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.