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Just like any piece of widespread technology, Apple’s MacBook Pro is not without flaws. One of the primary complaints voiced by early adopters was the surprising lack of port functionality due to Apple’s decision to forgo the familiar USB and Thunderbolt ports for largely unfamiliar USB-C ports. Unless you have one of the latest Pro models with an additional HDMI port and SDXC card slot, you will be stuck with primarily USB Type-C ports. While these new ports indeed provide more power and speed, they’re also largely incompatible with many of our devices, cables, and adapters—making things exceedingly difficult for those of us who need to connect several external devices simultaneously. Of course, you have the option of investing in several expensive and cumbersome adaptors in order to bridge this gap, but that will inevitably take a toll on both your wallet and the weight of your backpack when you’re on the go. A far more reasonable move is to invest in one of the many docking stations or hubs that have been developed over the years. These stations offer the convenience of connecting all of your peripheral devices directly to your laptop through a single USB-C connection, and many offer a portable design that allows you to bring them whenever you use your laptop outside of your home. Don’t let your new computer’s lack of the latest ports keep you from connecting all your go-to devices. Here are some of the best docking stations and external hubs money can buy you in 2022.
The CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 18-in-1 Hub might be on the pricier side, but you won’t be disappointed with it because it comes with a total of 18 ports. You will get one Thunderbolt 4/USB4 port that supports 98W charging and two more 15W downstream ports. It also has five USB Type-A 3.2 Gen2 ports (10Gbps). You can pick between one of the Thunderbolt 4 pots for your external display or use the DisplayPort 1.4. MacBook Pro owners can get a 6K resolution at 60Hz with a single monitor setup, but you’ll have to own a model with an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip if you want a dual setup at the same resolution and refresh rate. Those with the Pro models that were still Intel-based can get a dual monitor setup with a resolution of 4K at 60Hz. Sadly, owners of the MacBook Pro with the original M1 chip are limited to a single display setup. The hub features a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port that promises faster network speeds than a standard 1GbE port. It also has three regular USB Type-C 3.2 Gen2 ports, one of which supports up to 20W charging. Unlike other hubs that only come with a single SD card reader, the CalDigit TS4 also has a microSD slot. You get an accessible audio combo jack on the front of the hub and separate audio in/out ports at the back. The dock isn’t the most portable on the market because it will need to be connected to a power supply to work. Upon purchase, customers will get a free Thunderbolt 4 cable and rubber feet strips.
If you care about the speed of the ports of your USB hub, the Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station would be an ideal option for you. It stands out among its competitors because it already features Thunderbolt 4 technology. The hub comes with four Thunderbolt 4 ports, one of which is a host port that supports 90W power delivery. You might notice that it doesn’t have any standard HDMI ports, and it’s because you can use one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports to connect an external display. It supports a resolution of up to 8K at 30Hz, and up to 4K at 60Hz for a dual monitor setup. You have to remember that Apple’s chipsets have limitations, so you will only get to have a dual monitor setup if you have a MacBook Pro with the newer M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Unfortunately, the USB Type-C to HDMI cable or adapter isn’t included when you purchase the hub. The Kensington SD5700T also has three USB Type-A Gen2 ports with a maximum speed of 10Gbps and a USB Type-A (5V/1.5A) charging port. Users can also use its Ethernet port for establishing a wired internet connection, and it has an audio combo jack for connecting wired headphones or speakers. Those who often transfer footage from their camera memory cards will benefit from the hub’s UHS-II SD 4.0 card reader.
For those who don’t necessarily need the latest Thunderbolt 4 dock, the Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 Dock will be more than enough for you. It has a single Thunderbolt 3 port that supports up to 85W charging. The dock also comes with two USB Type-C 3.2 ports and two USB Type-A 3.1 ports. The Type-C ports have a maximum data transfer speed of 10 Gbps, while the Type-A ports are limited to 5 Gbps. It has two HDMI 2.0 ports that can support displays with a maximum resolution of 4K at 60Hz. You can have a single or dual monitor setup, but you’ll have to check beforehand if you own a MacBook Pro that supports a dual setup. The Corsair TBT100 features a UHS-II SD card reader that will make transferring photos and videos from your memory cards a breeze. Users won’t have trouble connecting their favorite headsets and microphones because the hub has a headphone/microphone combo jack. The dock doesn’t only offer multiple connection options; it will also satisfy you with its aesthetics. It has a modern and durable design that looks and feels premium. It’s undoubtedly a fantastic hub to own if you can afford its not-so-affordable price tag.
The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is an excellent USB hub to have if you’re using a MacBook Pro model that only has USB Type-C ports. This compact docking station has a compact and portable design, and its aluminum body ensures top-notch durability while making it look modern and stylish. The hub uses Thunderbolt 3 technology, mostly found on MacBook Pro models from 2016 until 2020. You will only have the faster Thunderbolt 4 ports if you have a 2021 model or later. This USB docking station is helpful because its two HDMI outputs support 4K monitors with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. Many people use their laptops for their workstations at home, but investing in an external monitor can help increase your productivity and make you feel like you’re working on a desktop. The hub also comes with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 Type-A ports. You can use such ports to connect the wireless receiver of a wireless mic, Type-A flash drives, Type-A cables, and more. Your MacBook Pro is reliable when connecting to Wi-Fi, but for those who want the best network performance possible, you can use the hub’s Gigabit Ethernet port. The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station may not have any USB Type-C ports, but you might already have all the Type-C ports you need on your MacBook Pro.
The EZQuest USB-C Multimedia Hub is perfect for those with a tight budget because it would only cost you about $60. This budget-friendly hub comes with eight ports, and even if it doesn’t have Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports, it still offers superb functionality thanks to its diverse port selection. It has a single USB Type-C port with 100W power delivery, which supports pass-thru charging until 85W. It isn’t as fast as Thunderbolt Type-C ports because it has a maximum data transfer speed of 5Gbps. The hub also comes with three USB Type-A 3.0 ports (5Gbps), and they have a shared power output of 10W when you use all three of them simultaneously. You also get one HDMI port that supports a 4K resolution up to 30 Hz. Sadly, you won’t get to use the hub for a dual monitor setup. Its Gigabit Ethernet port is unique because it has a dedicated LED indicator, so you know when you have a successful connection. The EZQuest USB-C Multimedia Hub also has slots for an SD and microSD card. The size and weight of the hub make it ideal for those who regularly bring their MacBook Pros with them to cafes, offices, etc.
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