CalDigit TS3 Plus

Review: Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus, by CalDigit

It’s been a good couple of years, Apple was All-in USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and today all new MacBooks [Pro] they only have one or more of these doors. Here in my case, a 15-inch MacBook Pro with 2016 Touch Bar, there are four – two on each side. Besides them, the only physical connectivity I have left is a 3.5mm headphone jack (for now).

I am not going to enter here again in all this controversy about Apple’s decision. The fact is that the owner of such a machine can hardly “live” without an adapter, dongle or hub, whether to connect any peripheral or even to recharge the iPhone / iPad – which, for now, continue to come from the factory only with a Lightning to USB-A cable.

After living like this for a while, I’ve been testing a product for a few weeks that basically replaces all of this in an absurdly practical way, at least when I’m working at my head table. It’s the dock Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus, gives CalDigit, which we originally talked about last January.

CalDigit TS3 Plus

As the image above shows well, there are plenty of ports on this dock. At the front we have a slot for SD card (UHS-II, not bad), an analog audio output and input, a USB-C and a USB-A; at the rear, four more USB-A ports, one USB-C, two Thunderbolt 3, one S / PDIF (digital audio), one Gigabit Ethernet, one DisplayPort 1.2 (no HDMI) and the power input. If you counted correctly, they are 15 doors in one dock!

All USB ports are version 3.1 and provide 7.5W of power each. At the rear, one of the Thunderbolt 3 supports up to 85W and is the one that connects to the Mac (a 0.5m cable for that is already included in the box), while the other provides 15W of power – perfect for quick recharging of iPhones 8 , 8 Plus and X, as well as to power iPads.

Obviously, to support all of this, the TS3 Plus also needs to be connected to power, and its power adapter (bivolt) is nothing small – almost the size of the dock itself. On the other hand, you can “retire” the original MacBook adapter [Pro], because it is the dock that starts to power the computer. That is, with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable you power your Mac and open up this incredible range of connectivity.

All of this is possible thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 interface, which happens to use the same connector as the USB-C standard. It has a bandwidth of up to 40Gbit / s (5GB / s), enough to make fast data transfers and also to power up to two external 4K monitors at 60Hz each (or a 4K at 120Hz, or a 5K at 60Hz).

Using the TS3 Plus is very simple and straightforward. With it connected to power and the Mac, a small blue LED lights up on its front and then you already know that you can connect whatever you want to all your ports. That is, I now occupy only one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports that my MacBook Pro has, and in the dock are connected my external HDD, the iPhone, the iPad and the Logitech speakers that I am testing. This on a daily basis, of course; when necessary, it is very practical to insert a memory card in the front, connect a USB stick or something like that.

In my first tests, I noticed that my iGadgets they were not reloading very quickly. In contact with CalDigit support, I was instructed to download and install a driver package available on this page, which not only improves the recharge performance of iPhones / iPads, but also adds support for the Apple SuperDrive and the Apple Keyboard. I thought it was weird to have to install this, but it actually solved the problem.

I do not intend to take the TS3 Plus wherever I go, that is not the proposal for such a product. I installed it on my desk and, when I sit here, just connect a single Thunderbolt 3 cable to the Mac so that it is powered and I have access to all my peripherals. When traveling, I will still use the original MacBook Pro power adapter and, eventually, some adapter.

The dock itself is not the most beautiful, but it is superfunctional and fulfills its promise absurdly well. You can position it on the table both vertically and horizontally, as you prefer, just “install” a few non-slip silicone feet wherever you want. The proposal is not to decorate the table, but to be a valuable utility for mainly professional use.

The TS3 Plus is on sale at the CalDigit online store and on Amazon.com, for $ 300; there is also a version that includes a 2m long Thunderbolt 3 cable, which is slightly more expensive. They ship directly to Brazil.