Listening to the bay of the docks has brought me to a third example, by Belkin, this time in a more traditional silver. This is like previous Belkin iterations, and has a curvy aspect almost all over – it’s in the same case as Belkin’s Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 docks. Four rubberised low-profile feet stop it sliding across your desk.
This also has two practical ports on the front, including a USB 3, but unlike the Kensington, the partner to this is audio stereo minipin rather than another USB-C – dual in-out stereo minipin.
Across the back, this has left to right: Gigabit Ethernet, Audio out, 2x USB 3, 2x Thunderbolt 3 (but not USB-C, note, although they have the same form factor), DisplayPort and the DC power inlet.
Like the Kensington SD5000T, the single USB-C cable that carries all this data and parcels it out through the dock can also carry enough charge (85w) to charge up a MacBook Pro. The cable to connect it to your Mac is supplied (this one a handy 1 metre in length). Of course, this takes up one of the two Thunderbolt 3 ports, leaving only one spare (and three on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, in my case).
Unlike the Kensington and Moshi (left), this can’t as-quickly charge up an iPhone or iPad via USB, but its three USB 3 ports do, of course, support most keyboards, mice, Flash drives and hard drives.
Video-wise, like the Kensington, this support a single 5K display via the DisplayPort or dual displays at up to 4K resolution – on plugged into the other Thunderbolt 3 port with the right adapter, and the other into the DisplayPort.
Speeds — Copying the same 6.05GB movie file I used for the test with the Kensington dock from the very fast internal 1TB SSD in a 2017 MacBook Pro to a USB 3 (traditional, not Solid State) hard drive, took one minute 36 seconds (the Kensington was 1:28). Once again, the real test would be to a USB-C hard drive, unfortunately I don’t have one.
Conclusion — This is another useful configuration for users of MacBooks with USB-C-only ports. It’s a nice shape and the silver goes with some of the MacBook Pros, although I’m guessing the new Space Gray model is the more popular, in which case the Kensington is a better visual match. I’m a little surprised the Belkin is more expensive than the Kensington dock I reviewed last week, since it has one less USB-C port, since this is the way all these devices are headed, but having three (versus the Kensington’s 2) might support people better if they have more legacy USB 3 devices. Being able to charge up to a 15-inch MacBook is a definite plus. But to my eyes, the Kensington, with its possibility of VESA mounting and a lock-slot, is better value. The difference in price is virtually enough to get a decent USB 3 hub if you really need more USB 3 ports. However, Belkin is a very reliable brand too, with a long relationship with Apple.
What’s great — The familiar Belkin look, useful ports
What’s not — Another USB-C port might be handier. Price – it’s possible you may be able to find this cheaper than list after a month or two.
Needs — Anyone with a USB-C Mac right up to the power-sucking 15-inch, especially should you want to use superior Ethernet which is often 3x faster than WiFi.
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD, NZ RRP $579.95 (US$349)
System — 2016, 2017 MacBook Pro, other USB-C Macs