Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 4 (TS4) assessment, best dock with all ports


The successor to the preferred TS3 Plus docking station, Caldigit’s TS4 Thunderbolt Station 4 dock has so much to reside as much as – and, with a large number of top-end ports and design flexibility, it succeeds through now not converting an award-winning components.

In some ways, the TS3 redefined the docking station and was once our long-time favorite Thunderbolt 3 docking station.

Caldigit has waited longer than maximum to free up a Thunderbolt 4 dock, however we aren’t disillusioned as this one is the best we’ve examined. Later, we’ll speak about the variations between Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) and Thunderbolt 4 (TB4) and whether or not TS3 Plus house owners must improve to the brand new TS4.

A docking station lets in a computer proprietor to create a hectic desktop setup with only a unmarried USB-C/TB connection between laptop and dock.

All the exterior gadgets are hooked up to the dock: from exterior displays to instant SSD drives, printer, webcam, reminiscence sticks, keyboard and mouse (in the event you haven’t stuck up with Bluetooth, in fact). Many docks additionally come with a card reader so you’ll be able to upload reasonably priced moveable garage playing cards, generally SD or microSD.

A dock additionally frees you from the vagaries of Wi-Fi with a stressed Ethernet Internet connection.

You simply stroll up, plug in and get started running, and unplug when you wish to have to take your computer in other places. Your most well-liked setup is looking forward to you whilst you go back.

Thunderbolt 4 works with the newest Thunderbolt 4 and USB4 computer systems and may be backwards appropriate with Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C.

It works with macOS 11.4 (Big Sur) or above, Windows 10 (20H2) or above, Chromebook, iPad Pro/iPad Air/iPad mini, and Windows Tablet. All should have both Thunderbolt or USB-C.

Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Station TS4 Ports

Specs and lines

The TS3 had 15 ports, and the TS4 is going 3 higher with a mighty 18.

  • One upstream Thunderbolt 4 port (40Gbps, 98W)
  • Two downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports (40Gbps, 15W)
  • One DisplayPort 1.4 video port
  • Five USB-A ports (10Gbps, 7.5W)
  • One USB-C port (10Gbps, 20W)
  • Two USB-C ports (10Gbps, 7.5W)
  • 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
  • UHS-II SD and microSD card readers (320MBps)
  • 3.5mm combo audio jack (entrance)
  • 3.5mm Audio In and Audio Out ports (again)
  • 230W persistent provide

That’s as spectacular an array of recent ports as we’ve noticed on a docking station.

Thunderbolt 4, USB-C and USB-A ports   All the USB ports are no less than 10Gbps (two times the bandwidth of the TS3’s USB ports), and there are 8 of them!

You can daisy-chain as much as six Thunderbolt gadgets, together with additional TB4 hubs. However, needless to say the computer has a 40Gbps connection to the dock, so all of the gadgets hooked up are sharing that that bandwidth.

Aside from its 40Gbps bandwidth, one of the vital benefits of Thunderbolt 4 is the power for a tool to incorporate as much as 4 TB4 ports, so some could be shocked that Caldigit has integrated simply 3 (one upstream to the pc and two downstream to gadgets).

The corporate made up our minds that switching one TB4 for a DisplayPort video port made sense as just about all dock customers attach no less than one exterior show to their computer and so having a video port merely is smart.

Caldigit TS4 dual display dock

Dual show dock

Of direction, you’ll be able to attach presentations by way of Thunderbolt – both at once to a observe with a USB-C connection or the usage of a USB-C-to-DisplayPort or USB-C-to-HDMI adapter.

Having the integrated video port integrated saves you from purchasing a USB-C adapter if you want one as a result of your required observe has a USB-C connection – even supposing you’ll be able to in fact nonetheless require a DisplayPort cable.

DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 4 show connections are nearly equivalent in capacity, so leaving 3 downstream TB4 ports may have made extra sense than swapping one for the integrated DisplayPort for the sake of comfort.

If you want to attach an HDMI show you’ve got the selection to both attach an Active-DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter to make use of the video port or use a USB-C-to-HDMI Adapter with one of the vital TB4 ports.

Caldigit selected DisplayPort 1.4 over HDMI at the TS4 as a result of DP is local to the Thunderbolt design and it’s extra flexible than HDMI – with an adapter, you’ll be able to convert to any observe you wish to have similar to HDMI, DVI or VGA. It too can beef up upper resolutions and refresh charges, while with HDMI it may be capped.

HDMI 2.0 is restricted to supporting 4K presentations at 60Hz, whilst DisplayPort 1.4, as discovered at the TS4, can take care of 8K at 60Hz. DP additionally beats HDMI on pass-through audio. For extra main points, see our function on the distinction between DisplayPort and HDMI.

Another dock that dares to suppose other is the Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station, which options two HDMI ports however subsequently just one downstream TB4 port.

You’ll wish to use one of the vital TS4’s two downstream TB4 ports if you wish to upload a 2nd show.

Windows customers with a TB4 or USB4 laptop can attach a unmarried 8K show at 60Hz; Mac customers, a unmarried 6K show at 60Hz. Older Intel Macs and more moderen M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBooks can attach two 4K presentations at 60Hz, even supposing undeniable M1 MacBooks are unfortunately restricted to only the only exterior show – Apple’s, now not the dock maker’s fault.

