A very capable docking station with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility.

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to test out the Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station from IOGEAR. IOGEAR has earned my respect as a designer of premium products that compliment Apple computers so well. I’ve used many of their products and been impressed with them all. The aforementioned docking station is included in that lot, so, when I was presented with the opportunity to check out their latest docking station for MacBook Pro users — Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85, I couldn’t really pass it up.

Details

The Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 gives users the opportunity to connect all essential devices through one centralized hub — so to speak — with super speed. The dock connects to your computer — in my case a 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) — using Thunderbolt 3, which can provide up to 40 GB/s of data transfer speed. There are several additional ports on the dock, which I will discuss in just a moment, but perhaps the most intriguing feature of the docking station is that it provides up to 85W pass-through power delivery. This is enough to power any MacBook model except the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which needs 87W. That said, I’ve found recently that some devices that shouldn’t be able to charge the 15-inch MBP do in fact charge its battery. I’ve yet to solve that mystery, but with the Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 providing 85W of power to connected devices, I believe it can handle most anything you throw at it.

Now, as for the other specs, I thought it would be helpful to show how the TB3 Docking Station Pro (GTD735) differs from the standard TB3 Docking Station (GTD733). Here is a breakdown of the ports/connections available on each of the docks.

IOGEAR Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 REVIEW

FEATURES

GTD733 GTD735
5K Resolution or Dual 4K Resolution X X
DisplayPort (4K) X X
Power Delivery (USB-C) 15W 85W
Thunderbolt 3/USB-C Expansion Port  X X
40 GB/s data bandwidth X X

SPECS

As you will see by looking at this chart, both docking stations have the same port availability and the only real difference in the two is the amount of power delivery the devices provide.

GTD733 GTD735
USB-A (USB 3.1) (2)  X X
USB-C (USB 3.1)  X X
LAN (Gigabit)  X X
3.5mm Audio Input  X X
3.5mm Audio Output  X X
Thunderbolt 3 (computer host)  X X
Thunderbolt 3  X X
DisplayPort Video Output  X X
AC Adapter  X X

User Experience

The GTD735 docking station arrives in a bright IOGEAR branded box. There is quite a bit of product information on the box including a high-quality image of the product itself. IOGEAR includes an AC adapter, Thunderbolt 3 cable, warranty card, and quick start guide along with the docking station. To get started, you will want to select the place for your dock to live. It needs to be close to a power outlet. You will want to plug it into power first and then plug in any devices you want to have connected to your computer.

My primary use for a docking station is to be connected to an audio source and to transfer data. I typically don’t plug into a monitor so, in this round of testing, I did not specifically work with that function. I did, however, connect a USB 3.0 Flash Drive, a USB-C SSD, and headphones to test the data transfer speeds and audio source output functionality.

IOGEAR Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 REVIEW

Audio Output: Since I frequently listen to music when I am working, having a direct connection to my computer is a big must-have for me. I love that the docking station includes both an input and output for audio because it makes workflows much smoother when you are working with video/audio edits. My headphones of choice for this test were my MW50s from Master & Dynamic. They are wireless headphones but can be connected to other sources through a 3.5 mm aux cable. So, I promptly plugged them into the dock and turned on iTunes.

Music sounded nice and clear through the headphones and I didn’t notice any difference between listening as I was connected to the dock or if I were connected wirelessly. I did have one additional step to complete before the audio was functional — change the Sound Output in the computer’s system settings. On the Mac, it shows up as “USB Audio Codec – Type USB” which is a little odd because some other docking stations actually display their brand name in the device list. I was able to figure out which one was the correct output device by the process of elimination.

IOGEAR Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 REVIEW

PNY USB 3.0 Turbo Flash Drive: As one of the frequent data storage devices I use, I plugged in my PNY flash drive to see what its read/write speeds would be through the docking station. The flash drive mounted quite quickly and using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test I was able to get 129.9/60.6 MB/s read/write speed when I plugged the flash drive into the USB 3.1 port on the back of the docking station. Since there is a USB-A port on the front as well, I ran the test again, this time with the flash drive plugged into the front. I got very similar results with a 129.7/50.5 MB/s read/write reading from the application. This result was in line with another test I did with a simple USB-C hub where the flash drive registered a 128.8/52.5 MB/s read/write speed.

WD My Passport SSD Portable Hard Drive: In addition to the USB-A flash drive described above, I also tested the speed of a USB-C SSD from Western Digital (WD). This compact hard drive supports up to 515 MB/s and can be used with USB-C or USB-A (with provided adapter). So, I decided to test it on the USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, and USB-A ports. There is actually a remarkable difference between the USB-C/USB-A and Thunderbolt 3 read/write speeds. Here are the results of this speed test (again using Blackmagic Speed Test). In my opinion, this really shows off the difference in speed between the USB-C port (on the front) and the Thunderbolt 3 port (on the back).

Read Write
USB-C (USB 3.1) 307.8 MB/s  275.4 MB/s
USB-A (USB 3.1)  307.9 MB/s 278.3 MB/s
Thunderbolt 3  411.7 MB/s 357.1 MB/s

While I really love the flexibility that this dock can bring a MacBook user, there is one element missing that I would love to see included — an SD card reader. There are many other docks out there that use Thunderbolt 3 that do include card readers and I think its an essential connection needed especially for photographers and videographers. This is actually the same criticism I had of the GTD733 docking station and was hoping to see a change on the ‘pro’ version of the dock.

IOGEAR Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85 REVIEW

Conclusions

This is a really nice option for a workstation. As lightweight as it is, I would love to see IOGEAR come out with a travel pouch for it so that people could travel easier with it. The power brick is quite large (it’s actually almost as large as the docking station itself), but I think it would still be a helpful agent on the road. IOGEAR continues to meet my expectations for high-quality products and I’m looking forward to seeing the next generation of products they release.

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For more information, visit iogear.com.
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