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Review: CalDigit's TS3 and TS3 Lite Thunderbolt 3 Docks Offer Solid MacBook Pro Expansion Options

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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While Apple's latest MacBook Pro with support for Thunderbolt 3 has been out for over six months, the first full-featured Thunderbolt 3 docks are only just now starting to hit the market. Last month we took a look at OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Dock that should begin shipping out very shortly, and today we're taking a look at a pair of similar docks from CalDigit that help expand the capabilities of the MacBook Pro.


CalDigit actually has a pair of Thunderbolt 3 docks, the $200 TS3 Lite that has been available for a few months now and the upcoming $300 TS3 that is just about ready to begin shipping.


Click here to read more...

Article Link: Review: CalDigit's TS3 and TS3 Lite Thunderbolt 3 Docks Offer Solid MacBook Pro Expansion Options
 

ckelley

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2003
130
171
Austin, TX
I have the TS3 Lite, in your testing, did you or anyone else who may have purchased this experience the following? I'm not sure if it's the TS3 or the MacBook Pro itself, but it is beyond frustrating.

Whenever I use this and go away for awhile, say 45 minutes to an hour, I will come back and the computer will not wake up from sleep. I can tell the machine is still running, it's warm, my display is still asleep and my drives are still connected, but I have to hard reboot the MacBook Pro (15" with Touch Bar) to get it to come back. Hope that I didn't have any work open or any browser tabs that were important. This happens constantly. I have a 4K Dell monitor attached via DisplayPort, a 4TB LaCie and 2TB LaCie drive connected via Thunderbolt 3 -> 2 adapter and daisy chained over TB, and connected to my network via ethernet.

Anyone else experience this same phenomenon?
 

mluczkowski

macrumors newbie
May 31, 2017
5
0
I have the TS3 Lite, in your testing, did you or anyone else who may have purchased this experience the following? I'm not sure if it's the TS3 or the MacBook Pro itself, but it is beyond frustrating.

Whenever I use this and go away for awhile, say 45 minutes to an hour, I will come back and the computer will not wake up from sleep. I can tell the machine is still running, it's warm, my display is still asleep and my drives are still connected, but I have to hard reboot the MacBook Pro (15" with Touch Bar) to get it to come back. Hope that I didn't have any work open or any browser tabs that were important. This happens constantly. I have a 4K Dell monitor attached via DisplayPort, a 4TB LaCie and 2TB LaCie drive connected via Thunderbolt 3 -> 2 adapter and daisy chained over TB, and connected to my network via ethernet.

Anyone else experience this same phenomenon?

I was experiencing a somewhat similar issue with 2 4K Dell monitors connected. In my case when my Mac and displays would go into sleep mode it would have issues with bringing them back up. Numerous times only one of the Dell displays would come back online. I also experienced flickering on one of the displays at intermittent times.

I've since returned the TS3 Lite and am on the fence if I will be trying another dock. Since Apple does not appear to support MST across multiple displays I am unable to daisy chain my displays. This forces me to use one TB3 ports and the DP for connecting up my dual 4K's. I'm now running both 4K Dell's off the native TB3 ports on my MacBook Pro which is working perfect except for the constant reconnecting/disconnecting of everything when I "undock" from my home office.
 

mluczkowski

macrumors newbie
May 31, 2017
5
0
It's it possible to have dual ultrafine 4k? 1 over USB-C and one over DisplayPort to USB-C?

In my case I was using the TB3 Lite dock. I used one USB-C port and the DP port on the TB3 Lite. Both connections on the monitor end were via DP connections. So I had 1 USB-C to DP cable and 1 DP to DP cable. The Dell 4K's I have do not have USB-C so I chose to use the DP connections.
 

