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Review: Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus by CalDigit

J a good couple of years ago Apple has been All-in USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, and nowadays all new MacBooks (Pro) s have one or more of these ports. Here in my case, a 15 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar 2016, only four two on each side. In addition to these, the only physical connectivity I have left is a 3.5mm headphone jack (for now).

I will not go here again in all this polemic about Apple's decision. The fact that the owner of such a machine can hardly "live" without any adapter, dongle or hub, either to connect any peripheral or even to recharge the iPhone / iPad which, for now, still come standard with only 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 it all in an absurdly practical way, at least when I'm working at my main desk. 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 no ports missing from this dock. In front we have a slot for SD card (UHS-II, not bad), an analogue audio input and output, 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 exactly, just 15 doors in one s 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 the one that connects to the Mac (a 0.5m cable is already included in the box), while the other provides 15W of perfect power for fast charging of iPhones 8, 8 Plus and X, as well as to power iPads.

Obviously, to support this all the TS3 Plus must also be connected to power, and its adapter out (bivolt) Not at all almost the size of the dock itself. On the other hand, you can “retire” the original MacBook (Pro) adapter because it is the dock that powers the computer. That is, with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable you power your Mac and open 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 (either one 4K at 120Hz, or one 5K at 60Hz).

The use of TS3 Plus very simple and straightforward. With it plugged in and the Mac, a small blue LED lights up on its front and you know you can plug in anything 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 on the dock are connected my external HDD, iPhone, iPad, and the Logitech speakers I'm testing. This in everyday life, of course; when it's necessary, it's very practical to insert a memory card up front, attach a thumb drive or whatever.

In my first tests, I noticed that my iGadgets They weren't recharging very quickly. In contact with CalDigit support, I was directed to download and install a driver package available on this page, which not only enhances the charging performance of iPhones / iPads, but also adds support for the Apple SuperDrive and Apple Keyboard. I found it kind of weird having to install it, but it actually solved the problem.

I do not intend to take TS3 Plus wherever I go, this is not the proposal of such a product. I installed it on my desk, and when I sit here, just plug in a single Thunderbolt 3 cable to the Mac to get it 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 one of the most beautiful, but superfunctional and delivers on its promise. You can place it on the table both vertically and horizontally as you prefer by simply “fitting” a few non-slip silicone feet wherever you want. The purpose is not to decorate the table, but to be a valuable utility for mainly professional use.

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