Kensington Thunderbolt 3 dock is best for Windows (review)
Kensington’s SD5200DT Thunderbolt 3 dock has proven it is equally at home plugged into a Windows or Mac device.
2018 is the year of Thunderbolt 3. Almost every new model laptop and tablet has adopted the 40Gb/s, USB-C connection for data and power delivery enabling smaller, thinner devices.
The downside is that almost all expandability requires add-on dongles or docks to get additional HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, and more.
As GadgetGuy found some docks like the OWC are “Best for Mac” and includes a lot of exclusive Apple features like legacy Firewire 800 and S/PDIF ports.
The Kensington SD5200DT is “Best for Windows”. It also has a Mac-specific version SD5000T (not tested). I can’t see any external difference, but I suspect it uses more Mac compatible circuitry.
We tested with both a MacBook Pro 13.3 (2017) and a Windows 10, HP EliteBook, x360, 1030 G2 (2017). Mac passed with flying colours. This unit has 85W USB power delivery, so it will handle the MacBook Pro 15” as well.
What we were most impressed with was that the HP saw the device and loaded all the appropriate drivers without missing a beat. The Kensington also met the power requirements of the HP which while only 65W would not work with many other brands of docks.
- 2 x USB-C – use one to connect to the computer and the second for Thunderbolt 3 out and daisy chain up to five devices
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x USB-A front port with 5V/2.1A charging
- 1 x USB-A rear port with 5V/1A charging
- 1 x USB-C 3.1, Gen 1, 5Gb/s and 15W charging
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 5mm separate headphone and mic jacks
- Kensington Lock slot
- Optional VESA mount for zero-footprint
In the box
- 20V power brick
- .5m USB-C/Thunderbolt cable (note that 40Gb/s can only be achieved at up to this distance without using a more expensive active cable)
- Base documentation
The first impression is that it is solid and well built. While I would have preferred more USB-A ports, the 2.1A port makes up for that as you can safely attach a small passive hub if you need it. Also, many HD and 4K monitors have USB powered ports.
How to connect monitors
USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 standard assumes that all graphics processing is done via the host computer. The limitation on one or two external monitors is determined by the computer’s GPU.
How to connect a single up to 5K monitor
The DisplayPort 1.2 supports sound and video up to 5K over the one cable. You can get DisplayPort to HDMI or VGA/DVI adapters/cables.
How to connect dual, up to 4K monitors at up to 4096 x 2160, 30-bit colour at 60Hz
(Tested with LG 34UC98 and an HP Z34c – both 21:9, 3440 x 1440 panels with DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0)
The first monitor connects to the DisplayPort. The second uses a USB-C/Thunderbolt cable (note it must be active if you want to run it over .5m) to a Thunderbolt 3 monitor or an adaptor (USB-C to HDMI/VGA/DVI etc.).
Ethernet was a rock solid 1Gb/s.
It was difficult to test the 40Gb/s (5,000 MB/s) Thunderbolt 3 claim. Attaching a Samsung T3 1TB drive gave an amazing and consistent write speed of 400MB/s (the theoretical maximum rate is 450MB/s), so all I can surmise is that the port is very fast.
Interestingly the T3 also achieved that speed on the USB-A port proving its 5GB/s capacity.
I like Kensington Docks – I have tested many over the years, and they all work flawlessly.
I have been testing various docks on both Mac and Windows, and this is the only one so far that we can unreservedly recommend as “Best for Windows”.
- Worked flawlessly with a Windows 10 laptop (many docks do not)
- Provides 85W power upstream
- Well built
- Kensington Lock slot
- Very large power brick weight as much as the dock
- Short .5m USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 cable provided (you need an active 1m cable)
- Would have liked an HDMI port as well but realise the Thunderbolt 3 standard does not support this
As a Windows 10 dock – the OWC has more ports and Apple specific flexibility
- Overall: 4.8 out of 5
- Features: 4 out of 5 – it has all you need, but I would have liked tow more USB-A
- Value for money: 5 out of 5 – about the same cost as other docks
- Performance: 5 out of 5 – in all tests it met specifications
- Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – if it has an HDMI port as well it would be perfect
- Design: 5 out of 5 – Matt black and brushed aluminium