Best Thunderbolt 3 Docks of 2018Source: Windows Central

Best laptop docking stations Windows Central 2022

Laptops are amazing tools for people on the go, but their compact features can quickly become flaws at home or in the office. As the best Windows laptops get thinner, so does port selection. That's where the docks we're highlighting here come into play. Whether you're looking for a standard USB-C docking station, the best Thunderbolt 3 dock, or want to move up to Thunderbolt 4, we've put together a list of the best overall docking stations available today.

Best overall: CalDigit TS3 Plus

CalDigit TS3 Plus docking stationSource: Windows Central

Thunderbolt 3 is slowly being taken over by Thunderbolt 4, but unless you have a laptop released in the last year or so, chances are you're still using the older technology. The CalDigit TS3 Plus has been available for a few years, and it's still the best option for most people. It's made from a solid piece of aluminum and has 15 ports that you can use to connect your peripherals, including dual 4K displays, keyboard, mouse, SD card, Ethernet cable, and more.

The dock itself has a small footprint — it can stand up vertically or sit horizontally — and it weighs in at just over 1 pound. The aluminum case is built strong, too.

It can even deliver up to 85 watts of power to your laptop, and the cable here is 0.7 meters in length, though you can get a dock with a 2-meter cable for more money. It's nice knowing that your laptop will always be charged when you have to unplug it and hit the road. As long as your laptop has a Thunderbolt 3 port, this dock will eliminate the need for most other adapters and hubs you have lying around. Set it up on a desk, plug in a single cable, and watch your laptop become a full-fledged workstation.

Pros

  • 15 total ports
  • Up to 85W of power
  • Handles dual 4K displays at 60Hz
  • UHS-II SD card reader
  • Sturdy build and small footprint

Cons

  • Laptop requires Thunderbolt 3
  • Cheaper options available

Best overall

CalDigit TS3 Plus

CalDigit TS3 Plus

Most ports and best performance

For laptops with a Thunderbolt 3 port, the TS3 Plus should be at the top of your list. It has a ton of ports and offers charging.

Best Thunderbolt 4: Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma

Razer Thunderbolt 4 DockSource: Windows Central

The best Thunderbolt 4 docking station right now is the Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma. Just like most Razer products, it's a high-performance piece of hardware with baked-in RGB lighting. If you can't stand to have something on your desk without a customizable underglow, this is where you want to look.

Razer's Chroma RGB can sync with compatible accessories through the Synapse app, offering up 16.8 million colors for you to enjoy. The black aluminum chassis looks great just about anywhere, and it's not bulky at all.

You connect to the dock via the Thunderbolt 4 port on your laptop, which then opens up three downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports, a UHS-II SD card reader, three USB-A 3.2 (Gen 2) ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack. With the dock connected to your PC, you can get up to 90W of power delivery to keep the laptop charged. Dual 4K monitors at 60Hz are supported.

We're also in the process of testing the Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 dock, which appears to be another top option. The CalDigit Element Hub is another great option if you'd like something a lot smaller, though it only offers USB-A and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

Pros:

  • Fancy RGB underglow lighting
  • Three downstream Thunderbolt 4
  • Black finish might be better suited to some desks
  • Dual 4K @ 60Hz display support
  • Up to 90W charging power to host

Cons:

  • One fewer USB-A port than other picks
  • Expensive

Best Thunderbolt 4

Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock

Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma

Best for laptops with Thunderbolt 4

Want a powerful Thunderbolt 4 dock to match the rest of your gaming gear? Leave it to Razer to add RGB lighting.

Best value: Plugable UD-3900H

Plugable UD-3900HSource: Plugable

Our top picks for Thunderbolt docking stations come at a high price, though the performance upgrade is worth the money. But what if your laptop doesn't have a Thunderbolt or USB-C port? Enter Plugable's UD-3900H USB-A 3.0 docking station, a relatively affordable alternative that is ideal for older laptops with only USB-A connectivity.

