Best Thunderbolt 4 dock
The CalDigit TS4 is currently the best Thunderbolt 4 dock on the market. It has the most ports, most charging power, and it's built extremely well. It's the right choice if you want to set yourself up for the future and don't mind paying more compared to the TS3 Plus.
- Most ports available in a TB4 dock
- DisplayPort 1.4 port included
- SD and microSD UHS-II card readers
- Up to 98W charging to host
- Lock slot for extra security
- One fewer downstream TB4 port to make room for DP 1.4
- Lesser warranty than some competition
Best Thunderbolt 3 dock
CalDigit's TS3 Plus is a few years old at this point, but it's still perfectly relevant for anyone with Thunderbolt 3 devices. It's slowly being phased out by the new TS4, but it's still a solid pick if you don't want to pay as much or don't plan on upgrading to Thunderbolt 4 anytime soon.
- Tons of ports
- Exceptional build quality
- Cheaper price
- Up to 85W charging
- No microSD reader
- One downstream TB3 port
- Not as future-proof as the TS4
CalDigit's latest TS4 is essentially an updated Thunderbolt 4 version of the mighty Thunderbolt 3-enabled TS3 Plus. The TS4 adds more ports, better performance, and more charging. The TS4 is what you want if you settle for nothing but the latest and greatest, but the TS3 Plus is still a great choice if you don't want to pay quite as much.
Here's a look at the raw specs that make up each of these docking stations.
|CalDigit TS4||CalDigit TS3 Plus|
|Ports||Three Thunderbolt 4 (One host)|
Three USB-C (10Gbps)
Five USB-A (10Gbps)
2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
3.5mm combo in/out
SD card reader (UHS-II)
microSD card reader (UHS-II)
|Two Thunderbolt 3 (One host)|
Two USB-C (10Gbps, 5Gbps)
Five USB-A (5Gbps)
SD card reader (UHS-II)
|Power||Up to 98W to host|
Front USB-C 20W
Other USB-C 7.5W
|Up to 87W to host|
|Max display resolution||8K @ 60Hz|
Dual 4K @ 60Hz
|5K @ 60Hz|
Dual 4K @ 60Hz
|Security||Kensington lock slot||None|
|Dimensions||5.55 (H) x 1.65 (W) x 4.46 (L) inches|
(141mm x 42mm x 113mm)
|5.15 (H) x 1.57 (W) x 3.87 (L) inches|
(131mm x 40mm x 98.44mm)
|Weight||1.41 pounds (0.64kg)||1.04 pounds (0.47kg)|
|Warranty||2 years||2 years|
Design and ports
CalDigit didn't make any huge changes to the TS4 compared to the TS3 Plus. While the newer Thunderbolt 4 dock is larger and a bit heavier, it has the same ribbed aluminum design that is durable and does a great job of shedding any heat that might otherwise accumulate under heavy use.
Both docks can be used vertically with the attached rubber footing; additional rubber strips can be applied temporarily if you'd rather use the docks horizontally. There's really no difference in operation between the two orientations, and it will come down to personal preference or how much space you have available on your desk.
These are both well-built docks that can withstand years of abuse. I reviewed the CalDigit TS3 Plus at the start of 2018 and have been using it regularly ever since. It still works as well as it did four years ago, and with minor surface wear. Considering the TS4 is built to the same standard, I expect it to also last for years. One extra feature the TS4 has is a Kensington lock slot, something that can no doubt be handy if you're working in a busy office.
The TS4 will work with Thunderbolt 3, USB4, and USB-C, but to get the most out of it you'll want to connect it to Thunderbolt 4. Similarly, the TS3 Plus will work with USB-C devices, but it's best suited for Thunderbolt 3. Your Thunderbolt 4 devices will work with it as well, though at a lower level of performance. I explain the differences between all these standards in more depth in my Thunderbolt 4 vs. Thunderbolt 3 vs. USB4 vs. USB 3 comparison.
In my CalDigit TS4 review, I emphasize that the dock has an intelligent and plentiful selection of ports. CalDigit does some tricky counting with its audio ports — there's a 3.5mm combo jack for a headset, as well as two 3.5mm jacks for audio in and out — but there's still plenty of connectivity available. There are otherwise two downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports and one for the host connection, three 10Gbps USB-C ports, five 10Gbps USB-A ports, DisplayPort 1.4, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet for incredibly fast internet, and UHS-II SD and microSD card readers that can be used at the same time.
The TS3 Plus holds its own with two Thunderbolt 3 (one for the host), one 10Gbps and one 5Gbps USB-C, five 5Gbps USB-A, DisplayPort 1.2, S/PDIF for digital audio, Gigabit Ethernet, a UHS-II SD card reader, and 3.5mm audio jacks in and out. There's no microSD card reader and one fewer downstream Thunderbolt port, plus the DisplayPort standard is slightly older. Standard Gigabit Ethernet is also considerably slower than 2.5GbE available on the TS4.
Charging and displays
Part of the beauty of incorporating one of the best docking stations into your setup is that your laptop can receive a charge while you're connected. This allows you to unplug anytime and go mobile with a full battery. While the CalDigit TS3 Plus can deliver an impressive 87W of power back to the host, the TS4 turns things up to a maximum 98W. For many Ultrabooks with integrated graphics this won't matter as much, but for laptops that require more power that extra wattage will certainly help.
These docks don't stop at the host when it comes to charging abilities. The TS3 Plus offers 7.5W of power through its USB-A and USB-C ports, allowing you to charge up other connected devices. The TS4 goes a bit further, offering 20W of power from its front USB-C port, 7.5W from its other USB-C ports, and 7.5W from its USB-A ports.
As for monitor support, both docks will land you a multi-display setup with a Windows PC. The TS3 Plus handles up to a 5K display at a 60Hz refresh rate, or dual extended 4K displays each with a 60Hz refresh rate. The TS4 bumps the single-monitor resolution up to 8K with a 60Hz refresh rate, or dual 4K displays each with a 60Hz refresh rate. If you'd like to push things with a higher refresh rate, 4K can go up to 144Hz, ultrawide 1440p can hit 180Hz, and standard 1440p can hit up to 240Hz.
Go with the CalDigit TS4 for the latest and greatest
The CalDigit TS4 is our pick for best Thunderbolt 4 docking station, and for good reason. It has the most ports, the most power, and the best build quality I've so far seen. Compared to the TS3 Plus, it's the dock you want to buy if you're setting yourself up for the future. The TS4 costs more than the TS3 Plus, and it's about as hard to find due to its popularity. However, it's the right choice for most people going forward.
Thunderbolt 4 dock
18 total ports
The CalDigit TS4 represents the pinnacle of Thunderbolt 4 docking. If you want the best, this is it.
CalDigit's TS3 Plus is a more affordable option
The CalDigit TS3 Plus is the best Thunderbolt 3 dock out there, but it's been overshadowed by the newer TS4. I recommend going with the TS4 even if you still have a Thunderbolt 3 laptop; Thunderbolt 4 is taking over and the next high-end device you buy will almost certainly have the newer standard. If, however, you'd like to save some money and plan on using a Thunderbolt 3 device for the next few years, the TS3 Plus is still listed at retailers.
Thunderbolt 3 dock
15 total ports
The TS3 Plus paved the way for the mighty TS4, and it's still a great dock if you want to spend less money and plan on keeping your Thunderbolt 3 laptop for a few more years.
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Cale Hunt is formerly 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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