The dock will beef up a unmarried 4K show at as much as 144Hz, 3440×1440 at 180Hz and 2560×1440 at 240Hz; observe that some refresh charges require DP.14 HBR3 and DSC 1.2 beef up from the host, GPU and observe.

TS4 2.5GbE Gigabit Ethernet

Super-fast Ethernet

One of the standouts is the super-fast 2.5Gb Gigabit Ethernet, which, as you’d be expecting, has the possible to be 2.5 occasions quicker than usual Gigabit Ethernet. You can purchase 2.5Gb adapters for different docks however those will upload on an additional $30-50 (£30-50) and take in certainly one of your USB-C ports, leaving the 1Gbe Ethernet unused. So, kudos to Caldigit for together with it as usual.

We have examined the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock that integrated a 10Gb Ethernet port, however all others had been usual 1Gb Ethernet.

Note that to make the most of the tip pace, you want a hooked up tool this is 2.5GbE or above. It is usually a router/community transfer that has a 2.5GbE port or upper, or you’ll be able to attach a NAS garage tool that has a 2.5GbE port or upper.

The 2.5Gb Ethernet port is forwards and backwards appropriate with different speeds of Ethernet.

Super persistent

With a 230W persistent provide, the TS4 is essentially the most powered docking station we’ve ever examined.

It wishes all that persistent as a result of it could actually fee a computer at 98W – greater than sufficient for many even massive laptops – in addition to persistent hooked up gadgets. Apple’s 16in MacGuide Pro (2021) can take care of 140W over MagSafe however 98W must stay even that power-hungry computer happy.

Each USB port has a minimal charging persistent of seven.5W, and the downstream TB4 ports can be offering 15W.

One of the front-placed USB-C ports can fee at a beneficiant 20W – best possible for Apple’s MagSafe Charger, as an example.

One factor we recognize on different docking stations is an influence transfer, as noticed on some Anker and Kensington docks. Caldigit omits one as it turns into some degree of wear-and-tear failure that might render the entire dock unusable if damaged. So, simply disconnect on the finish of the day if you wish to keep your computer’s inner battery.

Helpfully, there’s a downloadable device application that lets you disconnect all of your hooked up exterior drives with only one click on.

Audio ports back and front

There are 3 audio ports inbuilt. At the entrance is a three.5mm combo jack for both stressed headphones or a microphone, and on the again are separate 3.5mm jacks for conceivable audio system, headphones and mic. Only entrance or again audio ports can be utilized at one time.

The older TS3 Plus integrated a professional-level Digital Optical Audio (S/PDIF) port on the again, however that is neglected from the TS4, because it’s a fairly area of interest requirement.

SD and microSD slots

Having each SD and microSD card readers provides flexibility, while some docks provide you with simply SD.

MicroSD is clearly smaller however not more moveable. However, some telephones come with a microSD slot, so it’s a extra flexible answer.

These reminiscence playing cards aren’t only for reliable customers similar to photographers and video manufacturers who use them to briefly switch recordsdata. Anyone can select up a top quality 512GB card for round $60/£50, they usually be offering an reasonably priced method of upping the garage to your computer and are tremendous moveable, too.

Both card readers can be utilized on the similar time.

Apple’s newest 14in and 16in MacGuide Pro fashions boast their very own SD card slot. However, even supposing rated as 312MBps UHS-II, Apple has throttled the velocity to 250MBps. So for max pace, the TS4’s full-speed UHS-II beats Apple’s. Plus you are not looking for an adapter for microSD because the TS4 has a devoted slot for the smaller reminiscence card.

Caldigit TS4 docking station front

Design

Docking stations are available in two other codecs: horizontal or vertical. I want vertical because it saves table area however horizontal can be offering a cleaner glance.

Caldigit’s design with the TS3 Plus and now TS4 dock is extra versatile, as it may be laid flat or stand upright, with out a particular stand required of a few docks. It comes with two rubber ft that may be fitted both method.

Which method you attitude the dock to stand you is much less non-compulsory, as the ability provide is attached to the again.

Every different TB4 dock or hub (with the exception of Caldigit’s personal Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub) positions the upstream computer-connecting TB4 port on the entrance, which at all times moves me as an unsightly position to place it. Who desires a cable protruding the entrance when it might be hidden across the again with the also-essential persistent cable?

Yes, plugging in on the entrance is more uncomplicated and sooner however you need to reside with the cable flapping round your table all the time you’re hooked up.

On the Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Station, the upstream port is positioned on the again, and I’d award it an additional big name only for that tidy determination.

Aside from that, the TS4 continues the good-looking appears of the TS3 Plus. It’s neither swish nor glossy – it’s grilled to help warmth dissipation – nevertheless it has purposeful good looks.

Caldigit TS4 back ports

Thunderbolt 4 compatibility

Aside from the additional ports, persistent and a couple of centimetre in peak, the principle distinction between the TS3 Plus and the TS4 is the inclusion of the newest qualified Thunderbolt 4 generation.

