In a world where laptops continue to shrink down to smaller and thinner profiles, you find that many of your options for ports and hardware begin to disappear. In their place, you find universal connections like USB and Thunderbolt. This is fantastic for those looking to preserve all that space and take advantage of what laptops were meant to be (mobile). However, sometimes you find yourself looking for more and for that you need dock solutions to break-out to all of your favorite hardware with, including larger screens, optical drives and more connectivity.
StarTech has a collection of hubs and docs for these kind of scenarios where users are looking to break-out or simply add-on to what they have. Some of these stand strong and some of them may leave you asking for more. Today, we are going to focus on their Thunderbolt 3 dock that supports dual 4K monitors and all the connectivity you would need to expand with.
To begin, you will obviously need a laptop (or PC if you’ve a custom beast sitting in front of you) that supports Thunderbolt (which I’ll refer to here on as TB). It will work with any generation of TB, but TB3 will get you the fastest speeds and maximum support for resolution.
Second, you will need this dock with a TB3 cable running in between the two devices (which it just so happens to come with).
Now, you have the ability to start expanding onto your computer with screens and other hardware. You will need to get your hands on any further cables as it only comes with that one TB3 cable and an AC adapter for powering it with.
It features a two-tone aluminum design with ports front and back. A thin profile so it will blend in nicely. It has a little weight to it, giving you the impression that it is quite durable.
The laptop will plug into the back of the unit via one of the TB3 ports back there. Either of the two ports will act as your input. The other TB3 will function as an output for a monitor or other use. You also have an ethernet port for wired network connectivity, a USB 3.0 port for both data (syncing mobile devices or attaching accessories such as mice or keyboards) and charging, both a microphone and a headphone 3.5mm aux port, a DisplayPort and that’s it. The only other thing back there is your input for your AC adapter.
The front side of the unit features a USB 3.1 (Type C) connection (similar to ThunderBolt) that works for both charging and data sync for tablets, phones and other devices. Next to it is a USB 3.0 port which functions for power only.
Connected displays seem to work fine, however we did find that some flicker can occur in the connected displays which we couldn’t troubleshoot out of the mix, pointing towards the dock as the cause of such. In order to achieve dual displays, you would do so by using the other open TB3 port as well as the DisplayPort connection. We managed to max it out doing this and connecting a number of devices, thus maximizing it as a dock solution.
The only troubles were the flicker and the fact that you still have to add your laptop’s AC cable into the mix since the dock only collects power for itself and does not charge your laptop as well (which would have been a game changing feature).
Ethernet functions exactly how you’d expect which is great. We saw the speeds we would if we had connected it to the (or another) laptop directly. Both down and upstreams were exactly where they needed to be. The mic and headphone ports/jacks also functioned normally and the USB 3.0 ports charged and synced as they should. It’s odd they chose to set up the front USB 3.0 port for charging only, but it is what it is.
You may find yourself picking up a few adapters to get certain scenarios to work with you depending on what your monitors support. Keep in mind that USB 3.1 (Type C) cables and devices do work with Thunderbolt ports (same cable, just a slower speed ceiling). So if you need to use one of the TB3 ports to sync your phone with, your phone’s cable will function just fine. Thunderbolt is simply a USB 3.1 port supercharged, allowing it to do more with native support for things like DisplayPort. So USB Type-C is considered to be supported through backwards compatibility if you think about it.
