Review: Kensington's SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 Dock Packs Some Neat Security and Convenience Features

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Jun 23, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Earlier this week, Kensington launched its entry into the Thunderbolt 3 dock market with its SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station, an enterprise-focused accessory that incorporates a couple of unique features in the form of a Kensington lock slot and the ability to mount the dock to the rear of VESA-compatible displays for "Zero Footprint Mounting" with a separate bracket accessory.

    I've since had a chance to spend some time with the SD5000T, so I've been able to test it out to see how it stacks up against the competition.


    The dock arrived in a plain white box with a product label on it, which Kensington tells me is the B2B packaging. Retail units will obviously have fancier packaging.

    Inside the box was the dock itself, a large power brick identical to ones used by many of the other Thunderbolt 3 docks, and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. Kensington also includes three separate power cables with compatibility for the major US, UK, and mainland European standards.

    The SD5000T is fairly attractive, constructed primarily of matte black plastic with a band of brushed aluminum with chamfered top edges around all four sides of the dock except for the two front USB ports. The gap in the aluminum band around the USB ports provides a bit of visual interest without being overly distracting.


    Kensington's dock has a horizontal design very similar to most other Thunderbolt 3 docks on the market, measuring about 8.5 inches wide by about 3.35 inches deep by just about an inch high and weighing just over three quarters of a pound. A small Kensington word mark is molded into the plastic on the top left rear corner of the dock, but it's a subtle inclusion that doesn't distractingly stand out like the branding on some other docks.

    Setup is a breeze, requiring the power brick be plugged in and connected to the dock and the Thunderbolt cable connected from one of the ports on the back of the dock to the computer. Any other cables for peripherals and displays are easily connected to the dock. When the dock is powered on, a subtle blue light shines on the front to indicate its status. The SD5000T supports a full 85 watts of charging over Thunderbolt 3, so it can power even a 15-inch MacBook Pro over the same cable used to pass data and video.

    I own a number of displays, most of which are VESA-compatible, but none of them will work with Kensington's Zero Footprint Mounting solution, and that's the problem with this feature. All of my VESA displays require that you remove the foot from the display and attach a separate backplate that includes the VESA mounting holes.

    If you use these displays sitting on a desk as I and many other people do, you can't also mount Kensington's dock on the back of the display. There are, however, some displays on the market that do include accessible VESA mounting holes even with the display's foot attached, so if you have one of those monitors this would be a great way to get the dock off of your desk.

    As with the other Thunderbolt 3 docks I've looked at, I tested Kensington's dock with a 2016 MacBook Pro and a pair of LG UltraFine 5K displays over Thunderbolt 3, one connected via the dock and the other hooked up directly to the MacBook Pro. The display connected via the SD5000T worked just fine, utilizing its full 5K Retina resolution at 60 Hz. Alternatively, you can connect a pair of 4K displays to the dock, one over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and one over DisplayPort. Other standards like HDMI and VGA can also be used with appropriate DisplayPort adapters.


    The SD5000T includes a trio of USB ports running at 5 Gbps, one Type-A and one Type-C on the front and one Type-A on the rear. It's a pretty typical number of USB ports for docks like this and a Type-C option is a nice inclusion, but I still wish Kensington and other manufacturers would match OWC's five USB ports for maximum flexibility.

    Connecting a fast USB 3.1 Gen 2 external SSD to the MacBook Pro through the dock yields read and write speeds of around 350 and 320 MB/s respectively through both the Type-C and Type-A ports on the dock, on par with 5 Gbps USB ports on other Thunderbolt 3 docks I've tested.


    That's a bit slower than 420/410 MB/s speed seen when the SSD is connected directly to a 5 Gbps MacBook and can't compare to the ~500 MB/s speeds seen when connecting it directly to the 10 Gbps MacBook Pro, but it's still plenty speedy for most uses.


    Other ports on the rear of the dock include Gigabit Ethernet and separate 3.5 mm audio in and out ports. Kensington's famous lock slot is also included, and while it's not really necessary in my home office, institutional customers will no doubt appreciate the added security.