There's no 4K monitor support, but it will handle dual 1080p external displays, allowing you to set up a workstation at home or the office. Other than HDMI and DVI ports, this dock includes four USB-A 2.0, Ethernet, and two USB-A 3.0. That's enough for a keyboard, mouse, external storage, and more. It's all wrapped up in a package that sits horizontally.

Pros:

  • Ideal for laptops without USB-C or Thunderbolt 3
  • Affordable price
  • Plenty of ports
  • Supports two external monitors

Cons:

  • No 4K support
  • No charging

Best value

Plugable UD-3900H

Plugable UD-3900H

A cheaper dock that only requires a USB-A port

Those with laptops without USB-C or Thunderbolt can take advantage of this relatively affordable dock from Plugable.

Best USB-C: CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock

CalDigit USB-C Pro DockSource: Windows Central

CalDigit's USB-C Pro Dock brings the same build quality as our top TS3 Plus pick, but it doesn't absolutely require Thunderbolt 3 to run. You will get the most out of the dock connected with the Thunderbolt 3, with support for dual 4K displays at a 60Hz refresh rate. Connected with USB-C, you get support for dual FHD displays or a single 4K display with a 30Hz refresh rate. Connected with either port, you get up to 85W of charging power back to your device.

The docking station offers two DisplayPort 1.2, three USB-A 3.2, USB-C 3.2, a UHS-II SD card reader, Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio. You can even connect with USB-A and still get connectivity through USB ports, SD card reader, Ethernet, and audio jack. The aluminum case is built strong and dispels heat well, though it does sit horizontally.

Pros

  • Durable aluminum chassis
  • Generous port selection
  • Removable host cable
  • Works with Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, and USB-A
  • Up to 85W charging

Cons

  • Fewer overall ports than top pick
  • No downstream Thunderbolt 3

Best USB-C

CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock

CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock

No need for Thunderbolt 3

CalDigit's USB-C Pro Dock is a high-performance solution compatible with USB-A, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3.

Best security: Kensington LD5400T

Kensington LD5400T docking stationSource: Windows Central

Kensington's LD5400T brings Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and a level of security the other docks don't offer. Instead of the dock sitting apart on your desk, you place your laptop in its retractable arms to secure it in place. The dock itself can be fastened down with screws or with an included 6-foot tether. A fob to unlock the dock can be carried around on a key ring, and the entire thing is built from sturdy materials to resist tampering.

There's no HDMI or SD card reader included here, but you do get four USB-A 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (one for the host cable), DisplayPort 1.2, RJ45 Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio. It can handle dual 4K displays at a 60Hz refresh rate or single 5K display at 60Hz, and when connected, it delivers up to 85W of charging power back to your laptop to keep it topped up.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Lots of ports
  • Up to 85W charging
  • Easy, robust security

Cons

  • No HDMI or SD card reader

Best security

Kensington LD5400T

Kensington LD5400T

Keep your laptop where you left it

Get up to 85W of charging power back to the host laptop, eight total ports, dual 4K display support, and robust security features.

Bottom line

A quality docking station can effectively turn your laptop into a fully fledged workstation, and as long as your laptop has a Thunderbolt 3 port the CalDigit TS3 Plus remains the best overall pick.

It offers excellent performance across the board and a wide selection of ports — including five USB-A 3.1, two USB-C 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2, two Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet, and an SD card reader — that will turn your laptop into a future-proof workstation. You can even connect dual 4K displays and enjoy a 60Hz refresh rate, or a single 5K display with the same 60Hz refresh rate.

Your laptop will remain charged when connected thanks to 85W of power, allowing you to unplug and walk away without your AC adapter. It's all wrapped up in a durable and compact aluminum chassis that can sit flat or stand vertically to save space.

Those who have upgraded to a laptop with Thunderbolt 4 will want to check out the best Thunderbolt 4 docks and hubs. For quick reference, the Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma is our top docking station pick from the bunch. It has all the high-end features you expect from a TB4 connection, and it also has customizable RGB lighting built right in.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

Author:

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

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