It’s a neat little dock that has a number of options to it. It may be an option for you if your laptop doesn’t have ethernet, has limited USB options and/or you wish you could work on larger screens while at home or work. There is still a limited portion of the market that have pushed towards 4K, so those capabilities of the dock will most likely be used more-so by enterprise and enthusiasts (for now). The fact that we noticed some flicker in the connected displays was very distracting and shows that the dock doesn’t feel 100% complete. Hopefully, something the next generation will see better performance. The fact that it can’t charge your laptop is also too bad, but then again, to allow for this would most likely require a little more hardware inside to process that amount of power throughput. It still fell within the positive side of things score-wise, but does feel like it could be better. The biggest reason for this is price. For what it costs, we feel it should be more reliable and do more. Their MSRP falls around $250, but you can find it on Amazon right now for about $185.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|Bus Type||Thunderbolt 3|
|Chipset ID||Intel – Alpine Ridge DSL6540|
Texas Instruments – TPS65982ABZQZR
Texas Instruments – HD3SS2522
Parade – PS181
Fresco Logic – FL1100-EX
Texas Instruments – TPS2546RTE
Texas Instruments – PCM2912APJT
Intel – WGI210AT
|Industry Standards||Thunderbolt 3|
USB Battery Charging Specification Rev. 1.2
IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3ab
USB 3.0 – Backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1
|Compatible Networks||10/100/1000 Mbps|
|Full Duplex Support||Yes|
|Maximum Data Transfer Rate||40 Gbps (Thunderbolt 3)|
10 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 2)
5 Gbps (USB 3.0)
2 Gbps (Ethernet; Full-Duplex)
|Maximum Digital Resolutions||Single display – DisplayPort – 4096 x 2160p (60Hz) / 3840 x 2160p (60Hz)|
Single display – Thunderbolt 3 USB-C – 5120p x 2880p (60Hz)
Dual displays – DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 USB-C – 4096 x 2160p (60Hz) / 3840 x 2160p (60Hz) and 4096 x 2160p (60Hz) / 3840 x 2160p (60Hz)
|Type and Rate||Thunderbolt 3 – 40 Gbit/s|
|Connector Type(s)||2 – Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C (24-pin) Female|
|1 – DisplayPort (20 pin) Female|
|1 – USB Type-C (24 pin) USB 3.0 Female|
|1 – USB 3.0 A (Fast-Charge, 9 pin, SuperSpeed) Female|
|1 – USB Type-A (9 pin) USB 3.0 Female|
|2 – 3.5 mm Mini-Jack (3 Position) Female|
|1 – RJ-45 Female|
|OS Compatibility||Windows® 10 (32-bit or 64-bit), 8 / 8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit), 7 (32-bit or 64-bit)|
|Special Notes / Requirements|
|Note||This docking station will not charge your host laptop|
|A 4K-capable display is required to achieve 4K x 2K resolution (4K is also known as 4K x 2K)|
|When connecting a display to one of the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, a USB-C video adapter may be required depending on the input of your display.|
|USB 3.0 is also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1; this connectivity standard offers speeds up to 5Gbps. USB 3.1 Gen 2 offers speeds up to 10Gbps|
|System and Cable Requirements||Thunderbolt 3 equipped computer with a Thunderbolt 3 port – Windows only|
|The docking station does not support Mac or Linux operating systems|
|LED Indicators||1 – Power (Blue)|
|Center Tip Polarity||Positive|
|Input Current||1.5 A|
|Input Voltage||100 ~ 240 AC|
|Output Current||6 A|
|Output Voltage||12 DC|
|Power Consumption||72 W Max|
|Power Source||AC Adapter Included|
|Humidity||5~95% RH (Non-condensing)|
|Operating Temperature||5°C to 40°C (41°F to 104°F)|
|Storage Temperature||-40°C to 70°C (-40°F to 158°F)|
|Cable Length||20.5 in [520 mm]|
|Color||Gray and Black|
|Enclosure Type||Aluminum and Plastic|
|Product Height||1.1 in [27 mm]|
|Product Length||8.7 in [220 mm]|
|Product Weight||15.6 oz [442 g]|
|Product Width||3.1 in [80 mm]|
|Shipping (Package) Weight||2.6 lb [1.2 kg]|
|What’s in the Box|
|Included in Package||1 – Thunderbolt™ 3 dual-4K docking station for laptops|
|1 – Thunderbolt 3 cable – 40Gbps – 0.5m|
|1 – universal power adapter|
|1 – power cord (NA)|
|1 – instruction manual|
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.