAT Vulcan Mechanical Gaming Keyboard). My laptop has maintained a charge from the dock’s power delivery system and I’ve had a solid connection to both the monitor and keyboard since I’ve been using the dock. In addition to those two devices, I’ve also tested out data transfer from an SD card and a USB 3.0 Flash Drive. The SD card was able to transfer a little over 300MB within 4 seconds and the flash drive had 2.36GB transferred to it within 32 seconds. I also ran a Blackmagic speed test on the USB flash drive and the results were comparable to tests I’ve run with other docking stations.
The Thunder3 Dock Pro is the best of the best. It’s made very well and it even comes equipped with a fan that can be cycled on or off to regulate its temperature or sound level. It’s a very low-maintenance device and I’ve really enjoyed using it. I feel like this is a great option for pro-level users to select for their work stations. It has all the essential needs for professional connectivity and it provides superior speed opportunities because of its Thunderbolt 3 connections. I can wholeheartedly recommend this dock for users seeking out a device to make their system complete.