StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station full review
StarTech.com’s Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station is bristling with high-speed ports. As its name heavily suggests, the dock features full-speed 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 rather than just the slower 5-10Gbps plain (but otherwise identical) USB-C.
The flip side of that equation is that this dock will work with Thunderbolt 3 laptops only but not slower USB-C laptops. Since 2016 Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops have come with Thunderbolt 3, and since the 2018 model so has the MacBook Air. The 12in MacBook features the lowlier USB-C. One of our choices for best laptop, the Dell XPS 13, also uses TB3, as do some models from Acer and Asus.
Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Dock pricing
The StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station costs £530 in the UK, or US$378.99.
But we have seen it much cheaper online: under £300 and below $300.
Dock design and specs
Why do you need a docking station? If you use your laptop as your main computer at home, in the office, or both, then a docking station allows you a setup just like a desktop, with ports to attach a keyboard and mouse and other USB devices, extra storage, wired Ethernet, and most importantly at least one large external monitor. See this roundup of the best docking stations for Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C laptops.
We set this dock up with a laptop and external screen in about five minutes.
The docking station is longer than most of the docks we have tested here, but it is packing a lot of ports in that space. Our review unit was silver and black.
At the back there are four USB-A slots, two 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 ports (one of which connects to the laptop and charges at a powerful 85W), one 5Gbps USB-C port, a DisplayPort, and Gigabit Ethernet.
On the front there’s a Fast-Charge USB-A port, SD Card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone mini-jack port.
The built-in SD card reader (which will take Micro SD with an adapter, usually included with the micro cards) allows you to add storage at minimal cost compared to upgrading your laptop with a whole new SSD or hard drive. You can find high-capacity SD cards for low prices online. At the time of writing, Amazon UK had them for £20 for 256GB and Amazon.com for around $40 - prices are fairly fluid so you may find cheaper or a little dearer. A portable external SSD drive would cost at least four times that.
It comes with a 45cm Thunderbolt 3 cable. If you require a longer one that maintains the 40Gbps bandwidth, StarTech sells a 1m TB3 cable for £50 or $66. Or you can go longer for less by downgrading to a 20Gbps cable, for £20 or $22.
Connecting two displays
You can connect dual UHD 4K (4,096 x 2,160 resolution) monitors at 60Hz using the DisplayPort and the spare Thunderbolt 3 slot. Note that unless one of those displays has a USB-C connection, a USB-C video adapter might be required. If your external screen uses HDMI, you'll need an adapter, too - such as StarTech's own Thunderbolt 3 compatible 4K 60Hz USB-C to HDMI Adapter (UK) or here for US.
The dock can support 5K (5,120 x 2,880) resolutions at 60Hz on a single display.
The docking station is Mac, Windows and Chrome compatible.
The StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station surely has enough ports for most people. You could attach a keyboard and mouse (although wireless makes this a redundant requirement these days) and still have two USB-A ports free for storage or other devices, and be able to fast-charge your smartphone from the front.
You can inexpensively add storage via the SD Card reader, and get fast wired network speeds through the Gigabit Ethernet port.
Look around for the best prices - we've listed the best we can find here in the price-comparison boxes on this review.
StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station: Specs
- Five USB-A slots, two 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 5Gbps USB-C port, a DisplayPort, and Gigabit Ethernet, SD Card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone mini-jack port.