Pbrutto

macrumors 6502a
Apr 21, 2015
609
1,275
Eastern PA
In my case I was using the TB3 Lite dock. I used one USB-C port and the DP port on the TB3 Lite. Both connections on the monitor end were via DP connections. So I had 1 USB-C to DP cable and 1 DP to DP cable. The Dell 4K's I have do not have USB-C so I chose to use the DP connections.
Unfortunately that won't help me, but thanks for explaining none the less. I think the 4k ultrafine work using DP alt mode, so that is what I'm looking for in the cable I guess.

Wish I had 1,000 bucks and a lot of free time then I could order it all and find the right combo
 

jmaluso

macrumors member
Jan 15, 2016
59
60
San Luis Obispo, CA
We got the TS3 Lite dock for testing about a month or so ago (we are still waiting on the regular TS3 dock to arrive) and had issues with DisplayPort. The port was flaky and either didn't work at all or flickered. We are testing with Dell U2717D monitors. The Thunderbolt port with numerous adapters seemed to function just fine though along with everything else.
 

Exile714

macrumors 6502a
Jan 14, 2015
684
1,092
Call me strange, but I prefer a handful of dongles and the few USB-C hard drives I've collected.

I've found I never need more than my 2 USB-A dongles, a USB-C SD reader and a USB-C to DisplayPort cable, though I could see getting an Ethernet adapter for those who need it. All that comes out to maybe $100, and doesn't take any more workspace than the cables alone.
 
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jmaluso

macrumors member
Jan 15, 2016
59
60
San Luis Obispo, CA
Call me strange, but I prefer a handful of dongles and the few USB-C hard drives I've collected.

I've found I never need more than my 2 USB-A dongles, a USB-C SD reader and a USB-C to DisplayPort cable, though I could see getting an Ethernet adapter for those who need it. All that comes out to maybe $100, and doesn't take any more workspace than the cables alone.

Totally understandable for some. Unfortunately some of us need to look for Enterprise solutions to limit fiddling and the number of cables and dongles users have to deal with on a daily basis...most of them are not tech savvy and complain a lot. :( As much as I hate to say it...the Dell E-Port docks ROCKED in comparison to these USB-C/TB2/TB3 solutions. Compromises came with the thinner laptops. But I am sure with time they will mature and be more compatible and easier to deal with...fingers crossed.
 

WildCowboy

Administrator/Editor
Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
17,491
1,476
I have the TS3 Lite, in your testing, did you or anyone else who may have purchased this experience the following? I'm not sure if it's the TS3 or the MacBook Pro itself, but it is beyond frustrating.

I haven't experienced any issues in my testing so far, although I'm using an UltraFine 5K over Thunderbolt 3. It's something I'll keep an eye out for and see if I can replicate though.
 

robotfist

macrumors regular
Nov 7, 2007
108
109
Dongles and adapter boxes suck. They always have. There are ALWAYS issues. None of them ever work perfectly, 100% of the time.

Apple just doesn't get it. They have always exercised control over their hardware and software because they believe that reliability, quality control and stability can be achieved this way. They're right and it was this thinking that helped convert millions of PC users who were tired of buggy Windows systems loaded with bloatware. Unfortunately, the weak link in Apple's philosophy is if you restrict a device's hardware so much that users must consistently resort to 3rd party solutions to even use the product in the real world, you are in essence creating the same environment that drove people from Windows to begin with. Your system is only as good as its weakest link. And dongles and adapters are most certainly weak links.
 

Corrode

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2008
990
2,119
Calgary, AB
Call me strange, but I prefer a handful of dongles and the few USB-C hard drives I've collected.

I've found I never need more than my 2 USB-A dongles, a USB-C SD reader and a USB-C to DisplayPort cable, though I could see getting an Ethernet adapter for those who need it. All that comes out to maybe $100, and doesn't take any more workspace than the cables alone.
Agree. Cheaper and smaller footprint.
 

Kajje

macrumors 6502a
Dec 6, 2012
721
956
Asia
With a 15W power budget this device would be perfect to charge my iPad. Just my iPad and only that.
 

