Best Laptop Docking Stations Windows Central 2021
Laptops are amazing tools for people on the go, but those compact features quickly become flaws at home or in the office. If you've recently moved to working from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19), you might require something that can turn your laptop into a true productivity machine. That's where the docks we're highlighting here come into play. The CalDigit TS3 Plus is our top pick for a laptop docking station thanks to its wide selection of ports, including five USB-A 3.1, two Thunderbolt 3, two USB-C, and Ethernet, all contained in a compact and durable aluminum chassis. As long as your laptop has a Thunderbolt 3 port to connect, it should be your first choice.
- Best Overall: CalDigit TS3 Plus
- Best Value: Plugable UD-3900H
- Best Modular Design: HP Thunderbolt Dock G2
- Best USB-C: CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock
- Best Security: Kensington LD5400T
Best Overall: CalDigit TS3 Plus
As modern Ultrabooks move to Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, laptop docks are changing to keep up. This dock from CalDigit is made from a solid piece of aluminum and has 15 ports that you can use to connect your peripherals, including 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 one pound. The aluminum case is built strong, there's lifetime support, and a one-year warranty in case something goes wrong.
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.
- 15 total ports
- Up to 85W of power
- Handles dual 4K displays at 60Hz
- UHS-II SD card reader
- Sturdy build and small footprint
- Laptop requires Thunderbolt 3
- Cheaper options available
Best Value: Plugable UD-3900H
Our top pick for a docking station comes at a high price, and if your laptop doesn't have a Thunderbolt 3 port, it's not going to work at all. 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.
- Ideal for laptops without USB-C or Thunderbolt 3
- Affordable price
- Plenty of ports
- Supports two external monitors
- No 4K support
- No charging
Best Modular Design: HP Thunderbolt Dock G2
HP's docking station has three USB-C, three USB-A 3.0, a Thunderbolt 3, two DisplayPort, VGA, RJ45 Ethernet, and a 3.5 mm audio jack, giving you plenty of options for connecting accessories. Rather than a flat, boxy look, the G2 is more of a rounded cube that's quite compact, even though there's a detachable speaker module that sits on top. If you often find yourself in conference calls and find your laptop's speakers are lacking, this is the answer.
You get up to 120W of charging power back to devices, and the dock supports Wake-on-LAN, PXE boot, and MAC address pass-through for easy remote management. It's also capable of handling dual 4K displays at 60Hz. The only downside here is that the host cable is hard-wired into the device, so if it stops working, you will likely have to replace the entire dock.
- Includes a modular speaker
- 120W of charging power
- Plenty of ports
- Compact design
- Supports Wake-on-LAN, PXE boot
- Speaker module adds cost
- Host cable does not detach
Best USB-C: CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock
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.
- Durable aluminum chassis
- Generous port selection
- Removable host cable
- Works with Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, and USB-A
- Up to 85W charging
- Fewer overall ports than top pick
- No downstream Thunderbolt 3
Best Security: Kensington LD5400T
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 six-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.
- Durable construction
- Lots of ports
- Up to 85W charging
- Easy, robust security
- Three-year warranty included
- No HDMI or SD card reader
- Relatively expensive
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 is going to be 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. A generous warranty is included to help ease you into the cost.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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.
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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