    At a list price of $350, Kensington's SD5000T comes in at the high end of Thunderbolt 3 docks, matching Belkin's dock and priced $50 higher than similar offerings from OWC, Elgato, and CalDigit. While general consumers may find it hard to justify the high-end pricing, institutional customers could be more willing to spend a bit more to get features like the Kensington lock slot and VESA mounting option (mounting plate sold separately for $9.99), as well as a three-year warranty that more closely aligns with typical replacement cycles than the shorter warranties offered on competing docks.

    The Kensington SD5000T is available now from Kensington for $349.99, but B&H Photo is currently offering it at a discounted price of $299.95. B&H Photo does not yet have the dock in stock, however, and it is expecting orders to ship out around June 30.

    Note: Kensington provided the SD5000T Docking Station to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with B&H and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.

    Article Link: Review: Kensington's SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 Dock Packs Some Neat Security and Convenience Features
  2. MoJoRo macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2017
    Seriously, why do none of these include an SD card slot?
  3. fpsBeaTt Suspended


    Apr 18, 2010
  4. MoJoRo macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2017
  5. dmylrea macrumors 68030


    Sep 27, 2005
    Hopefully OWC is watching all the other manufacturers dock issues and making sure theirs is perfect before releasing...why else would their TB3 dock be "pre-order" status for months and months and months?
  6. MoJoRo macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2017
    That's a good question, but it seems like the OWC USB-C dock didn't work at all, based on Amazon reviews. So they could be trying to perfect their TB3 dock, or they could be dealing with massive issues that they didn't anticipate (2 sides of the same coin).
  7. redrumredrum macrumors newbie


    May 23, 2014
    I guess I'm not most users then. Is it not possible to find a dock that doesn't cripple external SSDs? 500 MB/s isn't particularly fast (try a using a Samsung 960 PRO) and I'm certainly not accepting loosing nearly half of that.

    Secondly, where are those fabled DVI and HDMI adapters? All the ones I've tried have not worked and had to be returned.
  8. Marx55 macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2005
  9. m0pheu5 macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    London, England
    And why do none of these docks ever have two HDMI or display ports built in? Such a simple, but useful thing.
  10. RedTomato macrumors 601


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    As mentioned in the review, for $350 I'd expect more than 3 USB ports - which require 2 different cables to use all 3.

    Docks have one job - provide lots of ports. This is a big, expensive, dock. So provide lots of ports. At the moment it's being beaten by cheap $5 USB 3 hubs. I don't particularly want to be strapping another hub onto a dock onto my laptop.
  11. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
    Why don't companies understand why people purchase docks?
  12. Vjosullivan macrumors 6502a


    Oct 21, 2013
    Why doesn't Apple understand why people purchase docks?
  13. WBRacing macrumors 65816


    Nov 19, 2012
    Fixed that :)
  14. bfreek macrumors member

    Sep 11, 2015
    a spacegray apple mug! where can i get that?!
  15. RMo macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2007
    Iowa, USA
    Actually, docks have one job: docking. :) This means you should be able to take your laptop on and off the dock (or connect and disconnect it from the dock) only without needing to connect/disconnnect a bunch of external devices every time you arrive at/leave your desk. To that extent, docks usually include ports to plug in a keyboard, mouse, Ethernet (usually), and one or more displays. (A USB 3.x hub cannot do everything Thunderbolt can do, by the way. Apple doesn't support dual displays over USB-C, and I don't think it supports 5k displays. Even with a supported display of sufficiently high resolution, you'll only have enough bandwidth for USB 2 speeds leftover. TB 3 has much more bandwidth. If all your devices are USB or a maximum single external display and slower speeds aren't a problem for you, by all means don't shell out for a TB 3 dock.)

    That being said, most docks do include more than is strictly necessary for this purpose, often adding more USB ports for the sake of added convenience or (especially with newer Apple laptops) providing ports that are no longer included on the laptop itself (e.g., USB-A, sometimes FireWire, as well as Ethernet and audio devices). For being one of the most expensive docks on the market, I'd certainly expect it to provide more than the bare minimum the average person might need for strictly docking purposes, so I agree with you there.
  16. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Macs don't support multiple independent displays from one display port stream. Thunderbolt supports 2 display port streams - with Thunderbolt 2 you couldn't use both of those in a single peripheral. With TB3 you can (or the 5k display wouldn't work) but I guess its more complex/expensive. Plus - you can please all of the people some of the time with the choice of DP/MiniDP/HDMI.

