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The best Thunderbolt 2 dock for your Mac


Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 standard has given Mac users — particularly professional Mac users — a premium, high-speed connector option for situations where bandwidth and speed are necessary: hooking up big, fast hard drives, high-resolution monitors, or even external graphics cards. The latest iMacs, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs all feature at least one Thunderbolt 2 port, a boon for expandability.

This year, Thunderbolt 2 docks have really taken off. Long-time Mac accessory makers have come up with a few different riffs on the same basic idea, leveraging a single cable to connect a bunch of Thunderbolt, USB, and audio/video accessories all at once to a Mac. This enables MacBook users to return home and make one connection to everything from an external monitor and speakers to external hard drives and card readers; it can also allow iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini users to connect devices built with connectors not found on their machines.

Here are the best Thunderbolt 2 dock options out there — and my suggestions as to which of them are best-suited to various usage scenarios…


Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock (currently $209 via Amazon) is impressively thin, portable, and made completely from Mac-matching metal. Measuring only 6.2″ by 3.8″ by 0.65″ — around the size of a typical portable hard drive — it’s volumetrically the smallest Thunderbolt 2 dock I’ve tested, and the easiest to throw in a bag. In addition to a rarity — a FireWire 800 port — its edges contain one power port, two USB 3.0 ports, two 6GB eSATA ports, and two Thunderbolt 2 ports, allowing you to connect everything from a 4K monitor to pretty much any hard drive from the past 10 years. But to achieve its small size, it omits Ethernet, HDMI, and audio ports, making this a better option for connecting peripherals than a TV or speakers. We’ve reviewed it here.


Belkin’s Thunderbolt 2 Express HD Dock (currently $279 via Amazon) was the first Thunderbolt 2 dock to be announced, and remains (without justification) the most expensive option on the market. Cosmetically similar and functionally nearly identical to Elgato’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock below, Belkin includes three USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI (4K) port, and two audio ports. The nice aluminum and plastic design started with the company’s long-delayed prior-generation Thunderbolt Express Dock, and defined the look of many rival options, but the same general port array is available in several competing products.


CalDigit’s Thunderbolt Station 2 (currently $197 via Amazon) is the Sherman tank of the Thunderbolt dock category. It doesn’t exactly match most Macs, but is made entirely from brushed metal, and feels incredibly solid. Designed to be used either upright or on its side — a space-saving measure not seen in any other Thunderbolt dock — Thunderbolt Station 2 is loaded with ports: three USB 3.0, two Thunderbolt 2, Ethernet, HDMI (4K), two audio ports, twin 6Gbps eSATA, and power. The eSATA ports are useful for owners of fast hard drives, and less common on Thunderbolt 2 docks than the other options. It notably ships without a Thunderbolt 2 cable, but one can be bundled in for $225 total. We’ve reviewed Thunderbolt Station 2 here.


Elgato’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock (currently $208 via Amazon) is one of the earlier Thunderbolt docks to hit the market, and like Belkin’s model, helped to establish the features that would later be recognized as common across models: three USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a 3.5mm microphone input port, a USB-to-analog 3.5mm audio out port, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, and an HDMI 1.4b (4K-supported) port. Unlike Akitio’s design (but like most other models), it’s not designed to be portable, but the included audio, video, and data ports make it an ideal way to hook up everything from USB and Thunderbolt peripherals to speakers and an external monitor. It includes a Thunderbolt cable. We’ve reviewed it here.


Kanex’s Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock (currently $200 via Amazon) arrived after Belkin’s and Elgato’s highly similar versions, featuring two Thunderbolt 2 ports, one 4K-ready HDMI port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one 3.5mm microphone and headset port, a power-in port, and three USB 3.0 ports. That’s one fewer audio port than Belkin’s and Elgato’s designs, but unlike Belkin, Kanex supplies continual 1.5A power to its front-mounted USB port to guarantee it’s able to recharge your iPhone or iPad even if a computer’s not connected. Unlike some docks, it comes packaged with a Thunderbolt 2 cable, making its $200 price more attractive. We’ve reviewed it here.


Other World Computing (OWC)’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock (currently $228 via Amazon) is in the middle of the pack price-wise, but one-ups its competitors with a gigantic collection of ports: a whopping five USB 3.0 ports (two of which are 1.5A-powered), two Thunderbolt 2 ports, one HDMI 1.4b (4K) port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a FireWire 800 port, and separate audio-in/audio-out ports. Because of those ports, it’s the largest Thunderbolt dock I’ve seen — 9″ wide by 3.5″ deep by 1.1″ tall, not including its big external power supply — and it’s made with glossy black plastic ringed with silver aluminum, matching iMacs to a respectable extent. Notably, it doesn’t ship with a Thunderbolt 2 cable; a one-meter version is bundled optionally for $259.


So Which Thunderbolt 2 Dock Do We Recommend?