Pakaku

macrumors 68020
Aug 29, 2009
2,292
2,396
Dongles and adapter boxes suck. They always have. There are ALWAYS issues. None of them ever work perfectly, 100% of the time.

Apple just doesn't get it. They have always exercised control over their hardware and software because they believe that reliability, quality control and stability can be achieved this way. They're right and it was this thinking that helped convert millions of PC users who were tired of buggy Windows systems loaded with bloatware. Unfortunately, the weak link in Apple's philosophy is if you restrict a device's hardware so much that users must consistently resort to 3rd party solutions to even use the product in the real world, you are in essence creating the same environment that drove people from Windows to begin with. Your system is only as good as its weakest link. And dongles and adapters are most certainly weak links.
But it's not Apple's fault if a third-party makes a ****** adapter/hub.
 

MH01

Suspended
Feb 11, 2008
12,107
9,298
But it's not Apple's fault if a third-party makes a ****** adapter/hub.

In some ways it is, apples chocie of controller and bandwidth of the TB in the 13" play a part in how these 3rd party accessessories work.
[doublepost=1496291873][/doublepost]Thier TS2 offering was very good, I'm happy with mine
 
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JamesPDX

Suspended
Aug 26, 2014
1,056
493
USA
But it's not Apple's fault if a third-party makes a ****** adapter/hub.

I wonder why Apple doesn't make their own iHub? 4x USB-3, 2x Gb Ethernet, 2x Thunderbolt III, 2x Thunderbolt II, 2x 4k Display Port, 2x HDMI 2, 1x 10Gb Ethernet. 1x SDHC slot, 1x CF-type slot. You could even jam an updated AEBS inside the box with all the right options.
 
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macs4nw

macrumors 601
But it's not Apple's fault if a third-party makes a ****** adapter/hub.
I think his point was that by eliminating connectivity options, Apple more or less forces users away from their preference to stick with one company that makes both the hardware and software (a concept with a proven track record), and into using docks from third-party manufacturers that may or may not be 100% compatible.

Yes, there are Apple dongles, but so far no Apple docks.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,764
3,616
I've found I never need more than my 2 USB-A dongles, a USB-C SD reader and a USB-C to DisplayPort cable, though I could see getting an Ethernet adapter for those who need it.

Hang on:

USB-A Dongle #1
USB-A Dongle #2
USB-C SD Reader
USB-C to DisplayPort
USB-C Charger
USB-C to Ethernet (yes, some of us want that)

That's 6 USB-C ports. I've counted. Twice. The 2016 MBP touchbar only has 4. I think I see a problem...

Oh, and good luck getting that lot for $100 without rolling the dice by getting cheap no-name adapters off eBay.

The thing is, some of us use our MacBook Pros primarily as desktop replacements: they may go "on the road" once or twice a year, but mostly they commute between "office desk" and "home desk" a few times a week. When they're on a desk we want all our stuff connected. Single-cable connection is nice, plugging in 3-4 cables that are all waiting in place when you arrive is no great hardship. What we don't want is to continually juggle cables because we have to unplug the backup drive to plug into the card reader. This is where the 2016 MBPs fail - and where TB3 docks like this come into play. The TB3 options are only just appearing now. There are some cheaper USB-C options around - but they're not much good if you want to use a 4k@60Hz display - which only leaves bandwidth for USB 2 on a USB-C cable.

But it's not Apple's fault if a third-party makes a ****** adapter/hub.

No, but it's Apple's fault that they released a range of USB-C/TB3-only machines without also paying attention to the "ecosystem" that goes with them. Six months later, you can still count the number of available docks that will properly charge a 15" rMBP on the fingers of a boxing glove. Apple should have had an own-brand hub/dock that replicated the ports available on the old rMBP available from day one (and not having a USB-A hub in the LG Ultrafine displays is a joke!).
[doublepost=1496313448][/doublepost]
Since Apple does not appear to support MST across multiple displays I am unable to daisy chain my displays.

