Plug your MacBook in and out of a multi-port docking station to swiftly add devices and external displays to your laptop. We tested a bunch to find the best USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks available to owners of the latest MacBook, MacBook Air (2018) and MacBook Pro.
If you use your laptop as your principal computer, you would do well to consider attaching at least one larger display to create a hybrid desktop/laptop setup (with a keyboard, mouse and printer all available via a single connection to your MacBook). You can turn that 13in laptop screen into an iMac-sized 27in or even larger monitor by adding an extra display – or add two large screens to extend your screen across your whole desk.
One problem with using a MacBook as your main PC is its lack of ports. The 12in MacBook has just one USB-C port, the new MacBook Air boasts two USB-C (actually the superior but visually identical Thunderbolt 3 standard) ports, and the latest MacBook Pro models feature either two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
You need one port for charging (albeit not all the time), and likely at least another to attach further devices (memory sticks, hard drives, an adapter for Ethernet, external display).
There are many cheap adapters that let you add devices to a USB-C MacBook (see our roundup of the best USB-C adapters), but for maximum flexibility check out these docking stations that take care of all your extra port requirements, and allow you to simply attach it to your laptop with just one cable when you get to the office or come home.
First, a quick note on the different types of USB-C.
Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C dock compatibility
Plain USB-C runs at either 5Gbps or 10Gbps, while Thunderbolt 3 hits speeds of 40Gbps. You can hook up a Thunderbolt 3 laptop to a USB-C dock but you won't access the faster speeds unless you buy a true Thunderbolt 3 dock. And you can't connect a 5GBps or 10Gbps USB-C laptop to a Thunderbolt 3 dock.
Apple's 12in MacBook features one 5Gbps Gen 1 USB-C port, while the latest MacBook Air (2018 and later) and MacBook Pro (from 2016) boast two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
USB PD: Power Delivery for your laptop
Look out for a dock with USB PD. The PD stands for Power Delivery.
Charging the laptop: The 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Air require a PD with at least 30W power. The 13in MacBook Pro charges at full speed at 61W; the 15in MacBook Pro at 87W.
Charging the docked devices: Some docks don't feature an external power source but actually use your laptop to draw power from. Add too many devices to one of these docks and you may well experience power issues, as USB-C can handle just 7.5W bus-device power while Thunderbolt 3 can passback 15W.
USB-C docking station benefits
It makes it much easier to use your laptop in two locations, as it can easily be connected into and out of the dock – although you might need a dock at each end for similar setups. And you can use it as a base for hot-desking or multi-laptop home-office setups where one person can quickly attach their laptop to the mouse, keyboard, screen and printer as soon as another has detached.
The inclusion of an SD Card reader isn't just for camera buffs. It's a convenient and affordable way to add storage to your laptop setup. We found a 512GB Samsung Evo microSD card on Amazon for under £150 in the UK and $130 in the US. That's a very cheap way of adding half a terabyte of portable storage. For more details read up on our best microSD cards.
These MacBook docking stations look and work great with a laptop stand, and we’ve also tested some MacBook-friendly stands that lack all the extra ports but keep your MacBook/Air/Pro upright and out of the way: further saving valuable desk space, reducing clutter, keeping your laptop cool, and saving it from spills.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus)
More powerful than a simple USB-C dock, the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus features the superior (but otherwise physically indistinguishable) Thunderbolt 3 connectors that can run two external displays in Extended mode (via one cable to the laptop) and charge at 85W so makes a great companion to Apple’s 15in MacBook Pro.
It's packed with ports, front and back, featuring two 40Bbps Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-C ports (one at 5Gbps and the other Gen2 port at 10Gbps), five old-style USB-A (3.1) ports, a DisplayPort 1.2, an SD Card Reader, Digital Optical Audio (S/PDIF), Analog Audio In (Stereo) and Analog Audio Out (Stereo), plus a Gigabit Ethernet port.
Like most of the other docks here, it's pretty dinky so won't take up too much space on your desk. Available in Silver and Space Gray, it matches the colours if not quite the smooth design of Apple's laptops. Apple has now started selling the TS3 at just £229.95 or $249.95 in the US.
