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Thunderbolt 2 docks roundup: The easy way to connect to your Mac laptop

Roman Loyola | May 26, 2015
The major change since I last did a roundup of Thunderbolt docks is that the latest docks use Thunderbolt 2, which makes them aligned with Apple's Thunderbolt 2 implementation in its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

The CalDigit dock is one of three docks that I looked at that has eSATA; there are a pair of eSATA ports on the rear, along with two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, gigabit ethernet, and HDMI. The front has a USB 3 port, a microphone jack, and a headphone jack.

On the CalDigit website, you can download the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station Utility. This adds a menu bar item that allows you to eject any items that are connected to the dock and are on your Mac's desktop.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Compared to the other docks in this roundup, OWC offers a whole lot of dock for $249. With the Thunderbolt 2 Dock (), you get five USB 3 ports, two powered ports on the side and three unpowered ports on the rear. It's one of two docks in this roundup with a FireWire 800 port, which is great if you have an older hard drive that's still a vital part of your setup. The dock also has the standard issue of ports: two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a gigabit ethernet port, and an HDMI port.

Like the Elgato dock, OWC's dock has separate microphone and audio out ports. But unlike the Elgato dock, these two ports are on the rear, not the front.

The one knock against the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock is that it doesn't include a Thunderbolt cable. OWC does sell Thunderbolt cables in different colors (black, red, green, blue, white) and in different lengths (0.5 meter to 30 meters).

Top contenders

Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock

The $230 Thunderbolt 2 Dock () has a brushed aluminum case that matches your Apple laptop. The front has a USB 3 port, a mic jack, and an amplified headphone jack. The back has a gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an HDMI connector. Elgato includes a 0.5 meter Thunderbolt cable. All of the USB ports provide enough power to charge any iOS devices.

Elgato's dock was the only other dock in this roundup that includes a software utility to enhance the dock. Like the CalDigit utility, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock Utility resides in your Mac's menu bar for one-click ejecting of any connected dock devices from the Desktop.

StarTech Thunderbolt 2 4K docking station

At $329, the Thunderbolt 2 4K docking station () is the most expensive dock in this group. It's also the longest dock, measuring 9.2 inches, and its design hearkens back to the old aluminum Mac Pro tower.

The Thunderbolt 2 4K docking station is the only dock I looked at that has a S/PDIF connector on the rear. The rear also has three USB 3 ports, a microphone jack, one eSATA port, gigabit ethernet, HDMI, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and a security lock slot. The front has a USB 3 port and headphone jack.

 

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