What is a computer dock? In what way is it different to a mere expansion device or adaptor? There’s no clear dividing line, but without a doubt the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD is a dock. For any of the new MacBook Pro computers.
You will recall that Thunderbolt 3 is the latest in the Apple-centric Thunderbolt data connection standard. It supports displays, all manner of USB peripherals, and power, and it uses the reversible USB Type-C connector. Increasingly notebook computers are switching over using the Thunderbolt 3 – or at least a USB Type-C – port for charging, in addition to attaching peripheral devices.
It’s a bit hard to see what else could be needed to turn a single Thunderbolt 3 port into a fully capable hub for connectivity than what’s offered by the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock. On the front it has a 3.5mm audio connection headphones or headset (it supports a microphone connection) and a standard USB Type-A socket with support for USB 3.0.
On the back are two more of the USB Type-A sockets, a 3.5mm headphone output, two Thunderbolt 3 sockets, a Display Port socket and an Ethernet connection with support for gigabit network speeds.
One of the Thunderbolt 3 sockets will be used to connect the Dock to the computer. The other can be used for any Thunderbolt stuff, not least for supplying video to a display. In fact using one of those and the Display Port socket, you can connect two 4K displays.
I like the wired network option. Even the latest WiFi standards rarely deliver the speeds printed on the equipment boxes thanks to spectrum crowding, and the more network activity that can be offloaded onto wiring makes things less crowded for devices restricted to wireless-only connectivity (like your phone).
The Dock comes with a 170 watt power supply so that it can supply plenty of power to everything plugged into it, including the computer to which it will deliver 85 watts. The included cable supports data speeds of up to 40 gigabits per second in addition to those 85 watts of power.
I initially assumed that this would work with any computer with a fully functional Thunderbolt 3 connection. But it has apparently been engineered to work only with Macs. Must be something to do with the hardware because there is some user experience saying it works fine with Windows running on a Mac using BootCamp.
The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD is available from Apple Stores or Apple’s online store for $529.