A high-quality, functional docking system — could be better organized.
When I adopted a 2016 MacBook Pro as my main computer, I knew that I was going to need to do some planning around my workspace. Because Apple redesigned that computer (and laptops following it) with Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports only, I had to find a dock that would allow me to connect to my favorite external devices. My goal was to be able to connect to one dock with one cable rather than have a bunch of cables with awkward adapters attached spidering out from my MacBook Pro. Docks like StarTech’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock (TB3CDOCKDP) have been on my radar ever since.
DETAILS & SPECS
The TB3CDOCKDP is an easy to install, driverless dock. The docking station takes full advantage of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C functionality.
“This docking station was designed with both the IT Professional and user in mind by providing the highest performance while minimizing USB-C connectivity confusion and support,” says Nirav Gandhi, Vice President of Product Development at StarTech.com. “Using the latest Thunderbolt™ 3 technology from Intel along with its ease-of-use, this docking station intelligently adapts to Windows or Mac®, Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C laptops so users can focus on productivity instead of compatibility.”
The TB3CDOCKDP dock is a single docking solution for corporate offices, shared spaces, home offices, educations facilities, and even hotel business centers. According to information provided by StarTech, “users with Thunderbolt 3 laptops have up to 40 Gbps available for the highest performance, including the ability to connect up to two uncompressed 4K 60Hz (UHD) displays with a single cable connection through the dock.” The docking station can also charge laptops through PD and users have the ability to connect up to two 1920×1200 resolution monitors.
- Thunderbolt-certified for both Mac and Windows ensuring the best and most reliable out-of-the-box user experience.
- Thunderbolt 3 laptop connectivity with up to 40 Gbps bandwidth can support up to two uncompressed 4K 60Hz (3840×2160) monitors.
- USB-C laptop with DisplayPort (DisplayPort Alternate Mode) supports up to two uncompressed WUXGA/HD 60Hz (1920×1200) monitors.
- USB-PD power delivery with up to 60W available to charge a laptop through its supported Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C port.
- A total of 5 USB ports (3x USB-A / 2x USB-C) with up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds (USB 3.1 Gen 2) to connect additional USB devices to the dock.
- Gigabit Ethernet for wired network and combo microphone/speaker audio jack for 3.5mm audio peripheral connectivity.
- 0.7m Thunderbolt 3 cable included in box to connect both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C laptops to the docking station to simplify and accelerate setup for large corporate IT deployments.
- Convenient security lock slot
The dock arrived in a plain cardboard box with a product label stuck to the top of it. The label provided the name of the dock, a basic description of its operation, a simple photo of the product, and a list of what a user would find in the box. When you open the box, you will find the dock sitting on top. The dock is actually fairly lightweight in comparison to some docks I’ve tested out.
One of the first things I noticed was that the back of the dock allows for mounting onto the back of a monitor. This is somewhat unique, but a great feature for a dock like this. The next thing I noticed was that the dock’s two display i/o ports are both DisplayPort style. I would have preferred seeing an HDMI option. Even though one of the main features of this dock is that it’s a “Dual 4K DisplayPort” dock, I think it would have been more functional for more people if HDMI were used or at least available. I have one workstation that features a 24-inch HP monitor that only offers an HDMI or VGA input options for a video signal.
After my initial observations of the dock, I took a look at the rest of the contents of the box. I was surprised to find that there was only a quick start guide included with the dock (a quick search of the website revealed a full user guide was not available for download). StarTech does include a Thunderbolt 3 cable (0.7m), power brick, and international power cables. I do like that StarTech includes both power cable options so that end users are taken care of no matter where they are geographically located.
One of the first tests that I did was to see if my laptop — a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro, could be powered by the dock. Since the dock is rated to provide 60W of power delivery, I didn’t think this would be an issue. As it turns out, the dock did a nice job of powering my laptop. The only port on this dock that offers the PD option is the Thunderbolt 3 host port — on the front of the dock.
As the specs outlined above, there is only one Thunderbolt 3 port on the dock — that’s the one on the front of the dock. This port is designed to connect your host computer to the dock. Personally, I think that the front of the dock is a strange place for the host port to live. For starters, it makes cable management difficult at best. I would rather see a USB-C port on the front and the TB3 host port on the rear.
Another observation I made was that the other two ports on the front of the dock are a USB-A and headphone jack. While I appreciate the thought about convenience for users, I think the options that were included were poorly planned. I like the placement of these ports, but should a user decide to mount the dock behind their monitor(s), those ports would not be accessible. Also, the headphone jack is the only option for connecting an audio device to the docking station. So, if you have external speakers and you want them connected through the docking station, you have to use this port.
The next thing I did was to test the connectivity of all the ports. I used a portable WD hard drive to see if the USB-A ports would provide power for the external drive and if I could access the data on the drive. It connected quickly and easily using the 10GBps port on the front and the 2-5 Gbps ports on the back. Next, I connected a GTech external hard drive using the USB-C ports. The first port (the non-charging port) connected the drive quickly. The second port (charging port) also connected quickly. I used a Digital Tester to check power output from the dock and all the ports that should be providing power were.
The display ports work as designed. I was able to connect two monitors that were Full HD (two 4K monitors were not available at the time of this review) and the signal was received just fine by the monitors.
While this StarTech docking station functionally works as designed, there are some definite quirks to it that cause me some pause. I feel as though just a bit more thought could have gone into the design/organization of this dock to make it more user-friendly. That said, it is a solid dock. I feel that its price point is in the right range for a Thunderbolt 3 dock that includes all its features.
This dock is currently being offered at a discount on Amazon. If you use the coupon located on the Amazon product page, you can save $40 upon checkout.