Tag Archives: Belkin

Review ~ Belkin USB-C Express Dock 3.1 HD

Belkin surprised with this model so soon after the first USB-C Express Dock which cam out last year. It’s an update which Belkin says is a more affordable version of initial the Thunderbolt USB-C 3 Express Dock, that aims to deliver more consistent results while making this product a little more accessible.
To look at, it’s very similar to the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD, and very similar to Belkin’s Express Dock predecessors, but the ports have been reconfigured so that there are now three front ports. They are still mounted off to the right, but not as far off. On the front (above), the ports are, from left to right,1x USB 3.1/USB-C, 1x USB A 3.0 plus a combined audio in-out (stereo minipin). There’s also a little green Connection Status light; on this model it’s set closer to the front ports panel than on the previous Express 3 model, to the left of the USB-C port. 
As with the other model, a one-metre USB-C to USB-C cable is supplied (Belkin makes good-quality cables for almost everything, after all) plus it comes with its power supply.
On the back, the new Express Dock has Gigabit Ethernet, Audio Out, 2x USB A 3.0s, another USB 3.1/USB-C (an improvement over the first model in which this is 2x Thunderbolt-only), an HDMI video port and DC power in (which is not the typical round, socketed pin but rather a USB-shaped rectangular plug).
The USB-C ports can power a MacBook but it does not carry enough to charge a MacBook Pro: it only handles up to 60 Watts, whereas the older model could charge a Pro. Apple recommends 60W for charging the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but 87W for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
For USB-C devices, this new dock has a feature called Power Priority which intelligently adjusts power delivered to a device as needed. Video support is 4K via HDMI. This is contentious, since the Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD used the DisplayPort standard but the USB-C ports on this one do not; the more expensive 3 model allowed 4K resolution at 60Hz output over the Thunderbolt ports. The HDMI port on the 3.1 offers 4K resolutions, but its refresh rate is capped at 30Hz, which will displease some. There is 5GBs throughput via USB-C, but since they’re not DisplayPort, these two USB-C ports (you need one to connect to your Mac) don’t support Thunderbolt 3 video out, so a dual 4K display setup is not possible from this Dock.
For reference, an iTunes movie file (Gone Girl) at 6.05GB in size copies from my 2017 MacBook Pro with SSD to an external USB 3 HD in 1 minute 48 seconds. This is plugged into my Mac via the USB 3 hub in my Dell U2715 monitor, which in turn has a USB cable into my Mac via an Apple USB 3 to USB-C adapter. Speed was identical via this Belkin 3.1 Dock; the previous model did this a little faster (1 minute 36) and I measured 1 minute 28 with the Kensington Thunderbolt/USB-C dock I looked at late last year.

Conclusion — This is a solid product at a good price point for anyone with a 60 Watt MacBook Pro (13-inch), MacBook or MacBook Air, for which the Belkin Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD, which can charge up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, is overkill. The other Belkin is a more professional unit with better video options – if you don’t have a 15-inch MacBook Pro and the more ‘pro’ needs that go with it, this is a very good option with a useful and ability-expanding array of ports.

What’s Great — The USB-C Express Dock 3.1 HD is a good deal cheaper than the Express Dock 3, and will suit many Apple laptop users better. The gigabit ethernet port for internet use (wired connection) is great for streaming video and online gaming.

What’s Not — No 4K support over USB-C, and limited (30Hz) 4K support over HDMI, plus can’t charge the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Needs — Savvy MacBook, 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users. These will also appreciate the built-in Power Priority, which assesses each connected device’s size and charging needs, then distributes power accordingly so all devices receive an optimal charge.

Belkin USB-C Express Dock 3.1 HD NZRRP $389.95/Australian $369.95/US$229.99 (the Express Dock 3 is NZ$579.95, but can charge the more powerful 15-inch MacBook Pro).

System — Connects up to eight devices at once, 4K HDMI video output; 60W PD powers your MacBooks (excluding 15-inch) through supplied 1M USB-C cable; Power Priority technology provides an optimal charge to connected USB-C devices; adds gigabit ethernet port for internet.
(Belkin warns that if you are using the Apple USB SuperDrive with MacBook Pro models that feature Thunderbolt 3 (aka USB-C) ports, you will need a USB-C to USB-A Adapter (sold separately) to connect directly to your host device. This USB-C Express Dock 3.1 HD is designed for computers with a video-enabled USB-C 3.1 port. Computers with USB-C 3.0/ 2.0 ports will only support data transfer, not video. This dock’s charging functionality is intended to work with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 laptops. Some laptop manufacturers (ie non-Apple) provide chargers that may partially support this charging feature, while other may require the use of their own proprietary laptop charger.


Review ~ Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD

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).

I have looked at three USB-C docks recently (click picture to see a bigger file)

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

More information — Belkin (note this is an Australian site so prices will differ). Here’s the link for it at the NZ Apple Store online.