There is no shortage of Thunderbolt 3-enabled docks for the Mac; nearly every popular Mac peripheral maker has one, and they all seem to have various strengths and weaknesses.
Recently, CalDigit, who has produced a number of Thunderbolt-3 Mac-centric docks of its own, launched its latest hardware, the TS3 Plus (Pre-order at B&H). The TS3 Plus features a build quality and design that’s nearly identical to its previous dock, but comes with a lot more port options, and maintains its strong USB Power Delivery. Is this the best dock for Mac users?
Synology RT2600ac: The AirPort Extreme replacement.
…The TS3 Plus surely makes a strong case for that title. It comes with a whopping 15 ports that cover a wider array of connectivity options and, like the previous TS3, provides 85 watts of power for charging a 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed.
The TS3 Plus drops the two eSATA ports featured on the regular version, and adds optical audio, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, and two additional USB Type-A ports. More notably, it adds a handy SD Card reader on front.
Here is a list of the impressive connectivity options provided by the CalDigit TS3 Plus:
- 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x S/PDIF Optical Audio
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 5 x USB 3.1 Type-A (Gen 1)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 1)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 2)
- 1 x SD Card Reader (UHS-II)
- 1 x 3.5mm analog audio input
- 1 x 3.5mm analog audio output
Other points of interest
- Supports daisy chaining
- 4096×2160 (60Hz) video via DisplayPort
- 5120×2880 (60Hz) video via Thunderbolt 3
- Power delivery up to 85W
- Dimensions: 5.15×1.57×3.87-inches
- Weight: 1.04 lbs
- AC Input: 100V-240V
- DC Output 20V/9.0A, 180 W
- Starts at $249.99 with 0.5 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable
- Available for pre-order: Ships February 23, 2018
After looking at this list, and testing out the device myself, there are a few things that sets the CalDigit TS3 Plus apart, making it well worth considering for MacBook Pro users and even iMac/iMac Pro users.
First and foremost, for MacBook Pro users, you get full speed charging regardless of which MacBook — 13-inch or 15-inch — that you use. That’s a big deal, because not all docks provide the 85W of power required for full speed charging with the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
UHS-II SD Card Speed Test
The second factor that you should consider is the inclusion of an SD Card reader. That in and of itself is a separating factor, as a lot of docks lack an SD Card slot for whatever reason. But the fact that the TS3 Plus includes a UHS-II-enabled reader is impressive. That could make it useful to iMac users looking for a faster SD Card solution, and for iMac Pro users looking for a fast, front-facing option. Obviously, it highly benefits MacBook Pro users whose machines outright lack an SD Card slot to begin with.
Another feature that shouldn’t be overlooked is CalDigit’s inclusion of two USB Type-C ports — one on the front, and one on the rear. It’s worth noting that the rear-facing USB Type C port is USB 3.1 Gen 2-enabled, supporting speeds of up to 10Gbps. That means faster connectivity and performance for peripherals that support the extra bandwidth.
USB 3.1 Gen 2 Speed Test
And for all of you audio lovers, in addition to the two 3.5mm audio in/outputs on front, there’s an S/PDIF optical audio connection on the rear. This provides a way to easily connect your Mac to something like an audio receiver that supports optical input.
All of this, coupled with the TS3 Plus’ diminutive design, and 15-ports in total, make CalDigit’s latest dock a very compelling option for Mac users.
Things of note
It should be noted that the CalDigit TS3 Plus, while small, isn’t as portable as it may appear. This is largely due to its power brick, which is as large as (and heavier than) the dock itself. That’s not a slight to CalDigit’s design, as the power brick is a necessary evil due to the power delivery capabilities, but I felt it should be noted for MacBook Pro users looking for a portable docking option.
I also wish that CalDigit would have considered making the TS3 Plus in a space gray option, like OWC did with its Thunderbolt 3 Dock. A darker color scheme would have looked great next to the iMac Pro and Space gray MacBook Pros, and would have helped to visually differentiate the dock from the regular TS3.
CalDigit has produced solid Mac docking options in the past, but they’ve all usually had glaring flaws or omissions. The TS3 Plus hits most of the high notes, and even includes some nice surprises like a UHS-II SD Card support.
The TS3 Plus is currently available for pre-order, with shipments scheduled for February 23. With a 0.5mm Thunderbolt 3 cable, the TS3 Plus costs $249.99, which is not much more than what the normal TS3 is going for currently.
The CalDigit TS3 Plus is the best Thunderbolt 3-enabled dock that I’ve tried thus far, and one that Mac users looking for a wealth of connectivity options should definitely consider.