    If you just want a lot of USB ports, get a $5 USB hub and have fun with devices that don't like hubs: with a TB3 dock, the USB3 ports are "first tier" ports with their own controller.

    I assume these docks contain a 3- or 4- port controller and use one of the ports internally. For more ports, they'd probably have to add a USB hub inside the dock.

    It would be interesting for someone with one of these docks to do an About This Mac -> system report and see what was connected to what. My guess is that the sound, and maybe the ethernet are coming off an internal USB port.
  17. manu chao macrumors 603

    Jul 30, 2003
    All these docks list the ability to connect a second display to the second TB3 port. If a simply USB-C to DP/HDMI cable suffices for that, then this isn't really a big deal. In general I think there is a reason why these docks come either with a (m)DP or an HDMI port and not simply with both. Which is that it takes extra TB controllers to extract an additional video stream and having two video-out ports while only one could be used at a time could be considered as misleading and confusing.

    Now, I don't know for sure that with TB3 docks a simple USB-C/TB3 to DP/HDMI cable is sufficient to extract a second video signal from the second TB3 port (in addition to the video signal from the built-in DP or HDMI port). With TB2 docks, that was not sufficient, you needed another TB2 controller (either in the form of a second TB2 dock) or as part of a TB2 display.

    EDIT: Just saw the post above mine which indicates that a simple USB-C to DP/HDMI cable could be sufficient to extract a video stream from the second TB3 port as TB3 controller in the dock itself can support extract two video streams from a single TB3 connection.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 25, 2017 ---
    One of the hosts at ATP mentioned that they couldn't find any USB-C hubs (as in hubs that plug into a USB-C port on a computer and provide multiple USB-C ports). All USB-C hubs or docks that they and I am aware of might offer multiple USB-A ports (with USB 3 speeds) but never more than one USB-C port (usually allowing for charging of the computer).

    In the context of the MacBook Adorable (aka 12" MB), even if you were to go all USB-C (in regard to external drives, Lightning cable, USB-micro cable, memory stick, SD/CF/XQD card reader, DP cable, HDMI cable), that would do you no good in light of the single USB-C port on that computer has. And getting a USB-C dock (that might come with an SD card reader and (m)DP port and a couple of USB-A ports), will only get you there half-way. Your USB-C external drive, your USB-C memory stick, your USB-C XQD card reader, your USB-C to Lightning cable, your USB-C to USB micro cable, all still couldn't be used except one-at-a-time only, and then only without charging the MB at the same time.

    This all makes me wonder if USB-C, at least in regard to its new features (alternate modes, laptop charging incl. feed-through charging, ie, charging your laptop through your external USB-C device), is not 'branchable' in the form offered by USB hubs. I remember that at TB's introduction, branching was mentioned as a possibility but never become reality.
  18. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Well, the USB 3 part of USB-C is still USB and should support hubs, but I think you've hit the nail on the head about power and alternate modes. Routing these from one input to whichever output was requesting them maybe not impossible but more complex and expensive than a USB-A hub.

    However, I think its also a case of demand... and the big demand now is for people who want to connect their USB-A stuff and displays. Who has multiple USB-C only devices? (a lot of USB-C thumb drives are double-ended with USB-A, some external HDs come with USB-C and USB-3 cables...)
  19. manu chao macrumors 603

    Jul 30, 2003
    The good news about USB-C vs USB-A is that it is essentially just about getting another cable. The bad news is that you likely will need to keep a larger set of cables around for quite some time (unless you make all your USB-A cables dual-purpose by capping them with a USB-C to USB-A adaptor). For example, if you are getting a USB-C to Lightning cable to directly connect your iOS device to your Mac laptop, you better also keep you your USB-A to Lightning cable around, in case you need to use a USB-C to USB-A/USB-C-power/alternate-mode-port dock.
  20. fpsBeaTt Suspended


    Apr 18, 2010
    Yeah, pretty frustrating; TB3 model is the ideal solution for me. Hopefully we'll see a growth in TB devices now that Intel has released the spec.
  21. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005

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