Except for Belkin’s overpriced version, all of the other Thunderbolt 2 docks are in the $200 to $230 range, varying mostly in certain ports, external designs, and inclusion/exclusion of a Thunderbolt 2 cable. My advice would be to select the dock with the specific ports and design that best suit the Mac you intend to use it with, namely:

  1. If you need lots of USB port expansion and portability isn’t important, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is a top pick, as it has 2-3 more USB 3.0 ports than any competitor, two of which are constantly powered. That said, it’s a little more expensive than the others at this point, particularly as it ships by default without a Thunderbolt cable, and as you can see from the photo above, it’s on the large side.
  2. If you want to use high-speed eSATA drives with your Mac, Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock and CalDigit’s Thunderbolt Station 2 docks are the only alternatives with eSATA ports. Akitio’s dock is a better pick if you don’t care about audio/video connections; CalDigit’s is better if you need audio/video connections and don’t mind a larger (but mostly taller) form factor.
  3. If you’re a laptop user with plans to use your dock on the road, Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock is the smallest and easiest version to carry.
  4. If you want a middle of the road option with very solid implementation of all features, Elgato’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is reasonably priced, nicely designed, and slightly better in specs than the Belkin and Kanex docks it resembles. It’s smaller than OWC’s version, and has most of the same functionality at a lower price. The fact that it includes a Thunderbolt cable makes it a very strong overall value.

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  1. crichton007 - 7 years ago

    I have the CalDigit hub and I really like it. Then again my employer bought it for me. Regardless, I think these are great alternatives to Apple’s Thunderbolt display/port replicator for $999.

  2. Adrian Calderon - 7 years ago

    Isn’t Thundelbolt already dead? The new Macbook only has a USB C port. Signal of the future.

  3. Steve Grenier - 7 years ago

    Are there any Thunderbolt docks with the new connector (USB-C style) ?

  4. gkbrown - 7 years ago

    I have the OWC at work. I don’t have any complaints about it, but I’m not sure I’m really taxing it all that heavily. I’m only using it to drive a (relatively low-resolution) display, an ethernet adapter, and a USB port.

  5. jamdox - 7 years ago

    Thunderbolt is a joke. I was trying to run two displays off the port on my MBA and there is just no way to do it, unless you get an external video card. The hubs come with HDMI and TB, but you can only use one. It’s an amazingly weak technology, designed mostly to fleece the “prosumer”.

    • viciosodiego - 7 years ago

      what MBA do you have?

      • I am interested in this too.. I was going to ask the same thing. I’d like to run 3 monitors with my 2014 MBA. Is this possible with these docks? One with TB->HDMI adapter one with the HDMI port on the dock, and one with USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter. I think TB2 docks works with TB1 macs but TB1 docks wont work with TB2 macs?? something like that maybe. I could be wrong.

      • jamdox - 7 years ago


    • I’m interested as well. I have a 2014 MBA and I was about to post if I could get 3 monitors to work. One with the Display port, one with HDMI, and another with USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter. I think TB2 dock works with a TB1 mac, but a TB2 Mac will not work with TB1 dock?? not too sure

    • I was going to ask what year as well. I am wondering the same thing. I’d like to run 3 monitors off the TB2 dock with my MBA2014. (I think you can run TB2 dock->to TB1 Mac but not TB1 dock to TB2 Mac? could be wrong..) is it even possible to have 3 monitors with MBA2014? Possibly one with TB->HDMI adapter, one to the HDMI port. and one with USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter?

  6. Other World Computing (OWC)’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock

  7. Sean Katz - 7 years ago

    what about sonnet’sEcho 15+ it has a built in drive enclosure

  8. I am wondering the same thing. I’d like to run 3 monitors off the TB2 dock with my MBA2014. (I think you can run TB2 dock->to TB1 Mac but not TB1 dock to TB2 Mac? could be wrong..) is it even possible to have 3 monitors with MBA2014? Possibly one with TB->HDMI adapter, one to the HDMI port. and one with USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter?

  9. tlevit - 7 years ago

    I am wondering the same thing. I’d like to run 3 monitors off the TB2 dock with my MBA2014. (I think you can run TB2 dock->to TB1 Mac but not TB1 dock to TB2 Mac? could be wrong..) is it even possible to have 3 monitors with MBA2014? Possibly one with TB->HDMI adapter, one to the HDMI port. and one with USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter?

  10. MorningZ - 7 years ago

    I’ve got a dock from StarTech that works fantastic… USB 3.0, audio, ethernet, and the Thunderbolt out goes to Matrox video adapter it is just works.. all for like $175 shipped from Amazon (and that included a Thunderbolt cable)

  11. The Cal Digit also has audio in and out which wasn’t listed. It also has a great utility which will safely eject all devices so you can grab your laptop and go.

  12. Todd M (@tzmljm) - 7 years ago

    If you use Netboot/NetRestore then forget about the Belkin. It won’t work. The OWC works fine. I’m not sure about the others but if you need those services to work you better test before the return policy……

  13. ShadowPeo - 7 years ago

    I extensively use myself and recommend the OWC ones to clients, Dependable, lots of interfaces and perfect for what we use them for (docking station driving 2x 4K Monitors & connecting KB/Mouse etc. I have deployed over a dozen to clients, not a single failure or bad word yet and we are almost at 12 months. I have more issues with the damn monitors not connecting than I do with the docks

  14. Richard Schembri - 7 years ago

    I have a CalDigit Thunderbolt 2 hub its great it’s given my mid 2011 iMac a new lease of life!

  15. vkd108 - 7 years ago

    In the first sentence of the article it mentions, “or even external graphics cards.” However these items are not mentioned further. How, then, could one connect and use a more powerful external graphics card with an iMac?