Caldigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt3 Dock

I wrote about how I didn’t buy this a few months ago. I also asked on Reddit for permission. And I bought this shortly after (hence the Magic Keyboard in the image) but didn’t write about it because I couldn’t admit that I caved :). As a minimalist (in training), every material addition in life needs a thorough reflection of myself. And this purchase decision was especially difficult as I get distracted easier as the number of gadgets on my desk increases. I still believe it wasn’t an absolute necessity for my workflow. I could have lived with the four TB3 ports on my MacBook Pro, with subtle yet everyday inconveniences. From the heart of a minimalist (and I stress once more, in-training), the annoyance arising from the lack of USB ports was my major gripe that became mentally taxing over time. Hence the cave.

Here are a few things I like about the Caldigit TS3 Plus:

  • Versatile – EVERYTHING I could ask for. Abundant USB A ports, TB3 ports, analog audio in/out, SD Card slot, HDMI output, Type-C ports, 1Gb Ethernet! There is only 1 cable that goes into my MBP. My LG Ultrafine 4K is even connected via this dock.
  • Temperature – My MBP 15 2018 felt always extra warm even when sitting idle. Presumably running relatively high-power USB devices off of the built-in ports was one of the reasons (aside from the slender chassis design with the extra hot 8th generation Intel processor). With the TS3 Plus providing all the charging necessary (including the laptop itself!), it runs much cooler. The keyboard, especially the Touch Bar area, isn’t so bad to touch! The TS3 Plus does get pretty warm since it uses its aluminum case as a heat sink. Fortunately, I don’t have to touch it at all!
  • Reliability – mine shipped with the shorter 0.7m (therefore can run at 40Gb/s while being passive). It is long enough for me to adjust the laptop on my desk as I shift my posture. The TS3 Plus disconnected a few times, for what felt like 10th of a sec, as I adjusted my screen and laptop, but the Caldigit Customer Support suggested trying reversing the cable, and have not seen any issue from thereon. I must stress that things continued to work as expected after a very quick re-connection. This is probably my favorite thing about this product. My Dell TB18DC docking station can never recover from connection interruptions (which happens way too frequently).
  • Design – It looks nice. Every corner of the product is nicely finished. It feels good and is comfortable to touch. Majority of the external is made of aluminum. It looks like a large heat sink from the side with the grooves. The entire bottom area is covered in rubber, so it never slips on the desk surface. I think this is worthy attention to detail, as I don’t like when things clang against my desk.
  • Performance – Perhaps this is the most important aspect. The gigabit ethernet port has no issue going over 900mbps both up and down locally. Running a test at SpeedTest.net on my gigabit AT&T connection, I usually get close to 900mbps down and 700 Mbps up. Pretty darn good. The audio interface works well – no discernable noise when I connect my headphones or speakers. Charging my MacBook Pro has never been an issue. The SD card slot is at least as fast as my other SD card readers. Charging my mobile devices work well. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a review without some negatives:

  • Audio out is only in the front. It would be convenient to have another on the back. I understand the majority of the users are working in an office with headphones, but I’m just sayin’!
  • The blue LED on the front is useful, but I wish it were white. I think it will look better. Fortunately, it’s not laser bright.

The advent of Thunderbolt 3 (synonymous with USB Type-C, I suppose) has been one of the most welcoming changes in my everyday life as a tech-savvy person. Yes, I had my doubts, and yes it cost me pretty penny, but looking back Caldigit TS3 Plus is one of the best purchase decisions of the year 2019.