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Best Affordable Thunderbolt 3 Docking Stations

More and more modern laptops are ditching older, chunkier ports for the multipurpose, svelte Thunderbolt 3 port that takes the form of USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 ports can be used to charge, to connect displays, or to connect pretty much any other accessories when you add a dock to the equation. The only problem here is that Thunderbolt 3 docks are still relatively new, and you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on a single piece of hardware. To make things easier for anyone who needs a budget dock now, I've rounded up some of the cheapest options out there.

Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 docking station

While most Thunderbolt 3 docking stations come with the ability to charge your laptop while everything is plugged in, this option from Cable Matters (about $160) (opens in new tab) is capped at 15W, effectively keeping the price down. You can still feed some juice to your peripherals, but don't expect your laptop to receive power at the same time.

You're still looking at a good port selection, including Ethernet, two USB-A 3.0, two Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort, and USB-C 3.1, and there are dual 3.5mm jacks for headphones and mic. If you don't mind plugging your laptop into power while using a dock, this is about as low of a price you'll find.

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Plugable Thunderbolt 3 docking station

Another option that doesn't support host charging — meaning you'll have to keep your laptop plugged into power while using the dock — this station from Plugable (about $180) (opens in new tab) nevertheless delivers the ports you need for a lower price.

You're getting Ethernet, two USB-A 3.0, two Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort, 3.5mm mic and headphones jacks, and USB-C 3.0. Keep in mind that you won't be able to hook up dual 4K displays right out of the box and still get a 60Hz refresh rate, but it's certainly a low-cost option if you like running a single external monitor.

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CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 dock

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 dock

CalDigit's no stranger to making laptop accessories, and its Thunderbolt Station 3 dock (about $220) (opens in new tab) delivers 11 ports and 85W charging capabilities for your laptop or accessories.

Plug in dual 4K displays and see a 60Hz refresh rate, or daisy chain accessories thanks to two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Also included are three USB-A 3.1, DisplayPort, two eSATA (6GB), Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio and microphone jacks. For a bit more connectivity for a bit more money, also have a look at the Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus.

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Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 aluminum dock

Coming in at about $200 (opens in new tab), the Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 dock can deliver 60W of charging power to your laptop and accessories, plus it can be used for dual 4K displays with 60Hz refresh rates. The Wirecutter gave this dock a nod in its review, stating:

If the CalDigit dock is out of stock or jumps in price, or if you're willing to go without USB-C ports and the fastest possible charging with larger laptops to save a few dollars, the Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station with 60W Power Delivery offers the same number of USB-A ports (five) as our top pick and an SD card slot for a slightly lower price.

This is a slim dock that sits flat on your desk, but it still manages to pack in five USB-A ports, HDMI, two Thunderbolt 3 (great for daisy-chaining accessories), Ethernet, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm headset jack.

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Have you found a cheap Thunderbolt 3 docking station that works well but isn't mentioned here? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

1 Comment
  • Of the 4 Thunderbolt 3 Docks suggested, Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 3 was the only one to offer 85W laptop charging. It's also the most attractive and versatile amongst the contenders.
    I just pulled the trigger on the Caldigit dock for $199.99 (0.5m cable) from Caldigit. $20 less than Amazon. The Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 docking station and Plugable Thunderbolt 3 docking station looked identical, even the names were the same. They were probably made by the same factory from China. Both offered 15W laptop charging. Although priced at $160 and $180 respectively, 15W charging was a big NO for my quest for 1 cable solution. Even though the last dock, Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 aluminum dock, was able to deliver 60w laptop charging but it's still significantly less than 85w. Not enough for my power hungry laptop. I've heard a lot of good things about Caldigit support from friends and coworkers. I hope it holds true if I needed to reach out to them. Wish me luck! While surfing on Caldigit website for TS3 spec, I also came across their new model called the TS3 plus on back order. It's on preorder special for $249.99, but I think $199.99 for this dock is sufficient for my use.