CalDigit launched its new Element Hub last month as a compact way to add plenty of USB-A legacy ports to Macs as well as the latest I/O thanks to Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports. We’ve been testing out this small and powerful Thunderbolt 4 hub for a few weeks with an M1 Mac, read on for our full review.

Apple’s 2020 M1 Macs are the first from the company to support Thunderbolt 4/USB4. While the overall top speed of Thunderbolt 4 is the same as Thunderbolt 3 at 40Gbps, there are a number of improvements like PCIe connections doubling to 32Gbps (previously 16Gbps), cable simplification, improved display support, and more.

The new CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub is a great add to any Mac, but it’s particularly compelling for M1 MacBook Air and Pro users as they only come with two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports.

Specs

  • Compact form factor at just 4.48 x 2.75 x 0.7-inches (114 x 70 x 18mm)
  • Reversible design
  • 4x USB-A ports with 10Gbps data speeds (USB 3.2 gen 2) and 7.5W power output
  • 3x Thunderbolt 4/USB4/USB-C ports with data up to 40Gbps and 18W power
    • Support for one display up to 6K at 60Hz (all Macs), dual 4K displays at 60Hz (Intel Macs)
    • Daisy-chain support for Thunderbolt, USB4, and USB-C devices
  • 60W power passthrough
  • 2.62-foot (0.8-meter) Thunderbolt 4 cable and 150W power supply come in the box
  • Price: $179.99

Materials and build

The CalDigit Element Hub features a solid build with an aluminum enclosure. With the upstream TB4/USB4 port that connects to your computer on the side of the hub, it uses a handy reversible design that lets you flip it and the removable rubber feet work on both sides (putting the connection on the left or right side).

CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub review – side

One thing to note when it comes to the power supply, it’s a bit large. But I think it feels that way because the Element Hub itself is so compact and offers over 130W of total output to devices.

The 150W power supply comes with over 7 feet of cable length so it’s easy to hide away. On the whole it’s comparable to the power supplies of other Thunderbolt hubs.

CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub review – power supply and size comparison

CalDigit includes a two-year warranty with the Element Hub.

Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub in use

For my setup, I’ve been using the Element Hub with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, LG UltraFine Thunderbolt Display, Plugable Thunderbolt 3 SSD, Logitech unifying mouse dongle, and more.

I’ve found the four USB-A ports being on the front of the hub convenient as I’m most likely to connect/disconnect those devices more regularly. And all my peripherals including SSDs and Thunderbolt display have performed consistently well the entire time.

CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub review – MacBook Pro setup

As you’d hope, I found the Element Hub performs just the same with Thunderbolt drives as when you connect them directly to the Mac.

Here’s a look at the speed tests from my Thunderbolt 3 Plugable SSD through the Element Hub and then connected directly to my MacBook Pro. The SSD is advertised as offering up to 2,400 MB/s read and 1,800 MB/s write speeds. The speed tests were more or less identical in a handful of tests, so I feel confident that the Element Hub delivers full Thunderbolt performance.

Speed test connected through Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub
Thunderbolt 3 SSD connected through the Element Hub
Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub speed test directly connect to MacBook Pro
Same TB3 drive connected directly to M1 MacBook Pro

Thoughtful features

Since you might be connecting multiple external drives with the Element Hub, CalDigit has a handy macOS menu bar Utility that lets you eject all volumes with a single click.

Along with that software is an included driver so that Apple’s power hungry SuperDrive works when connected to the Element – something that isn’t possible with with many hubs.

Along with all the connectivity for external drives and other peripherals, Element Hub also serves as a great place to charge up all your devices – up to 8 at a time. You’ve got 18W output with 3 of the TB4/USB-C ports, 60W from the upstream port, and 7.5W from each of the four USB-A ports.

CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub wrap-up

If you’re looking for a clean and simple Thunderbolt 4/USB-C hub and don’t need extras like card readers, Ethernet, etc. that larger docks like the TS3 Plus offer, the Element Hub is a solid choice at $180.

Keep in mind this will likely be the best fit for 13-inch MacBook Pro and Air users with the max 60W power passthrough giving those machines full power. But depending on your use, it might be fine for 15/16-inch MacBook Pro owners if you don’t have too demanding a workflow.

The CalDigit Element Thunderbolt 4 Hub is available to order now, but as it turns out, between high demand and the global chip shortage, the next batch of orders are shipping out in May.

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