Heading back to school means you're shopping around for quality gear you can use all year long. However, if you're living in a cramped dorm, you're probably interested in some worthwhile hardware for your laptop that specifically won't take up too much space. Whether you need a dock for connecting peripherals or a stand to keep precious desk space intact, we've rounded up a bunch of the best stuff right here.
Best Thunderbolt 3 Dock
CalDigit's TS3 Plus is our top pick for a Thunderbolt 3 dock thanks to 15 total ports, a durable and compact aluminum build, the ability to handle dual 4K displays at 60Hz, and power delivery up to 85W back to your laptop. You'll be able to connect just about anything, all from a dock that measures in at just 5.15-by-1.57-by-3.87 inches. Just be sure your laptop has Thunderbolt 3 to connect.
Easily Adjustable Stand
This stand is ideal for those who don't have a monitor but want a separate keyboard and mouse for heavy productivity. You place your laptop on the durable aluminum stand and move a slider to adjust height and angle, resulting in a display that's propped up at a comfortable viewing angle. You won't be hunched over a laptop all night, and you won't have to invest in a bulky monitor that takes up even more space.
For Laptops With USB-C
If your laptop has just USB-C, this CalDigit dock should make a great option. It delivers up to 85W of charging power back to your laptop, as well as support for dual FHD displays (or single 4K). Ports include two DisplayPort 1.2, three USB-A 3.2, USB-C 3.2, UHS-II SD card reader, Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio. It's also compatible with Thunderbolt 3 for dual 4K display support.
Use It Everywhere
The Aukey Link PD Pro is a well-rounded, well-built USB-C hub with varied connectivity and up to 100W of charging power back to your device. Ports include three USB-A 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet, USB-C (PD only), SD card reader, and microSD card reader, with support for up to a 4K display. It's also small and light enough to carry just about anywhere.
Best For Laptops With USB-A
If your laptop has only USB-A to connect, the Plugable UD-3900H should fit well. It offers dual 1080p display support thanks to HDMI and DVI ports. Other ports include four USB-A 2.0, Ethernet, and two USB-A 3.0. Definitely check this one out if you're looking for a basic setup without overspending.
Folds For Easy Storage
For those with seriously limited space who'd like to prop up their laptop while using an external keyboard and mouse, there is the Roost stand. It's a lightweight gadget that scissors out to securely hold your laptop at a comfortable angle, meaning you can use it as a regular external display. When you're done, just fold it down and tuck it away under your desk or under your bed.
Keep Your Laptop Where You Left It
This dock isn't exactly compact and you will need quite a bit of space on your desk, but I had to include it for its robust security. First, you secure the dock in your dorm, then you secure your laptop to the dock with retractable arms. It only opens when you wave a fob near it, so you can be sure your laptop won't walk off without you. Included are plenty of ports and up to 85W of charging for your PC.
Save Space On Your Desk
If you need to keep your dorm desk clear, the VIVO clamp stand attaches to an edge and extends out over your working area. It's all adjustable so you can get a comfortable angle, and you'll even be able to use your laptop as an external display with a keyboard and mouse connected. It's made from steel and aluminum so it will put up with usual dorm wear and tear.
If we're making some suggestions
All of the above clamps and stands should be able to find a home in a certain dorm — you might want extra security or you might want something ultra-portable you can slip in your pocket — but if we're making some suggestions, we can't help but focus on the CalDigit TS3 Plus (opens in new tab). As long as your laptop has a Thunderbolt 3 port to connect, you're going to get a ton of functionality out of this compact dock, which offers 15 total ports, dual 4K display compatibility, 85W of charging, and durable aluminum construction. It is pricey, but it should last through your school years and beyond.
As for a quality stand, the Rain Design iLevel 2 (opens in new tab) is no doubt the best bet as long as you have some extra space to place it on your desk. It's built strong from aluminum to put up with a beating, and its height is adjustable with a handy slider meaning you'll get a comfortable laptop display angle to use with an external mouse and keyboard.
If you're looking for more great docks, be sure to check out our roundup of Thunderbolt 3 docking stations, as well as our more generalized roundup of docking stations that don't necessarily need the speedy port to connect.
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.
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