Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Dock review: A compact port extender for Mac
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Launched into a crowded field, Satechi’s new Thunderbolt 4 Dock not only provides legacy ports, but also more Thunderbolt.
Most people go through a time when there never seem to be enough ports for the devices they use every day. There’s always a new gadget that catches the eye, making people think “This will be perfect for my workflow” before they swear as they start the game of cable musical chairs. Still.
This is especially true when it comes to laptops and tablets, as it’s a never-ending cycle. But luckily, there are options to help us mitigate the shuffle.
Thunderbolt has come a long way over the past decade. Thunderbolt 3 was perhaps the ultimate delivery of Apple’s “one cable fits everything” promise, adding power delivery to a host computer to the mix. But, at the time, it was a daisy chain protocol.
With the appearance of Thunderbolt 4, several hubs are entering the market as all-in-one solutions with more than just power and legacy port multiplication. Now they can also be Thunderbolt port extenders.
Satechi’s Thunderbolt 4 docking station is one of the latest generations of docking stations with true Thunderbolt hub functionality – and Satechi lent AppleInsider with a Thunderbolt 4 dock to take along for an extended test drive.
What’s in the box?
To keep everything simple and straightforward, the box contains the Thunderbolt 4 docking station, a US power adapter and a single short Thunderbolt 4 cable to get you started. It might sound a little sparse, but that’s all you need to get started with this dock.
Right out of the box, it’s easy to appreciate the overall design and feel of the dock. It has a sleek aluminum and glossy black plastic design that pairs well with other Apple-centric hardware and desktop peripherals.
The dock’s overall footprint at 8 inches by 5 inches doesn’t require a massive amount of desk area to accommodate it.
The docking station is solid, and the rubber pads on the bottom of the docking station are a welcome feature for those who tend to lose components behind the desk while moving other peripherals and items around.
MacBook Pro M2, MacBook Air M2, MacBook Pro M1 2021, MacBook Pro 2020/2019/2018/2017/2016, MacBook Air M1 2020, MacBook Air 2018, iMac M1 2021, iMac 2019/2017, iMac Pro, iPad Pro M1 2021 , iPad Pro 2020/2018, iPad Air 2020, Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, Microsoft Surface Pro 8.
On the front of the dock is a Thunderbolt 4 host port, which connects to your Mac and can supply 96 watts of power. This will charge all current MacBook models, including the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The front also has a USB-A 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo port, and a UHS-II SD card reader for offloading photos.
On the back are three Thunderbolt 4 ports that can output 15W each, along with three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a security port, and a power connection.
The Thunderbolt 4 Dock is truly plug-and-play, with no additional proprietary software, drivers, or hardware required for setup. The docking station is plug and play, you plug in the cables and external power source, and you can be up and running in minutes.
On the desk
The primary Mac used for the review is a 2018 Mac mini. While better than the M1 Mac mini when it comes to port selection, once you really start loading it up for professional work, it’s time for more of ports.
The Thunderbolt 4 Dock solved some of my day-to-day problems almost immediately. From multiple Thunderbolt 4 ports to additional rear USB ports, this unit has replaced and simplified my entire peripheral and cable management approach for my home workspace.
Like many home office setups, this desk used an odd Frankenstein combination of cables and workarounds with multiple hubs, some with external power and some without. Now everything works, loads and works exactly as expected, and there are still several ports open if there is a need to add a new piece to the collection.
Three USB-C devices can connect to the dock, with up to 40 gigabits per second of data transfer and 15W of charging with each port, depending on whether they’re Thunderbolt-enabled and what other devices are also connected at the docking station. This is handy for external hard drives, device charging, etc., and offers much more flexibility.
And, of course, bandwidth is still limited to Thunderbolt’s inherent 40 gigabit connection. It doesn’t appear often, and certainly less often than a 10 gigabit USB-C hub manifests the problem.
After three weeks of using the Thunderbolt 4 Dock, there were no technical issues. It’s been rock solid so far – but we’ll get back to it if any issues arise.
While offering great port coverage, capable of handling a number of connections through a single Thunderbolt 4 connection to the host, it lacks one common port type: HDMI.
Heavily used in displays, as well as televisions, having at least one would have been a handy addition to the list, and one that could have easily slipped into an empty space to one side.
That said, it supports multiple displays connected to its Thunderbolt ports with a USB-C to HDMI or DisplayPort cable. At most, that can be two monitors at once, each of which can be at 4K resolution and 60Hz refresh rate.
This external display support may be further limited depending on the Apple Silicon chip used. Apple’s core M1 and M2 chips are limited to two screens in total. But, on our Intel Mac Mini and a 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 Max test, support for two 4K displays is a welcome addition.
Price and value
As wonderful as the Thunderbolt 4 Dock’s home-use features are, it will really shine in makeshift offices and on-the-go travel workspaces. The unit is durable without being a brick, and even with the power brick on it will easily move around in laptop bags, briefcases, and backpacks for meetings, conventions, and work situations from a distance.
The Thunderbolt 4 Dock retails for $299, which matches other Thunderbolt peripherals in its class. When you consider all the benefits and weigh the cost against the myriad of technologies cluttering your office or travel workspaces, the Satechi Thunderbolt 4 docking station is a must-have.
Advantages of the Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station
- Multiple Thunderbolt 4 ports
- Multiple USB Ports
- Versatility with SSD cards and additional audio port
- Easy plug-and-play
- Backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and future proof for Thunderbolt 4
- Robust and portable design
Disadvantages of Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station
- No HDMI ports
- The docking station only supports up to two external monitors at a time (maximum resolution is set to 4K at 60Hz)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
You can buy the Satechi Thunderbolt 4 docking station on Amazon, at the price at $299.