Review: Caldigit USB-C Dock

If you’re the proud owner of a new USB-C laptop, you are sure to have considered investing in a wide range of dongles, adapters, and cables to connect your now-outdated peripherals. Even Apple has recognised this problem in their latest laptops and took the world by surprise when they reduced the price of their USB-C adapters. Even so, you’ll have to carry a bundle of adapters to cover all eventualities.

If you are seeking to expand your USB-C connectivity, without a bag of adapters, Caldigit has released a handy little dock that could have the answer. The Caldigit USB-C Dock ($149/£174.99 – significantly more expensive in the UK) provides a host of connections, and powers your laptop, through a single USB-C cable. This is a fantastic idea gets the most from the new USB-C standard and is especially useful for MacBook owners who only have one USB-C port.

What’s in the Box?

The Caldigit USB-C Dock comes in a glossy white and blue packaging and won’t look out of place in an Apple Store. The unboxing experience isn’t overly premium, but everything is safely secured and protected.

Inside the box you’ll find three things: a premium USB-C cable, the dock itself and a large power supply. I was initially surprised at the size of the power supply, but then realised that it outputs three times the power of the Apple 29W USB-C adapter.

The USB-C Dock itself is constructed from extruded aluminium that really gives it a solid premium feel. There isn’t any flex here, but there is some movement of internal components if you give it a shake.

On the front of the Dock there’s a smart logo and subtle power LED that shines through a pinhole in the case.You’ll also find audio and USB ports for easy access, but most of the action is on the back.

Here you find the power connector, two USB-C connectors, DisplayPort, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, and two USB 3.0 ports.

Setup is nice and simple – just plug the power adapter in, connect your laptop to the included USB-C port labeled “Computer” and you are good to go. The one 10Gbps USB-C cable negotiates power delivery to the laptop and charges at up to 60W. This is a really great feature and allows just one cable to make everything work. But the power supplying prowess doesn’t stop there – in addition to the standard-powered USB ports the USB-C Dock is capable of charging at 10.5W/2.1A through the front-facing USB, and 15W/3.0A through the additional rear USB-C port.

If you’re using a Mac then there are a few additional features to be aware of. This is one of the only docks that supports connecting an Apple SuperDrive to the USB ports, letting you use one with a shiny new mac. There is also a small utility that works to eject and disconnect all peripherals in just a couple of clicks, saving time when you want to unplug. The only slight downside for Mac users is that the Ethernet port requires a driver to be installed to work.

The audio ports on the front of the USB-C Dock are a handy addition, but they aren’t going to win any audiophile awards. The sound I experienced was fine, but there was a lot of distracting background hiss.

Video connections are well catered for, with Caldigit supporting both HDMI and DisplayPort. Both of these work over USB-C’s DisplayPort Alternate Mode, which carries a native DisplayPort signal in addition to the USB data. This works well, and can support resolutions up to 4096 x 2160 @ 60 Hz (4k/60p), you can even run two displays in 4k/30p at the same time. Unfortunately, to support this resolution at the highest refresh rate you’ll need to install a new firmware that also reduces the USB data to USB 2.0 speeds – there just isn’t enough bandwidth to support a full 4k/60p display or 2x4k/30p displays and all the USB 3.1 goodness. For most people this won’t matter, and they’ll be happy with a lesser resolution or the maximum USB data speeds and 4k/30p video.

Despite all the ports, there is one notable omission for any new Macbook owner – the SD card reader. It’s easy enough to use a USB adapter, but I’d have really liked to see one built-in.

Summary

The Caldigit USB-C Dock really does provide a one-cable solution for modern USB-C laptops, with high power charging for the laptop and your peripherals. Supporting video, audio, networking and USB through this single cable is a real bonus, especially now that ports are becoming unfashionable on certain laptops.

Everything worked as it should, but the audio quality and lack of an SD card reader let things down. If these don’t matter to you, then it may be time to say goodbye to your dongles.

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