We recommend the TS3 Plus for owners of the most recent MacBook Pro models that include the 40Gbps Thunderbolt ports.
Read our full CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus) review
Henge Docks Stone Docking Station
With the Henge Stone you can connect multiple devices, plus Ethernet connection and displays, in one great-looking docking station.
Stone features three old-school USB-A (USB 3.1) ports, one Mini DisplayPort, audio/Mic, Gigabit Ethernet, power supply at full 87W, an SD Card reader, and two USB-C connections (one In, one Out).
It's plain USB-C rather than Thunderbolt 3, but we still managed to run two displays in Extended mode, albeit with two USB-C cables going into the MacBook Pro rather than one, which you get with the CalDigit TS3 Plus and its Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The Stone dock the best-looking of the docks tested here, matching Apple's aesthetic both in colour and smooth design.
Read our full Henge Docks Stone Docking Station review
CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 miniDock
The CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 miniDock proves its value over cheaper USB-C docks by offering full power to connected devices and being capable of running two 4K displays at 60Hz (via either dual HDMI or dual DisplayPort).
The miniDock Dual DisplayPort (£124.99 / US$119.99 / €129.99) features the two DisplayPort slots, plus Ethernet port and one USB-A ports (5Gbps, 4.5W power).
The miniDock Dual HDMI (£134.99 / US$129.99 / €139.99) features the two HDMI ports, plus Ethernet port and two USB-A ports: one at 5Gbps (4.5W power) and one at 480Gbps (2.5W power).
Crucially, because of they boast the superior Thunderbolt 3 to the identical but weaker USB-C, the two miniDocks can run 4K at 60Hz, which is preferable for watching sports and high-action movies as well as gaming. Non-Thunderbolt 3 USB-C docks can handle two 4K displays, but only at 30Hz resolution.
Note that the miniDock draws its power from the laptop rather than requiring its own power supply. If you require a Thunderbolt 3 docking station with fully powered supply, consider the CalDigit TS3 Plus, which can charge at 85W and boasts more ports.
Read our full CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 miniDock review
StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking station
The StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking station is, as the name suggests, for laptops that sport the fast (40Gbps) Thunderbolt 3 version of USB-C. It won't work for slower (5-10Gbps) USB-C laptops, such as the 12 MacBook.
It's longer than the other docking stations reviewed here, but it does pack a lot of ports!
It has enough slots and features for even the most-demanding laptop user: five USB-A slots (one on the front with Fast Charge), two 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 5Gbps USB-C port, a DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, SD Card reader (so you can add inexpensive storage), and a 3.5mm headphone mini-jack port.
Best of all, being built for Thunderbolt 3, it can connect two external 4K displays at 60Hz, so perfect for rich graphics and fast gaming action. One of the monitors can connect via the DisplayPort. You'll likely need an adapter to connect the second port via the spare Thunderbolt 3 port unless the display has a USB-C port too.
The list price of £500/$400 is steep, but you'll find it below £300/$300 at Amazon; see the Buy links above.
Read our full StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking station review.
Plugable USB-C Mini Docking Station
None of the docking stations reviewed here is bulky, and the Plugable USB-C Mini Docking station is certainly “mini”, although larger than a simple USB-C adapter.
It measures 9.5cm-x-8.9cm-3.2cm (3.75in-x-3.5in-x-1.25in) and is super lightweight, until you add the larger power brick it requires for charging. It's a nondescript black box, unlike some of the fancier docks we tested, but it includes a VESA Mount so can be attached behind compatible monitors, or with compatible VESA-mounting stations - something we haven't seen with other docks..
The charging is important, though, and the dock can muster the full 85W you need for fast charging of a top-end 15in MacBook Pro and any other MacBook.
In that neat-little box there are: four USB-A ports (three at the rear and one on the front); a USB-C port for connecting and charging your laptop; a Gigabit Ethernet port; an HDMI port for adding an external display; and 3.5mm headphone/mic jack.
As a docking station the Plugable is easy to set up, and you can quickly swap different USB-C laptops in and out in a hot-desk or home-office environment.
It’s cheaper than other docking stations tested here, but is less able in some respects.