AFAIK, even when MST is supported, DisplayPort 1.2a will only support dual 4k displays at 30Hz (which means flickery mouse time).

The delay in DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 uptake is a major pain and can't be blamed on Apple (there aren't many DP1.3/1.4 capable displays out there to start with), although Intel probably deserve some of the flak for limiting both the Thunderbolt 3 spec and their DisplayPort-on-USB-C controllers to DP 1.2a. (DisplayPort-on-USB-C supports DP1.3 in theory but I don't think its been implemented). Without that, the idea of a single-plug dock for your peripherals and multiple 4k/5k displays is hampered by the bandwidth of DP1.2.
 
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veggiespam

macrumors newbie
Jan 12, 2012
19
18
This thing was ostensibly designed for the Mac as there are few other laptops requiring such a contraption (at this time). Then why does this dock (and others I've seen) use DisplayPort when the entirety of the Mac universe and high-end non-Mac universe uses mini-DisplayPort. Is it that they don't want to confuse people who think this magic port might be TB-1 or TB-2 and be sorely disappointed after plugging in a hard drive? Why couldn't they just do a pass-through and indeed make it TB-1/2.
 

Aldaris

macrumors 68000
Sep 7, 2004
1,768
1,181
Salt Lake
I wonder why Apple doesn't make their own iHub? 4x USB-3, 2x Gb Ethernet, 2x Thunderbolt III, 2x Thunderbolt II, 2x 4k Display Port, 2x HDMI 2, 1x 10Gb Ethernet. 1x SDHC slot, 1x CF-type slot. You could even jam an updated AEBS inside the box with all the right options.
I think it's Apples pride and ego. It would be admitting people/customers want/need those ports. It took them how long to admit they f***** up the Mac Pro and sat with the elephant in the room on the shut off back burner practically since the late 2013 release.

At one point Apple's solution was the Thunderbolt Display to a degree, maybe they'll put it together and see there is a great modular portable solution that can "dock" and use desktop like accessories and peripherals without adding those Milimeters to their products... just add them to the iHub/display.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,764
3,616
This thing was ostensibly designed for the Mac as there are few other laptops requiring such a contraption (at this time).

Dell XPS, HP Spectre, Lenovo X1 etc. all feature Thunderbolt 3 ports (Microsoft seem to be the main holdout) and represent potential customers for these docks. Where these laptops differ from Macs is that they've mainly managed to squeeze in at least one USB-A, if not more legacy connectors, so a dock is not quite as essential as with the Macs, but its still an attractive idea to have extra ports and single-cable dock-and-charge.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a full-size DisplayPort on a Laptop PC and although I do actually have a PC laptop with a Thunderbolt 1/MiniDP port, I think that's fairly rare. However, on desktop PCs, HDMI and full-sized displayPort rule (either on the motherboard back panel or on the graphics card).

That said - I don't disagree - MiniDP would be far more useful for a Mac user and MiniDP-to-fiull-DP cables are cheap and plentiful.

The henge tethered dock looks like the best bet - but unfortunately its still vapourware. Nor is it clear if the dual MiniDisplayPorts will actually support independent monitors, or if they rely on multimonitor MST (not available on a Mac).
 
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dmylrea

macrumors 68040
Sep 27, 2005
3,118
3,915
I'm surprised no one has commented on how butt-ugly the TS3 is. Usually Mac people are all about design, yet this screwed-together aluminum brick throwback from the last decade goes without comment? The TS3 Lite is closer to what I'd expect a modern design to be...

The OWC $300 dock looks better and has more functionality than the TS3 (if it ever ships).
 
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DogHouseDub

macrumors 6502
Sep 19, 2007
361
752
SF
Just bought a new MBP. Grabbed the "legacy" model with unique ports for USB, HDMI, and power. Caveman tech, right? Shockingly, some of us use our computers for work - function over form.
 
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