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Hands-on: CalDigit’s TS3 is a compact dock with full speed MacBook Pro power delivery [Video]

CalDigit’s TS3 is a Thunderbolt 3-enabled dock in a very compact form factor. The dock omits the flat landscape design that has been the hallmark of most Thunderbolt 3 docks thus far, and instead comes with a compact design that can be placed on a desk vertically or horizontally.

Most notably, the CalDigit TS3 affords full-speed 15-inch MacBook Pro charging thanks to its 85W of power delivery. This is a feature that many of the previous Thunderbolt 3 docks, including CalDigit’s own TS3 Lite, weren’t capable of.

Yet, as someone who just recently traded a 2016 MacBook Pro for a Thunderbolt 3-enabled 2017 iMac, I was also anxious to see how the dock would integrate with my desktop setup. Have a look at our hands-on video walkthrough inside for the details.

Key features

  • Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Up to 85W power delivery
  • DisplayPort output
  • 1x front USB 3.1 (gen 1) Type-A port
  • 2x rear USB 3.1 (gen 1) Type-A ports
  • 2x eSATA port
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 3.5mm microphone input
  • 3.5mm headphone output
  • 170W power supply
  • 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable

Video walkthrough

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In typical CalDigit Fashion, the TS3 dock features an aluminum industrial design that is similar to previous CalDigit Products that we’ve covered in the past. The aluminum build materials blend nicely with my iMac on the desktop, and the fact that the dock can be oriented to stand vertically or horizontally ensures that it’ll fit in well with the majority of desktop setups.

To keep the device from sliding around on your desk, CalDigit has lined the bottom with a grippy rubber surface when standing the dock vertically, and also included rubber grippy feet for horizontal alignment.

At only 5.20-by-1.71-by-3.88-inches, the TS3 is much more compact than you may expect. However, CalDigit was able to pull off such a feat by relying on a large, bulky, 170W external power brick. The power brick is quite massive, larger in some aspects than the dock itself, but at least that means that we get a slim and compact device for the desktop.

MacBook Pro users will immediately appreciate how the TS3 lends access to legacy USB Type-A ports, although these ports, being USB 3.1 gen 1, only max out at 5Gbps. Still, just having access to standard USB ports is something that most MacBook owners will need here and there. The dock also brings the benefit of being able to charge iOS devices via the USB-A ports, even without an attached MacBook Pro or iMac.

Gigabit Ethernet access is an additional draw, considering that MacBook models have lacked that feature for some time now. I imagine the eSATA access is something that’s less attractive to users, but it’s still nice to have. Though, I would have preferred to see an SD Card slot —it still baffles me as to why most docks omit such an obvious need for SD Card slot-less MacBook Pro owners.

The TS3 supports Dual 4K displays or a single 5K display at 60Hz. Thanks to the built in DisplayPort output, you can easily convert to HDMI by utilizing an adapter. Of course, those with the LG UltraFine 5K Display can connect directly from the Thunderbolt 3 port on the TS3 itself for full 5K resolution at 60Hz.

Prior to trading my MacBook Pro, I tested it out with the TS3 and found that it worked just as advertised. Full 85W of power delivery, access to things like Gigabit Ethernet, and full Thunderbolt 3 pass through for connecting to the LG UltraFine 5K Display or other Thunderbolt 3-enabled devices.

As an iMac user, obviously the charging aspects of this dock become irrelevant, but I still appreciate having access to extra USB ports, and just the overall ease of access that the dock provides. The iMac’s ports aren’t in the most ideal location for easy access, so it’s nice to have ports that are easy to locate within arm’s reach.

That said, with an iMac there is a measure of redundancy that you don’t have when connected to a MacBook Pro, which is what makes this dock easier to recommend for MacBook Pro owners who want a single cable solution where everything — multiple monitors, attached storage, Gigabit Ethernet, and power delivery — starts working after plugging in a single Thunderbolt 3 cable.

For the privilege, expect to pay a hefty price — the TS3 Dock is now available on CalDigit’s website for $299.99. It’s pricey, but you’re paying for the conveinience of a simple plug-in-one-cable-solution via a very well-built and good-looking dock. But it’s the omission of an SD Card slot that lends me the most pause. For the price, it would seem like a no-brainer to include such a useful feature.

What type of docking or dongle solution are you currently using with your MacBook Pro? Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts and opinions.

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Avatar for Jeff Benjamin Jeff Benjamin

Jeff produces videos, walkthroughs, how-tos, written tutorials and reviews. He takes pride in being able to explain things in a simple, clear and concise manner.