In the market for a new laptop docking station? Well, the surprisingly hard choice is made easier with our perfect guide right here. What’s best? Cheap or cash splashy?
Laptops are constantly getting more, and more powerful as we march forward in time. It’s gotten to the point that brands like Razer and Gigabyte even refer to their high-end laptops as ‘desktop replacements’. Even the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC, has a dock for gaming on the big screen.
However, using them without a dock can be a little bit tricky. A limited number of USB ports, and even HDMI or DisplayPorts can cause a lot of issues for these “desktop replacements”. Grabbing a dock should be easy, but it can raise a few questions.
The major thing between a lot of these devices is the price. Do you go all in on the budget, but with limited options? What about the multiple versions you see on Amazon? Then there’s the question of whether Thunderbolt is even worth it.
Despite the form factors and massive variations, we’ve had extensive experience finding the right one. While we’ve found ours, you might want to consider some of the following options below.
The best laptop dock: Corsair TBT200 Thunderbolt 4
For laptop docking station needs, we think the Corsair is maybe the best for what it offers. Despite its steep price of $340, it brings everything in-house and under one roof. There are ten ports here, three of which are usable Thunderbolt 4 ports.
On an Intel laptop or MacBook, you’re not just getting the ports you usually have access to. You’re getting an additional three Thunderbolt ports to make up for the one you just sacrificed.
We’ve used it every single day since our review, charging our laptop, and phone. The USB-C ports, and even slowly charged a Switch and Steam Deck. It’s low-key one of the best things we’ve had come through the door.
Take, for instance, the transferring of an SD card’s data over to the MacBook. Multiple 4K files were taken off a UHS-II 128GB SD card, with large RAW files and the transfer was done in minutes.
In the box, you get an HDMI to USB-C cable, DisplayPort to USB-C cable, and a surprisingly large power brick.
Again, despite the price and the large power brick, it has become an invaluable member of the workspace and will continue to feature until Thunderbolt 6, probably.
The best budget USB-C laptop docking station
With Amazon filled to the gills with different options, it might surprise you to find out we actually recommend one that’s absurdly cheap in comparison to the rest. While not the fastest, nor the best on the market, you actually can’t beat the offerings that this generic USB-C hub offers.
Before we came into the Corsair dock, we were using this for a couple of years. It comes in at around $27 and offers up to 100W power when connected to your charger of choice. There’s Ethernet, USB-A, and an SD Card reader on it.
It’ll be by no means a top-of-the-line hub, but there’s much worse out here. If you need something to house all your devices, as well as charge your laptop while working, there’s nothing better than a hearty bit of cheap kit.
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All-around docking station for laptops
To get the most out of your laptop, you’ll have to invest in the docking station. When we present something that comes in at $189.99, we’re not just suggesting any old thing.
Docking stations are by far and away the most useful things you can get to fix up your work-from-home situation, or even bolster your gaming prowess. Though, if you’re accustomed to the inner workings of a PC setup, despite what you use, you’ll know that there are never enough ports.
The Tobenone USB-C docking station might come in at $190, but it does currently feature a $50 coupon you can use. It also has 18 different ports you can use.
There’s nothing too expressly modern about its selection, so there’s no USB-4, or 3 Gen 2.1, but it houses two DisplayPorts and HDMI. That’s more than enough to run that quadruple monitor setup you’ve always dreamed of, right?
It has its own power supply too, so your poor laptop won’t have to host any power needs to the device either.
While it supports 4K, it only does at 30Hz. We recommend using this at 1080p.
What is Thunderbolt?
Thunderbolt is a connection protocol developed by Apple and Intel. It was built off of FireWire and originally used mini DisplayPort connectors. It has since moved to USB-C housing and offers up to 40GB/s transfer speeds.
Non-Thunderbolt cables won’t work on Thunderbolt 3 and 4 devices, despite them using the same connector.
However, USB-4 has since implemented a lot of the features found in TB3, but is still being implemented. USB-4 should be compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices.
Thunderbolt offers not only more ports to use, but daisy-chaining and support for up to two 4K resolution monitors on the same hub. Daisy-chaining up to six different devices shares the same resource pool on their own power supplies. This allows for devices to support much more than originally planned.
To get an idea of what Thunderbolt can really do, we recommend checking out the now slightly outdated LaCie 2Big Dock. This device supports RAID storage and offers DisplayPort, SD card, and USB connections all in one device.
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