Thunderbolt 4 is the new flavor in the connectivity world, and boy does it pack a punch. It's super-fast (it has 40Gbps bidirectional bandwidth), and the best part is that it works over USB-C. Even though it was introduced in early 2020, quite a few Windows laptops are now in the market with the said port. So, if you want to make the most out of your Thunderbolt Windows PC, it makes sense to connect it to a laptop docking station that supports Thunderbolt 4.
Apart from additional USB ports, HDMI connectors, and card readers, these docks make it convenient to hook your Windows laptop to dual 4K displays. More importantly, a laptop dock removes the hassle of plugging several things into your laptop. All you need to do is plug your laptop to the docking station with a single cable.
So if you have a new laptop like the Dell XPS 13 or the Asus Zenbook 14 UX425EA, here are some of the best Thunderbolt 4 docks that you can buy. But first,
CalDigit's Element Hub is all about Thunderbolt ports. These dock bundles multiple Thunderbolt and USB 3.2 ports. One of the Thunderbolt 4 ports also acts as the power output and can deliver up to 60W of power. The best thing about this dock is that it is compact despite the power under the hood and has a small footprint.
Plus, it has a clever build. The Thunderbolt and USB ports are on either side of the dock, making it convenient to attach monitors or peripherals. At the same time, the rubberized feet ensure that the dock doesn't slip even when you use all the ports. Interestingly, the dock can also supply power to the connected peripherals even when the laptop is disconnected.
When it comes to the performance, this CalDigit dock does a pretty good job. The folks at Windows Central tested this laptop dock by connecting it to a 4K display and a host of peripherals like mouse and external SSD, and it worked flawlessly without breaking a sweat. For the record, Thunderbolt 4 can easily support a single 4K monitor. A single connection can handle two 4K displays.
It has its shortcomings. For example, the adapter occupies a sizeable footprint even if the dock has a compact form factor. It bundles only Thunderbolt and USB ports and excludes other connectors like ethernet and HDMI ports. The latter means you'll already need to have a Thunderbolt-compatible monitor to connect to.
2. Anker Apex 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Dock
Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 4 (upstream), 1 x Thunderbolt 4 (downstream), 4 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C PD, 2 x HDMI, 1 x Ethernet port, 1 x SD card, 1 x 3.5mm audio
The Anker Apex addresses one of the major limitations of the CalDigit dock above. Apart from Thunderbolt 4 ports, it bundles USB-A, HDMI as well as an ethernet port. These give you the advantage of connecting as many peripherals as you want, whether it's a humble wired keyboard or an SD card reader. However, despite having a dozen ports, the Apex is slim, and the odds are that it won't occupy much space on your desk.
The Anker Apex looks premium. It has groovings on the side, which gives it the appearance of a toy suitcase. No kidding!
The dock places all 12 ports smartly for connecting or removing the cables without a hassle. And yes, it is lightweight and measures just around 1 pound.
Compared to the CalDigit dock above, you get a higher power output at 90W, thereby giving you enough power to run compatible laptops. In addition, you can transfer data using the Thunderbolt port.
Interestingly, a 120W adapter powers this laptop dock. It charges adequately and manages to make all the connected peripherals work without glitches or lags. Plus, you won't see the dock running hot or see your mouse moving slowly on the screen, even when you fill in all the ports.
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3. Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station
Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 4, 3 x Thunderbolt 4, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x USB-A Gen2, 1 x USB-A, 1 x UHS II SD 4.0 card reader, 1 x 3.5mm audio
The Kensington SD5700T is pricier than the docks above, yet it manages to pull off an incredible performance. This laptop dock comes with a slew of ports and includes a handy Kensington lock at the side. Like its counterpart above, it has a smaller footprint and is lightweight.
As noted above, this dock can pull performance-hogging work with grace, be it connecting to external monitors or transferring data. The latter is made easy by the fact that the SD5700T also bundles a UHS-II card reader.
More importantly, the slew of ports means that you can connect a range of devices, both old and new. The folks at Laptop Mag connected a Corsair keyboard, HyperX wireless headphones, and a Razer Naga Pro mouse via the dock, and all of them worked seamlessly with no lags.
It's not without its issues. For example, there are no HDMI or DisplayPort connectors. This means you will need a USB-C or Thunderbolt monitor to connect your laptop to the said displays.
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Fast and Furious
The best part about Thunderbolt 4 ports is that they are backward compatible and work with older USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connectors.
With new laptops and ultrabooks shunning input ports by the minute, a laptop dock is what saves you from the hassle of plugging and unplugging tens of cables everyday. Plus, they also lend a more permanent and clutter-free look.
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