It uses the 5Gbps USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 standard, so doesn’t match the data bandwidth of the MacBook Pro’s superior 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 (or Gen 2’s 10Gbps), but it is still compatible with all Apple’s MacBooks.
Note also, that the HDMI port can output 3,840×2,160 4K only at 30Hz; for 60Hz, it has to scale back to 2,560×1,440 pixels.
Targus Dock410 USB-C Docking Station
One of the first USB-C docks on the market, the Targus Dock410 has a mass of ports at its sides and rear, including: 1 Gigabit Ethernet; 2 DisplayPort outputs; 1 DVI-D output; 1 HDMI output; 1 USB-C (3.1 Gen 1) port; 3 x USB-A 3.0 ports (one powered for fast charging); and 1 minijack audio input/output.
Targus suggests considering using just one external display with the Dock410 - not because of limitations with the hardware itself, but because of the variable experience you get with different USB-C laptops and tablets. In fact, we were able to run two displays by adding extra adapters, but this didn't work as smoothly as with the Henge or CalDigit docks.
It's a bit boxier in looks than the Henge Stone or CalDigit TS3 Plus, but it is still small enough not to overpower your desk. It charges the laptop at a maximum 60W.
Read our full Targus Dock410 review.
Moshi Symbus Compact USB-C Dock
The Moshi Symbus Compact USB-C Dock can connect a MacBook or any USB-C laptop to an HDMI monitor, wired internet (via Ethernet), and older USB-A peripherals such a keyboard, mouse, printer, or hard drive.
Compared to some of the docking stations reviewed here, it has minimal ports: one HDMI ([email protected], [email protected]), one Gigabit Ethernet, and two old-school USB-A ports (5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1).
Thunderbolt-3 compatible, it charges at up to 50W, which is plenty for the 12in MacBook and all models of MacBook Air, but not full-speed charging for either the 13in or 15in MacBook Pro.
If the port selection and charging power is enough for your planned setup, then the Moshi Symbus is a dinky dock (11.5-x-7.1-x-2.9cm) that looks great in stylish, silvery aluminium trim.
The 50cm (19.5in) USB-C cable that connects to your laptop is not detachable, so check whether this is long enough for you.
Moshi Symbus Q Compact USB-C Dock
Also from Moshi, and almost identical in looks and features is the Symbus Q compact USB-C dock.
The difference is genius. The top of the dock features a cushioned and non-slip wireless charging pad that you can rest your phone on and start charging it without the need to take up one of the USB slots or find that pesky charging cable.
Qi-certified, it can charge through cases up to 5mm in thickness, and supports Apple’s 7.5W and Samsung’s 10W fast charging.
And like its non-wireless sibling, it supports full USB PD (Power Delivery) functionality for fast-charging (up to 50W) your USB-C laptop.
OneAdapter EVRI Pro USB-C Hub with 4K HDMI
Designed for the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro, the OneAdapter EVRI Pro USB-C Hub with 4k HDMI is not a full a docking station in the same way as the larger products tested here.
It's much more compact and portable, and is really more an "adapter" than a "dock" - but it can handle the same role, although only with the 2018 and later MacBook Pro models. The other docking stations offer more ports and a more flexible cable connection to different laptops.
The EVRI Pro features a USB-C Power Delivery (PD) port (40Gbps), a non-PD USB-C port (5Gbps), two USB-A 3.0 ports, 4K HDMI, and a SD/Micro card reader, which might be enough for many people.
The MacBook Pro (2018 and onwards) features a high-bandwidth (40Gbps) version of USB-C called Thunderbolt 3 for faster data transfer. Most portable adapters feature the less-powerful Gen 1 (5Gbps) or Gen 2 (10GBps) versions, but the EVRI Pro boasts the full 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 type for the PD port. The second USB-C port is the slower 5Gbps type.
It fits into the MacBook Pro's two Thunderbolt 3 slots but gives these back, so you don't lose out, while still offering the extra other ports.
The 4K HDMI port means you can connect an HDMI cable from the adapter to an external display. To connect two displays you will need an additional USB-C to HDMI adapter or use a monitor with USB-C input and connect by the second port.
And, unlike the other docking stations, you can carry it with you as a more humble USB-C adapter on your travels.