Recommend a cheap Thunderbolt hub?

stringerhye

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jul 5, 2010
625
172
All I want to be able to do is plug in my Thunderbolt Display and power with one cable. Currently I have two cables.
I’ve looked into Thunderbolt 3 hubs but they’re unfortunately $200+ is there a way to do this to charge my MacBook Pro 15” and connect it to my Thunderbolt Display with one cable without having to spend so much?
 

jh.dks

macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2020
15
2
I have a similar question: is there any hub out there that works with a Thunderbolt display?

I have a USB C MacBook Pro and a Lenovo/IBM Thinkpad 135W dock. When I plug the display (with the Apple dongle) in the USB C port on the dock, my MacBook recognizes it's a Thunderbolt display, but says "unsupported accesory" and that I need to plug it into the laptop itself, which works.
I think it's be very clean to only have to plug in one USB C cord into the MacBook for it to charge, connect to ethernet, all my accessories, ... and the display.

Is there a HUB/dock (or other solution) out there that can do this? Preferably while keeping the speakers, mic and camera of the display and the function keys on the keyboard functional? Thanks!
 

4sallypat

macrumors 6502
Sep 16, 2016
403
381
So Calif
I use the $49 Apple TB3-TB2 dongle for my 27" TB display and then charging thru another TB3 port.
Still have 2 ports leftover.....
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,367
3,089
I have a similar question: is there any hub out there that works with a Thunderbolt display?
Any true Thunderbolt 3 dock that has a Thunderbolt 3 "output" port (often misleadingly described as having two Thunderbolt ports) should do it (such as the Caldigit TS3).

Your Lenovo is likely a "USB-C dock" - you need something specifically sold as a "Thunderbolt 3 dock" - they appear very similar but the way they work is very different. Also beware "USB-C docks" advertised as "Thunderbolt compatible" - that just means that like any USB-C devices they will work on a computer with a TB3 port.

Yeah... Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C connectors, but USB-C is not Thunderbolt 3. Confused? Just wait for USB4. Complaints on a postcard to the USB Implementors Forum for coming up with names that confuse protocols with connectors.
 

jh.dks

macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2020
15
2
I use the $49 Apple TB3-TB2 dongle for my 27" TB display and then charging thru another TB3 port.
Still have 2 ports leftover.....
That's what I'm currently doing (literally right now) and works great, but if there's a solution that requires me to only have one cable visible on my desk that does it all and no dongles in sight... that'd be satisfying to me.

Any true Thunderbolt 3 dock that has a Thunderbolt 3 "output" port (often misleadingly described as having two Thunderbolt ports) should do it (such as the Caldigit TS3).

Your Lenovo is likely a "USB-C dock" - you need something specifically sold as a "Thunderbolt 3 dock" - they appear very similar but the way they work is very different. Also beware "USB-C docks" advertised as "Thunderbolt compatible" - that just means that like any USB-C devices they will work on a computer with a TB3 port.
Okay, thanks! I was aware that USB C ≠ always Thunderbolt 3 (the entire USB C thing is kinda confusing... You can basically plug your laptop in with a 5W iPhone brick as well...) - but didn't really expect it wouldn't work because it's still faster than Thunderbolt 2. I'll go check out the Caldigit dock!!
Thankfully I can still return the Lenovo dock... Bought it because it's the only one I could find back then powerful enough to power the MacBook (as in: not just 60W), in Europe. Wasn't particularly cheap at €275...

I was a little worried because I think I read the display needs to be plugged into the Mac, on Apple's website - and because it recognized the TB display with the dock. But I'm definitely gonna try a TB3 dock!! Hope that works!
Thanks!
 

4sallypat

macrumors 6502
Sep 16, 2016
403
381
So Calif
For work, I have a power pass thru multi-port USB-C adapter that works with my work stuff (HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, SD, USB, etc) and my 16" MBP.

Very cool with using up one port and giving me a lot of ports and power pass thru.

ENKLEN EK-TC010:
IMG_5225.jpg

While this great for non Apple displays, I still use the TB3 to TB2 adapter to connect to my 24" and 27" Apple displays...
 

jh.dks

macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2020
15
2
Just some reassurance:
Thanks ;) Not that I didn't trust you, though!
I found the TS3 Plus on Amazon and seems like it has everthing I need, will check that one out!
CalDigit's products aren't that easy to find, surprisingly, even though I'm sure I've already seen them in an Apple Store on this side of the ocean...

Would 85 watts be enough? I know the brick that came with the computer is rated 96W but I assume it never really needs that + it doesn't need to power the MacBook's display for example when it's connected to the dock, already saving some power...?

Thanks for your help!!

While this great for non Apple displays, I still use the TB3 to TB2 adapter to connect to my 24" and 27" Apple displays...
Indeed, I think it looks very clean when you only have one cord laying there on your desk that does it all when you plug it in (I'm hiding the dock underneath the desk). Charging, display, ethernet, accessories, ...

Does the TB3 to TB2 adapter work for you with the other displays? I remeber the packaging the dongle came in said it's not supposed to be used with the Cinema Displays, only the 27" TB display (which is the one I'm using it with).
 

bsbeamer

macrumors 68040
Sep 19, 2012
3,453
1,757
Would 85 watts be enough? I know the brick that came with the computer is rated 96W but I assume it never really needs that + it doesn't need to power the MacBook's display for example when it's connected to the dock, already saving some power...?
There are cases where MBP16,1 will max out the 85W or 87W (with firmware update) on the TS3 Plus and begin to drain the battery, while still connected. I've observed this personally with video renders. It's documented in the dock thread linked above.
 

jh.dks

macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2020
15
2
There are cases where MBP16,1 will max out the 85W or 87W (with firmware update) on the TS3 Plus and begin to drain the battery, while still connected. I've observed this personally with video renders. It's documented in the dock thread linked above.
Oh wow, I did not expect it to come that close to the 96W the original charger can provide... That means it'd only have 9 watts left to power a screen on full brightness, speakers, and whatever more processing power it takes to power the sharper internal display compared to the 1440p TB display...

So in real life, your original charger could also just max out and make it drain the battery?
I did find a couple of 100W+ docks from different brands, but with not as many ports.
 

bsbeamer

macrumors 68040
Sep 19, 2012
3,453
1,757
CalDigit suggests using the TS3 Plus in combination with the 96W Apple charger (supplied with MBP16,1) to mostly eliminate the battery drain. It's mostly eliminated, but there are scattered reports of a minimal battery drain during intensive renders or heavy taxing usage.

When using MBP16,1 with 100W PD via eGPU I have NOT observed battery drain at all.

When using the Apple issued 96W charger I've only observed it personally one time, but not since the 10.15.3 update and have not been able to replicate since then.