Apple M1 MacBook Air is one of the thinnest yet powerful laptops. And well, it lives up to its name and packs a lightweight body. However, all these cool features come at a cost. The M1 MacBook Air has only two ports in the form of Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. And when it comes to connecting the MacBook Air to peripherals like an external monitor or a keyboard, these two ports are not enough. That's when docking stations come into the picture.
The main advantage of these laptop docking stations is that they allow you to connect seamlessly to quite a few peripherals. And by connecting to external displays, you get to enjoy the full desktop mode. It's a one-time setup, and once done, you can connect/disconnect at the snap of a finger.
So if you wish to increase the functionality of your M1 MacBook Air, here are the best docking stations that you can buy. But before that,
The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core is a compact docking station, and the odds are that it will complement the slim profile of your M1 MacBook Air. However, do not let the small form factor fool you, for this dock is a powerful device. For one, it's a dual-powered device. It can power the connected MacBook Air and at the same time draw power from the laptop to power connected devices. Now that's cool.
Aside from that, it can supply up to 60W of power, which is good enough for your MacBook Air. If you must know, the M1 MacBook Air draws 30W of power. That said, there are enough ports to expand the functionality of your laptop.
It comes with a USB-C PD port, a single HDMI and a DisplayPort 1.4 connector, and a bunch of USB ports. If you want wired internet connectivity, you can utilize the Ethernet port. Plus, the USB ports are powerful enough to facilitate high-speed data transfers.
Nevertheless, this dock works great with the M1 MacBook, and several users have backed this claim as part of their reviews. The power supply works as advertised. However, you'll have to get a 60W power adapter.
2. Plugable Thunderbolt 3 and USB C Docking Station
Plugable's Thunderbolt 3 Dock is a little expensive than the Belkin dock, but it greatly complements the Apple M1 MacBook Air. The number of ports is adequate, and it bundles DisplayPort and HDMI ports. For the record, it comes with 11 ports, including an ethernet port.
Like the ones above, this docking station is slim and sleek and will fit anywhere on your work desk. All the ports are on one side, making it a tad easy to connect all the cords and cables. Just make sure to route the cables to give your desk a clutter-free look.
Here again, the same limitation exists. You can only connect one monitor up to 4K resolution, either by DisplayPort or HDMI. The 96W power output is more than sufficient for the M1 MacBook Air. At the same time, the build quality is excellent. The only downside is that the power adapter for this dock is larger than the dock itself.
Nevertheless, users have had a good experience with this dock. It connects easily, and there are minimal issues with flickering displays and the likes.
The Anker PowerExpand Elite is not one of the slimmest docks out there, but it brings a whooping 13 ports to the foyer. It's expensive, and you benefit from dual Thunderbolt ports, USB-C ports, and 85W Power Delivery capability. And yes, there's the humble HDMI port should you have an HDMI-only monitor with you.
The ports are placed at the front and the back, making it easy to plug in connectors and cables. Plus, the clever design means you can place it vertically or horizontally.
The PowerExpand Elite has quite a few power options up its sleeves. Apart from the 85W charging, it comes with a 15W Thunderbolt 3 port and an 18W USB-C PD port to charge your smartphone or tablet. And the USB-A ports and card readers slots make it easy to connect scores of USB-A peripherals or transfer data to and from memory cards.
Like the one above, it can handle quite a few external displays on Windows laptops. But for now, only one display would work for the M1 MacBooks.
But at the end of the day, the Anker PowerExpand Elite is an expensive device. And unless you have a Windows system with which you plan to use it occasionally, it's a bit of an overkill since you won't be able to connect dual displays.
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The best part of any Thunderbolt 3 dock is that you can use it on both USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 laptops, whether it's a MacBook or a Windows laptop.
The only issue with connecting a laptop dock to an M1-based MacBook is limiting the number of displays. And it can be a major bottleneck, especially if you want to keep your Mac on a vertical stand and work on a dual monitor rig.
If you have to choose between the three, we'd suggest you go with the Belkin Dock Core. It's affordable and works brilliantly with the M1-based MacBook Air, as compared to the other three.
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