Review: Elgato's $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers a Solid Set of Ports in a Slim Design

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Over the past few months, I've taken a look at a number of Thunderbolt 3 docks that all hit the market around the same time, including models from OWC, CalDigit, Belkin, and Kensington. There's at least one more major player in the market, so today I'm sharing my thoughts on Elgato's $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock. Elgato's dock has a lot in common with many of its competitors, including a slim horizontal design of brushed aluminum and plastic, an array of ports for expanding the capabilities of your Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac, and more.


The dock looks nice on a desk, with a black matte plastic front and back wrapped by a brushed aluminum enclosure that's rounded around the sides. A small Elgato wordmark is printed in the front left corner of the dock's top, but it doesn't mar the overall look of the accessory, which remains rather unobtrusive. Measuring just under 8 inches wide, Elgato's dock is slightly narrower than some of the other docks, which to my eye makes it look a bit better sitting on the foot of my LG UltraFine 5K display. Belkin's dock at a little over 8 inches also fits pretty well, but wider docks like OWC's and Kensington's overhang a bit.

Of course, everyone's desk setup is different so variations of around an inch in the width of all of these docks may not be a deal-breaker, but it's worth noting this is the narrowest of the horizontal designs I've tested. At about 3.15 inches deep and an inch high, Elgato's dock is otherwise pretty much on par with competing docks in terms of size.


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Article Link: Review: Elgato's $300 Thunderbolt 3 Dock Offers a Solid Set of Ports in a Slim Design
 

Exile714

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Jan 14, 2015
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I was going to complain about how useless these docks usually are, but 85W power and support for 2 displays at 4k is pretty impressive.
 
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macduke

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I don't think I've ever seen a Thunderbolt Dock that has everything I want. And even if I did, the new version of Thunderbolt probably came out and replaced it.

What I want:
  • 2x front USB ports that can also charge
  • Front line-in and headphone
  • Front SD card slot
  • 6x rear USB
  • 1x rear ethernet (10Gbps would be nice)
  • 2x rear HDMI or mini display port
Although I also used to want an eSATA port but don't have the need for that any more. I could probably rig up something with a Thunderbolt Dock, USB hub and SD card reader taped to the top. Trashy so I'll probably just buy an iMac instead.
 

jayducharme

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Jun 22, 2006
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The thick of it
So now that you have reviewed all the major docks, which one is best?
I'm still happy with my OWC dock. It has 5 USB (two on the side), a FireWire 800, A/V, HDMI and two T-Bolt ports. I've had it for about three years and it's worked pretty flawlessly. And it does charge my devices when the computer is turned off.
 

cdavis11

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Aug 31, 2009
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I'm still happy with my OWC dock. It has 5 USB (two on the side), a FireWire 800, A/V, HDMI and two T-Bolt ports. I've had it for about three years and it's worked pretty flawlessly. And it does charge my devices when the computer is turned off.
I'll second that on OWC - OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock here. It runs a 15" touchbar MBP.

I've only had 1 instance when it couldn't keep up with charge demand, and that was a Skype Safari plugin gone wild. Killed the plugin, and it charged up just fine.

Running a single 4k display off of it.

For me, the main advantages are the front SD card and USB slots.

Single cable across my desk, power adapter now stays in my bag for trips along with the forest of dongles.
 

shareef777

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Jul 26, 2005
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I don't think I've ever seen a Thunderbolt Dock that has everything I want. And even if I did, the new version of Thunderbolt probably came out and replaced it.

What I want:
  • 2x front USB ports that can also charge
  • Front line-in and headphone
  • Front SD card slot
  • 6x rear USB
  • 1x rear ethernet (10Gbps would be nice)
  • 2x rear HDMI or mini display port
Although I also used to want an eSATA port but don't have the need for that any more. I could probably rig up something with a Thunderbolt Dock, USB hub and SD card reader taped to the top. Trashy so I'll probably just buy an iMac instead.
Even TB3 isn't fast enough to support the bandwidth needs of all those ports (unless you want all those ports to be versions from 5 years ago, i.e., USB2 and 1080p HDMI ports). Most people don't realize that you can't get everything you want because what you want isn't possible with today's technology.
[doublepost=1500674655][/doublepost]These docks are priced high due to the power supply. OWC offers a USB-C variant for half the price, but then you're getting less then half the bandwidth and charging ability.

I've got the Belkin TB3 dock and have no complaints. Though I'll admit the Elgato is a better deal as they're the same exact product, but the Elgato is $50 cheaper.
 

macduke

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Even TB3 isn't fast enough to support the bandwidth needs of all those ports (unless you want all those ports to be versions from 5 years ago, i.e., USB2 and 1080p HDMI ports). Most people don't realize that you can't get everything you want because what you want isn't possible with today's technology.
[doublepost=1500674655][/doublepost]These docks are priced high due to the power supply. OWC offers a USB-C variant for half the price, but then you're getting less then half the bandwidth and charging ability.

