Review: CalDigit TS3 Dock

Laptop docks have been around for years. I remember having a Dell with a dedicated dock that added on an LPT printer port and CD-ROM drive, turning a massive laptop into a beast. Today’s docks are a complete departure from this experience – they are portable, small, and super speedy. With laptops slimming down and removing ports there has never been a greater need for these expansion boxes.

We’ve previously reviewed CalDigit’s TS3 Lite and USB C docks – both have their advantages and disadvantages for the MacBook owner. One offers ultimate speed but struggles to charge a MacBook Pro, the other supports rapid charging but works over the slower USB-C.

The CalDigit TS3 dock has neither of these problems. It offers the full speed of Thunderbolt 3 combined with 85w of laptop charging power through a single cable.

Specifications

The TS3 dock provides you with a wealth of extra ports for your computer. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports – one for your computer and one for a peripheral device. The 85W of charging power is supplied to your computer, but power is also directed to other USB peripherals connected to any of the three USB 3.1 ports. Two eSATA drives can be connected as well as a display via the DisplayPort connector. There are also ports for audio in/out, Gigabit Ethernet and a power connector.

Using the 40Gb/s Thunderbolt 3 connection, the TS3 dock supports displays of up to 5k @ 60Hz (5120 x 2880). Although there isn’t an HDMI connector, you can use a DisplayPort to HDMI cable to support older displays.

What’s in the Box?

CalDigit does a good job with the packaging. Everything is nice and clear, but for me the best bit is inside.

Under the power supply you find the getting started guide that is printed on the box – it certainly won’t get lost and provides all the information you need to get going.

Because the TS3 dock delivers 85w power to your laptop, the power adapter is fairly large. Also in the box is a 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable and some rubber feet if you want to keep the dock in a horizontal orientation.

The TS3 dock itself is a very compact and smart looking unit. It’s constructed of durable aluminium and has ridges to help with heat dissipation along the sides.

This certainly won’t look out of place sitting next to your MacBook Pro, and offers easy access to headphone, microphone and USB ports that are located on the front. At the top there is also a discrete power LED.

The bottom has a handy rubber section that provides great grip on most surfaces.

The back of Caldigit’s TS3 dock is crammed with connectors. Here you’ll find the 2x USB 3.1, 2x eSATA, 2x Thunderbolt 3, Display Port, Ethernet and power connectors. CalDigit has done a really good job of fitting these all into such a small unit.

Using the TS3

Setup is really simple. Just plug everything in, connect the power and you’re done! You can leave it at that if you want, or CalDigit offers a Mac OS utility to support the SuperDrive and one to quickly eject all devices.

Everything worked as it should, the device was instantly recognised and all ports were accessible from my MacBook Pro. I really liked how simple the setup was – just plug in one cable and I had my big screen, external storage and network connected – and I was charging my laptop!

The downsides of this dock are the lack of any SD card slot and only one video output (although you can connect a dongle to the second Thunderbolt port if you need to run two displays).

Summary

The CalDigit TS3 dock offers the fastest connection speeds, a great selection of ports, and 85w of charging power for your Thunderbolt 3 laptop. Everything works well and it comes in a compact package. To make it the ultimate dock I’d want an SD card slot, second video out and a USB C port, but the range offered here will be sufficient for the vast majority of people. This isn’t the cheapest dock around, retailing at £279.00/$299, but when you consider the price of a MacBook charger (£80) and the flexibility this offers, the price is justifiable.

Overall this is the best dock I’ve tried, it isn’t going to work for those without Thunderbolt, but it’s a great way to turn your laptop into a computing powerhouse with just one connection.

 

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