Tue. Mar 5th, 2024


Your laptop can only house so many ports. If you have many peripherals, docking stations are the perfect solution to increase your port count. In this guide, we discuss the best docking stations on the market.


What to Look For in a Laptop Docking Station

There are ample docking stations on the market to confuse you. And with all the marketing jargon you see on product pages, zeroing in on the right docking platform can feel overwhelming.

For example, even though two docking stations offer an HDMI 2.0 port that supports 4K resolution and 60Hz refresh rate, one of them might not be compatible with your laptop. So before you look more closely, check if the docking station is compatible with your laptop.

Consider the number and types of ports in a docking station. The top docking stations offer more than four ports and include a decent variety of ports. Types of ports could include Thunderbolt 3, USB-A and USB-C, DisplayPort, HDMI, 3.5mm audio port, Ethernet port, and more.

If audio and video quality are important for your purpose of buying a docking station, check whether a docking station supports 4K resolution with 4K texture designs. For audio output, check if the docking station has a 3.5 jack.

Finally, consider the design. Choosing between a horizontal or vertical docking station is a matter of preference.

Considering these factors, we’ve narrowed down our list to five of the best laptop docking stations on the market. Regardless of what you need from a laptop docking station, you’ll find one that matches your needs in this guide.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

16

7

20

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CalDigit TS4 on a gradient background
CalDigit

Pros

Cons

18 ports

Expensive

98W Power Delivery

No HDMI

2.5 Gigabit Ethernet

DisplayPort v1.4 supports high refresh rates

The CalDigit TS4 offers nearly anything you would want from a docking station. From a whopping 18 ports, excellent data transfer speeds, and 98W Power Delivery for charging, CalDigit knocked it out of the park with the TS4.

In addition to the above, there are two downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports where you can add adapters for external displays. If you’re a Windows user, you can use an 8K display at 60Hz. On the other hand, Mac users can connect one 6K display at 60Hz or two 4K displays at 60Hz.

The DisplayPort v1.4 port, meanwhile, allows you to connect displays with high refresh rates. You can connect one 4K display at 144Hz or one display with a 2560×1440 resolution at 240Hz.

These might be overkill for most users at the moment, but they help to make the TS4 future-proof, as you’re not likely to need to upgrade to something more powerful soon.

But all these great features come with a hefty price tag, as CalDigit’s docking station is nearly $450. However, it’s a worthwhile investment for the best docking station on the market today.

caldigit dock

CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock

Best Docking Station Overall

$400 $450 Save $50

With 18 ports that include three Thunderbolt ports and a DisplayPort 1.4 that supports a 4K@144Hz display, CalDigit TS4 is the best docking station for laptops on the market.

Monoprice 13-in-1 docking station on a gradient background
Monoprice

Pros

Cons

12 ports

Inefficient port layout

100W Power Delivery

Slow SD card port (104Mbps)

Triple display support

Portable design

The Monoprice 12-in-1 Dual-HDMI is more of a hub (with plenty of ports) than a dock. It doesn’t use an external power supply and doesn’t offer a non-cabled USB-C Power Delivery port. However, it does offer a wide port selection at a low price.

This dock has four USB-A ports, UHS-I SD and microSD card readers, audio and mic jack, HDMI and DisplayPort ports, and more. For the price, Monoprice’s station gets all of the essentials and then some into a small package. You can even connect a USB-C charger with the dock’s Power Delivery In port to power the dock and provide 100W of Power Delivery to the host device.

All that said, the hub itself could use some design optimization. The hard-wired host cable blocks the 3.5mm audio/mic jack unless you place the dock a particular way, but then you see the HDMI ports and Power Delivery. That isn’t a deal-breaker and likely won’t bother most users, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Monoprice 13-in-1 Docking Station
Monoprice

Monoprice 12-in-1 Dual-HDMI + VGA MST Triple Monitor Docking Station

Best Budget Docking Station

Monoprice offers a helpful USB-C dock at a great price, provided you can deal with some design quirks.

Best Laptop Docking Station for Dual Monitor Use: CalDigit USB-C Gen2 Dock

caldigit USB-C Gen2 docking station on a gradient background
CalDigit

Pros

Cons

Dual display support (4K at 60Hz)

Sometimes the DisplayPort monitor doesn’t wake up from sleep

UHS-II SD and microSD card readers

Limited port variety

Passthrough charging

Durable aluminum build

The CalDigit USB-C Gen2 is an excellent pick if you’re looking for a dock that supports dual-monitor use. While the port selection is limited, you do get passthrough charging, a durable aluminum body, and UHS-II SD and microSD card readers.

This CalDigit dock includes two video out ports on the back: HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4. A Windows laptop with DisplayPort 1.4 supported through USB-C can handle dual extended 4K displays at 30Hz. Alternatively, you can mirror dual 4K displays at 60Hz each. If you’ll be using the dock to connect to a QHD display, you can expect a 144Hz refresh rate from both ports, since the USB-C Gen2 supports HDR10.

You even get independent video and data lanes, which means the dock can run your display and still be left with enough bandwidth for data transfer.

The only problem you’ll face when using this dock for your dual monitor setup is that after the laptop and display go into a sleep state, you can wake up only the laptop screen until you re-plug the DisplayPort cable.

CalDigit USB-C Gen2
CalDigit

CalDigit USB-C Gen2 Dock

Best Docking Station for Dual Monitor Use

CalDigit USB-C Gen2 Dock includes an HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4, allowing you to run two 4K displays at 30Hz or mirror dual 4K displays 60Hz.

