Apple did it again. They pushed users forward when they dropped the floppy drive from the iMac and again when they dropped the optical drive from the MacBooks. With the newer MacBook Air and then the MacBook Pro, they dropped all connections in favor of the new USB-C ports.
Yes, this is old news. We all remember the complaints of the awkward dongle Apple provided to connect all of the legacy devices. The industry scrambled with various degrees of success to come up with suitable USB-C docks for the early adopters of the MacBook Pro.
A year-and-a-half later, every manufacturer has some sort of USB-C dock and more are on the way. We’ve picked out some of our favorites considering design and features. Here’s our top 5 picks:
HyperDrive is the OG of the USB-C docks, design specifically for the touch bar MacBook Pro. They were one of the first on the scene with a dock that plugged into the two USB-C ports on the left side as an extension of the computer.
The HyperDrive Pro 8-in-2 dock is by far the smallest dock in this roundup, designed to be portable with no extra power supply. It turns the two Thunderbolt 3 port into eight ports: 4K HDMI, 4K Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 with 100W Power Delivery, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C with 60W Power Delivery, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, SD card reader, and a bonus microSD card reader.
It is made from precision milled aluminum in silver and space gray to match the material and colors of the MacBook Pro. You can buy it direct from Hyper for $120.
Henge Docks Stone
Henge Docks are known for their MacBook docking stations that turn laptops into desktop computers. They have ventured into smaller, more portable USB-C docks territory with the new Stone Tethered Docking Station.
Stone was designed as a wedge to either site under the MacBook to prop it up or off to the side depending on preference. It is mostly intended for uses whole just want to replace the ports Apple removed from the MacBook Pro Retina model.
On one side it has the USB-C in port from the computer and the other has an SD card slot. The back has a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, a audio in/out jack, Mini DisplayPort (4k), and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
The Stone dock also has an industry leading 135 watt power supply. That means a full 87 watts is available for your MacBook over USB-C – no more slow charging or battery drain under heavy loads. So, with one connection to your MacBook, you can charge your computer while having your existing devices connected. The Stone Tethered Docking Station is available directly from Henge Docks for $200.
Caldigit TS3 Plus
The Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus is the latest addition to Caldigit’s fairly extensive line of USB-C docks. The TS3 Plus is the heavyweight in this roundup as far as ports with 15. It is also the only dock we’ve seen that has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (10 Gbps).
On the front, it has an SD card reader, audio in and out, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port (say that 3 times, fast), and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port. On the back (deep breath), 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, DisplayPort 1.2 (4k monitor), 4 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, digital optical audio (S/PDIF), and a Gigabit Ethernet port for good measure.
The TS3 Plus is pretty small but not as portable as it might appear due to the power brick which is slightly larger and much heavier than the dock itself. The brick allows for power delivery up to 85w which is enough for the laptop and accessories. It retails for a modest $250.
OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock
If you’re still counting ports, his bad boy sports 13 ports, including the coveted SD card reader. It has five USB-A 3.1 ports, an Optical audio out port, a FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a mini DisplayPort port. It also has a two-way 3.5mm jack for headphones or a microphone.
Like the TS3, this one has an Optical audio port but, since the 3.5mm jack is two-way, you can’t have headphones and a microphone plugged in at the same time. This might no be an issue since there are a plethora of high-quality USB microphones out there.
Like many of the docks in this roundup, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock allows for a 5k display or two 4k displays using the Mini Display port and the Thunderbolt 3 port. It also has more than enough power to charge your laptop and other connected devices simultaneously. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock retails for $300.
We’ve saved the latest and greatest for last. linedock represents the next generation in USB-C docks, designed specifically for people on the go. Especially the nomadic creative class. In addition to being a 9-port USB-C hub, linedock also has a battery capable of charging your MacBook Pro, iPhone X, and any other devices you plugin.
It packs in three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, an SD card reader, HDMI 2.0 port, and a mini DisplayPort, along with the aforementioned battery. As if that’s not enough, there are models available with internal 256GB and 1TB SSD drives.
So… yeah, we buried the lede. The linedock addresses so many issues that it’s hard to imagine a better companion for your MacBook Pro. It’s made from machined aluminum in black or space gray and the same size as a 13” MacBook Pro, only thinner.
Rather than bring your bulky charger with you, the linedock slides in your bag with your MacBook, snug as a bug in a rug. Now your bag has a new trick inside, something that can charge your laptop and devices, connect multiple devices, and store your data as a backup or even a working drive.
The linedock is not yet available, but mark your calendars. On June 6th at 5am PST, linedock will be having a flash sale (linedock.co)for a limited quantity to be delivered 15-days later. They are priced starting at a very modest $299 with an SSD or $399 and $749 for 256GB and 1TB SSD respectively.
We have our alarms set for 5am so save one (or three) for us.
Let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite USB-C dock.