For Apple customers, the variations between TB3 and TB4 are fewer as a result of Apple at all times gave them the whole lot that TB3 may be offering. Manufacturers of Windows computer systems, then again, may select and make a selection which options they appreciated, so that you needed to take a look at your specs to peer what advantages were bestowed to your device. It may, as an example, now not even achieve the utmost 40Gbps bandwidth or now not beef up twin presentations.

Thunderbolt 4 is stricter. To label a pc Thunderbolt 4 or USB4 appropriate, producers must apply all the foundations. So Windows customers with a TB3 computer could be at an advantage with a TB4 laptop, whilst Mac customers have lots of the elementary advantages already.

New to Thunderbolt 4 for everybody, alternatively, are a couple of benefits over Thunderbolt 3.

With TB3 you need to daisy chain Thunderbolt gadgets however most effective in a linear method the place you had to take away gadgets backwards from the top of the chain. With TB4, you’ll be able to take away any tool with out breaking the chain in a function referred to as ‘Hubbing’.

TB4 may be a extra data-safe generation, because it calls for Intel VT-d-based direct reminiscence get right of entry to (DMA) coverage, often referred to as DMA remapping.

TB4 calls for PCIe (peripheral part interconnect specific) at 32Gbps for garage speeds as much as 3,000MBps – double the minimal TB3 necessities.

Thunderbolt 4 cables can also be as much as 2m lengthy and nonetheless take care of the total 40Gbps bandwidth; the place TB3 cables needed to be a most 0.7m until boosted with pricey energetic generation.

The TS4 comes with a nil.8m Thunderbolt 4 cable.

Learn extra concerning the variations between Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3 and USB4.

(*4*)

Above: Caldigit TS3 Plus (left) vs Caldigit TS4 (proper); entrance view

Should you improve from Caldigit TS3 Plus to TS4?

The TS4 is a brilliant docking station in case you are purchasing for the primary time, however what about upgrading from an current dock.

If your present dock has USB-C most effective, then upgrading to 40Gbps Thunderbolt is a should for appropriate computer systems. As TB4 is backwards appropriate, purchasing a future-proof Thunderbolt 4 dock makes essentially the most sense these days although your older computer is Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C.

The Caldigit TS3 Plus dock used to put on the docking station crown however its more moderen sibling the TS4 has stolen its crown. So must TS3 Plus house owners improve, too?

The two docks are bodily and stylistically identical, with the TS4 a little bit taller and deeper and a smidge wider.

Although TB4 is backwards appropriate, Thunderbolt 3 MacGuide or Windows customers haven’t any evident wish to improve as they received’t have the benefit of Thunderbolt 4’s smarter options. Windows TB3 house owners may do higher upgrading their computer to a completely qualified TB4 laptop if their present TB3 PC is function restricted, as some are. Apple’s TB3 MacBooks already come with maximum (however now not all) of the TB4 advantages; see above.

That mentioned, everybody will have the benefit of the TS4’s extra a large number of, quicker and extra tough USB ports, and, if they have got the best setup, the two.5 Gigabit Ethernet too. The TS3 Plus had simply an SD card reader, whilst the TS$ has each SD and microSD slots.

And the dock’s 98W charging is a huge plus for house owners of larger-screen laptops; the TS3 Plus had an excellent however nonetheless lighter 87W max charging persistent.

Thunderbolt 4 is backwards appropriate, so although you personal a USB-C or TB3 computer or tablet now, purchasing a TB4 dock just like the TS4 will paintings with your present laptop and be in a position to your improve to a Thunderbolt 4 or USB4 device one day.

If you like pro-level virtual audio, the TS3 Plus’s Optical Audio (S/PDIF) port did not make the reduce to the TS4.

Caldigit TS3 vs TS4 dock back

Above: Caldigit TS4 (left) vs Caldigit TS3 Plus (proper); again view

Price

The Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 4 prices $359.95, £324.99 or €324.99.

Expectedly, that is costlier than the TS3 Plus and likewise places the TS4 on the high-end of the fee vary for Thunderbolt 4 docks.

See our roundup of all the best Thunderbolt 4 docks and hubs.

If a TB4 hub – generally simply 4 TB4 ports and a number of USB-A ports – isn’t sufficient for you, you want a costlier complete docking station.

There are less expensive choices, similar to Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station with its two HDMI ports or the Kensington SD5700T, which may be really helpful.

But none be offering the variability of top of the range ports, persistent and versatile design of the TS4, which is value the additional outlay if you’ll be able to manage to pay for it.

As you’ve spent a excellent deal purchasing the best docking station, it’s possible you’ll need to use the lock to protected the TS4 on your table.

Verdict

While some might grumble concerning the integrated DisplayPort at the price of one of the vital downstream TB4 ports, the Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 4 is a wonderfully supplied and well-designed dock.

It’s were given all the top-end ports you need to want for (greater than every other), a beneficiant persistent provide (bigger than every other) and charging power, and a compact and versatile design (higher than every other).

The TS4 replaces its Thunderbolt 3 predecessor, the TS3 Plus, as the tip docking station for house owners of recent laptops and tablets.



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