A useful Thunderbolt docking station for your desktop or laptop

The desktop laptop is more common, useful and attainable than ever. All you need is the right docking station.

As more and more of us work from home or split our time between home and office, a laptop is essential. But financially, it’s something of a nightmare, especially if you’re using it on your lap. The answer is the desktop laptop, a laptop that connects to peripherals, like a Transformer, to become more powerful, more useful and more comfortable.

“I use a Thunderbolt docking station to organize my setup. Before my office seemed to be drowning in a sea of ​​cables. Now everything is cleaned up because the docking station gives me a central place to plug in my cables and keep them out of the way ,” explains Shawn Gonzales, IT sales manager and Thunderbolt docking enthusiast, via email.

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The desktop laptop

There are several ways to connect your laptop to a monitor, keyboard and mouse/trackpad/trackball, speakers and other peripherals you need. The most common is probably a docking station of one type or another. USB-C docks are decent, but often unreliable, especially if you rely on them for an Ethernet network connection.

“I have not had good experiences with these adapters or any other USB network dongle. A Thunderbolt NIC or nothing,” tweeted Paul Haddad, Mac user, app developer and Thunderbolt fan.

The best, but certainly not the cheapest, option is a Thunderbolt dock.

Brydge’s new Thunderbolt 4 ProDock is probably the most convenient way to connect a MacBook to a desktop. Like all Thunderbolt docking stations, only one connection is needed between the docking station and the computer, and it carries data and charges the laptop. The difference here is that the connection is not a cable. Rather, it is a Thunderbolt connection mounted inside the device. Just slide the MacBook into the slot, like putting sliced ​​bread into a toaster, and you’re done.

When docked, your 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro or MacBook Air M2 will charge at high speed and have access to a combination of USB-C, Thunderbolt, Ethernet and audio ports. You can even place your iPhone on the front foot of the docking station’s base and charge it via MagSafe. With one of these devices at work and another at home, you can leave everything connected to the dock, including a monitor, external drives, networks and more.

The downside is that it costs $400. Hyper’s new Thunderbolt 4 Power Hub is a cheaper option, but with a regular cable connection. It only offers three Thunderbolt ports in addition to the one used to connect to the computer, but costs $179. It also uses a GaN power source. Most Thunderbolt docking stations (maybe all) use a lot of power and get very hot.

I have the Caldigit TS3+ which is great but gets hot and needs a big power brick that you have to hide somewhere behind the desk. Even the newer TS4 model uses one. The use of GaN makes everything much more compact, practical and energy efficient.

Or Studio Display

Another option is to use a screen as a hub. Depending on the model, you can connect your laptop to the monitor with a single cable and then connect your external devices to ports on the monitor itself. These ports are often limited compared to dedicated docking stations, but if you already have a monitor at home or in the office, it’s hard to beat the price.

For Mac users, Studio Display is a good option. Connecting to your Mac is via Thunderbolt, which gives you plenty of bandwidth for all connected devices. The screen has built-in speakers, a webcam and three USB-C ports on the back. And of course, it’s designed for the Mac, so the integration is deep, with True Tone (matching screen colors to their actual surroundings) and the ability to change brightness and volume from the Mac. .

The completely wireless option

Another option is to go wireless. You can connect a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, place your laptop on a stand at eye level and use it with wireless speakers, Wi-Fi and more. You’ll need to charge it from time to time, but if you’re using one of Apple’s latest MacBooks, you can do so with a MagSafe connector, even if you don’t need to charge it at all. – MacBook M1 and M2 batteries can usually last all day unless you use very demanding software.

No matter how you connect things, the desktop-to-laptop lifestyle is only gaining credibility. You have all your data on one device, no matter where or how you use it, and with virtually no compromise on performance. And with Thunderbolt and reliable display connections, you really do get the best of both worlds.

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