Accell USB-C docking station on a gradient background
Accell

Pros

Cons

Compact

No audio ports

Supports a dual monitor setup

Resourceful port selection

The Accell USB-C Multiport Adapter is a compact USB-C adapter that looks more like a dongle than a docking station. It accommodates a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C, a USB 3.1 Type-A, a DisplayPort 1.4, and an HDMI port. But this resourceful port selection is perfect for setting up a mobile workstation wherever you go.

The USB-A port offers 10Gbps transfer speeds, which is perfect for external storage devices. This port also supports peripherals like printers, scanners, keyboards, and mice, so you can set up whatever you need to get your workstation up and running. Accell’s dock supports one 8K display at 120Hz or two 4K displays at 60Hz when both HDMI and DP ports are used simultaneously, so you’ll be able to use most monitors easily.

Unfortunately, the Multiport Adapter is missing something big—audio ports. If you need audio ports, you’ll have to look for another dock to suit your needs, but if you just need something compact while traveling, the Accell adapter is a great choice.

Accell USB-C Docking Station
Accell

Accell USB-C Multiport Adapter

Best Compact Laptop Docking Station

Accell USB-C Multiport Adapter is an excellent compact dock station that can power an external 8K display @120Hz. The USB ports offer 10Gbps transfer speeds and 90W of fast charging for your laptop or smartphone.

Kensington SD5780T docking station on a gradient background
Kensington

Pros

Cons

Two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports for downstream connectivity

Expensive

Excellent performance

One display port

No thermal issues

96W Power Delivery

Kensington’s SD5780 dock offers superior performance and doesn’t overheat easily. If you’re looking for a dock that can transfer data at high speeds using one of the two downstream USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports while maintaining a top-notch gaming and streaming experience during the data transfer, this docking station is an excellent pick.

The dock also houses four USB-A ports, one being optimized for smartphone charging. You also get a 2.5Gb Ethernet port, a UHS-II SD card slot (a microSD card slot is absent), a 3.5mm jack for a headphone and mic, and an HDMI 2.1 port.

With the SD5780, you can power a 4K monitor at up to 120Hz with its HDMI 2.1 port. You can also opt for a dual monitor setup—however, you’ll need a USB-C dongle or a Thunderbolt-to-HDMI cable to connect to another display.

While the dock is a bit pricey, it delivers ample value for money with solid performance and a good mix of ports.

kensington SD5780T dock-1

Kensington Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station

Best Thunderbolt 4 Laptop Docking Station

Kensington Thunderbolt 4 is an excellent docking station for users who want superior performance combined with Thunderbolt 4 and 96W Power Delivery. The docking station includes an HDMI 2.1 port that supports a 4K@120Hz monitor.

Anker 675 docking station on a gradient background
Anker

Pros

Cons

Durable

No Thunderbolt

Wide port selection

Wireless charging

Built-in cable management

The Anker 675 USB-C Docking Station is an all-in-one docking station that sports an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy display stand with plastic legs and 12 ports. It comes with two USB-C ports (10Gbps), three USB-A ports (10Gbps), a 3.5mm jack, a gigabit Ethernet port, SD and microSD flash card slots, and an HDMI port that can power a 4K display at 60Hz.

Anker’s dock also doubles as a Qi wireless charging station. It can charge your Android smartphone with up to 10W and your iPhone with up to 7.5W.

Not the mention, the stand looks sleek—it’ll look great with your office setup. Since the Anker 675 is also a laptop stand, it can elevate your display to a more comfortable position, so you’re not hurting your back looking at the laptop screen.

The lack of Thunderbolt support is disappointing, but the docking station’s ergonomic design, port selection, and wireless charging capability make up for it, at least partly.

anker dock-1

Anker 675 USB-C Docking Station (12-in-1, Monitor Stand, Wireless)

Best Laptop Docking Station for MacBooks

$175 $250 Save $75

Anker’s 12-in-1 675 USB-C Docking Station doubles as a monitor stand. It features several connectivity options, including 4K HDMI, and offers 100-watt passthrough charging for your laptop.

FAQ

What does a laptop docking station do?

A laptop docking station connects your laptop with devices like monitors, keyboards, and mice. It can also charge devices, connect your device to the internet via an Ethernet port, and work as an SD card reader. Of course, the port selection differs based on the docking station you select.

How does a laptop docking station work?

The docking station powers connected peripherals using the power it receives from an external power source your laptop’s AC adapter. The controller chips in the docking station allows it to detect a peripheral device when you plug it in our out. The docking station then delivers the right amount of power and relevant data to the device.

How do I set up dual monitors with a laptop docking station?

You can set up dual monitors by connecting the display to two separate video output ports on the docking station. Docking stations can have three types of video out ports—HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C—depending on the model. Alternatively, you can daisy chain the monitors using Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, or USB-C. Daisy chaining involves connecting multiple monitors to a single video output port on the docking station.

Do docking stations charge laptops?

Yes, many docking stations charge laptops, but not all. Most of the docks in this guide can deliver power. However, whether the power supply is enough to keep your laptop fully powered is another question. For example, if your laptop ships with a 96W power supply and the docking station you select delivers a maximum of 60W of power, you might not be able to charge the laptop fully. If you want a docking station that can charge your laptop, compare your laptop’s power requirements with the docking station’s power output.

Are all laptops compatible with docking stations?

No. All docking stations aren’t compatible with all laptops. Before investing in a docking station, check if it’s compatible with your computer’s operating system, has compatible ports, and supports the right connectivity standards. For example, most universal docking stations are compatible with Windows but not Mac.



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By John P.

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