CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt Dock Review

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CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt Dock Review

Image credit: Collin Probst/Future

Unparalleled Thunderbolt dock 

In every field, there is an ideal candidate. In particular, there is always one device in every equipment category that serves as the benchmark against which all other items compete. Regarding Thunderbolt docks, everyone agrees that CalDigit’s TS line has been killing it for years. We tested the excellent CalDigit TS3 dock in January 2019—almost five years ago. The TS4 has made it even better. Regarding the best laptop docking stations, it has improved in certain aspects and eventually received a 5-star rating from TechRadar Pro, but it hasn’t addressed every issue with the TS3.

First Impressions

Image credit: Collin Probst/Future

The CalDigit TS4 unboxing process was dull, but that didn’t bother me. Although I confess to being an Apple fan, not every product unwrapping can match the visual appeal of a brand-new Apple iPhone. The dock is the first thing that catches my eye when I take up the new CalDigit TS4. It wasn’t until I stepped foot on the pier and opened the box that the quality of the renowned TS4 Dock by CalDigit became crystal clear. The TS4 is brazenly sturdy without being annoying.

On the contrary, it has an air of superior craftsmanship, longevity, and sheer force. You can get the CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock (Download) at Amazon for US$399.95; just like a Ford F250 Diesel feels like it can drive forever, a Jeep can travel and maneuver unfamiliar terrain, or a MacBook Pro can be a workhorse laptop that can rely on even the most demanding production duties.

I have reviewed a considerable number of docks. Fancy docks sometimes have a cheap, gimmicky vibe, are overly plasticky, seem like they could break easily, or don’t look good. A new CalDigit TS4 has arrived. It is a long-term investment that will serve me well throughout my career, regardless of my challenges. I’ve been through it all:

✔ Docks that wouldn’t work.
Hard drives that weren’t even portable.
✔ Computers that wouldn’t turn on.

Regarding the TS4, I have complete faith that it will consistently deliver the desired results.

Design

Image credit: Collin Probst/Future

A metal box, the CalDigit TS4, can be used horizontally or vertically. To further secure my TS4 in place when I placed it horizontally on my Grovemade Desk shelf, CalDigit even provided bumpers that I could attach to the underside of the dock. The port arrangement is another example of purposeful design that goes beyond the outward appearance of this dock. My desks have become more cluttered due to the upstream/host USB-C/Thunderbolt connector placement on the front of several docks I’ve used. While this arrangement has been used, a front port tends to clutter up most desk arrangements.

So that the front of the TS4 can remain uncluttered, CalDigit mounted all of the “plug it and forget about it” ports to its rear unless absolutely necessary. There is plenty of room on the rear for my speakers, Ethernet port, display, a couple of USB-A devices, and any Thunderbolt devices I may have without clogging up my desktop. I no longer worry about anything blocking the front of my TS4 when I need to connect to a thumb drive, SSD, headphones, or SD card. I enjoy keeping the front of this dock uncluttered most of the time; I only use it when I have an urgent need for anything.

One possible drawback for consumers is that this dock requires an HDMI out. I connected my monitor using one of its Thunderbolt ports; another is a DisplayPort, but it lacks an HDMI port. Although this may be insignificant to some, it could be problematic for individuals who depend on HDMI to power their displays.

In Use

The TS4 has performed as anticipated. Nothing has gone wrong. The abundance of ports has been fantastic, and I am confident that this dock will continue functioning well. I currently use this dock with a desk arrangement with only one monitor. This display was connected to one of the two additional Thunderbolt ports accessible alongside the host port through the use of Thunderbolt. My Logi bolt plug, gig internet (via ethernet), and main power supply were all connected.

This dock’s power delivery is another great feature. My Apple Watch, camera, phone, and more have changed. The amount of power that can be extracted from this dock is astounding. The 98W total laptop power output and the high-speed charging ports all over the device make this dock far faster than other docks I’ve used. My various devices charge at a much faster rate now.

Further, I’ve found that these peripherals keep working or charging even when I remove my laptop from the host port. The charging ports on many docks are only functional when a computer or other host device is connected or “online” charging. I can leave my laptop unplugged and go about my day knowing that my devices will keep charging until they are fully charged with the CalDigit TS4, thanks to its offline charging capability.

The front of this dock features an SD and MicroSD card port, which is convenient for rapid access, and I’ll mention it last. I have no trouble transferring data to my 3D printer, dumping images from my camera, etc.  Access to all of these ports has been beneficial; they elevate the performance of my MacBook Air and eliminate the need for many adapters and dongles.

Final Thoughts

In particular, compared to the upgraded and enhanced remarkable CalDigit TS3, the CalDigit TS4 has lived up to my exceedingly high standards for docking stations. This dock is ideal for almost everyone; the only person I might not suggest it to is someone who doesn’t require a dock.

Let’s start a discussion

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best portable SSDsCalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 DockDesk supportHDMISSDTS3
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