I've got the Belkin TB3 dock and have no complaints. Though I'll admit the Elgato is a better deal as they're the same exact product, but the Elgato is $50 cheaper.
I see no problem with throttling the connections. I don't use all of those ports at once, but what I don't like is having to plug and unplug cords all the time. Shouldn't be any different than plugging in a USB 3 hub except that it just adds more clutter. You can't tell me that a 10 port USB 3.0 hub provides 5Gbps to all ports at all times. There's no reason a TB3 dock would need to either, as long as it prioritizes things like display signal over other connections.
 

hotgril

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I don't get it. There are TB3 hubs for like $30-$90 on Amazon. Why does MR keep posting about these $200+ options?
[doublepost=1500684185][/doublepost]
I see no problem with throttling the connections. I don't use all of those ports at once, but what I don't like is having to plug and unplug cords all the time. Shouldn't be any different than plugging in a USB 3 hub except that it just adds more clutter. You can't tell me that a 10 port USB 3.0 hub provides 5Gbps to all ports at all times. There's no reason a TB3 dock would need to either, as long as it prioritizes things like display signal over other connections.
I guess with 51% certainty that it's nontrivial to throttle all those connections elegantly.

IDK, I really don't have the energy for this meme. I just bought a 2015 rMBP. It's cheaper, has *gasp* regular USB ports, and is not even slower than the new one by any margin I care about. And no dongle can give me a non-protruding SD card; meanwhile, I'm enjoying freely expandable storage with no added bulk. Great job, Apple.
 
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pixelatedscraps

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Jul 11, 2017
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I don't get it. There are TB3 hubs for like $30-$90 on Amazon.
[doublepost=1500684185][/doublepost]
I'm currently in the same boat as many others, frustrated with the TB3 dock options available. I would love to see your recommendations for high quality full speed TB3 docks for that budget range.
 

hotgril

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I'm currently in the same boat as many others, frustrated with the TB3 dock options available. I would love to see your recommendations for high quality full speed TB3 docks for that budget range.
I can't call them recommendations since I've never tried them, but here's one my friend sent me: https://www.amazon.com/QacQoc-Aluminum-Thunderbolt-Pass-Through-Charging/dp/B0722Y9SZ8
Amazon has plenty of others if you search, all under $100. If I were looking for one, I'd just buy whatever is the most popular (with good reviews) on Amazon.
 

nicho

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Feb 15, 2008
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pixelatedscraps

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Jul 11, 2017
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Hong Kong
I can't call them recommendations since I've never tried them, but here's one my friend sent me: https://www.amazon.com/QacQoc-Aluminum-Thunderbolt-Pass-Through-Charging/dp/B0722Y9SZ8
Amazon has plenty of others if you search, all under $100. If I were looking for one, I'd just buy whatever is the most popular (with good reviews) on Amazon.
This looks like a poor ripoff of the Hyperdrive. Pity, they had a great idea that just got lost in all the clones that came out after it. Me personally, I don't like the thought of ill-fitting docks taking up 50% of my ports that could be damaged if there was an accident or a trip, or a slight nudge on the side of the computer. Ah, if only there was a perfected MagSafe-style version of this.

I've ordered 1x USB-C and 1x TB-3 docks from OWC - hopefully they'll be arriving next week. So far, Henge Docks and Caldigit seem to be good alternatives to OWC / Elgato but there isn't much out there in the form of portable-port-powered docks that combine specs and elegance.
 
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mixel

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I wish some of these docks supported sata/ esata.. At some point I’m going to need it.

I boot from an old TB goflex interface with an ssd plugged in. Those aren’t available anymore.. When it fails, what’s the most cost effective way to externally plug in the ssd again? (My iMac doesn’t have the latest TB) - the only caddy type things I’ve seen have been expensive and for RAID/multiple drives?
 

macs4nw

macrumors 601
Every thunderbolt dock ever released by mankind from planet earth has some missing feature or flaw including high price.
That's a funny way of putting it, but it's true enough, if you're gonna shell out that kinda scratch for a dock that realistically has a useful life of a few years (until TB4 comes out), you shouldn't have to compromise on missing features.

I guess every manufacturer has their own ideas about which features they can omit without losing mass appeal.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
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and DP requires Thunderbolt.
No, you can have DisplayPort on a USB-C only hub. E.g. http://www.caldigit.com/usb-3-1-usb-c-dock/

However, if you connect a 4k display and run it at 60Hz then displayport uses all of USB-C's high speed data lanes, so any other ports on the hub/dock will be USB 2 only. Also, Macs don't support DisplayPort daisy-chaining, so "dual display" USB-C docks will only offer 2 mirrored displays, whereas Thunderbolt docks let you hang a second display off the Thunderbolt daisychain port.

So if you're connecting 4k and/or multiple displays to the dock then you probably want to go Thunderbolt.
 
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zhenya

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Jan 6, 2005
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I don't get it. There are TB3 hubs for like $30-$90 on Amazon. Why does MR keep posting about these $200+ options?
Docks at that price range don't even come close to offering the kind of functionality these Thunderbolt 3 docks do. All of the fully-featured docks are about the same price - which also happens to be approximately the same price full docks have cost in the PC world for decades.
 
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