by Hartley Charlton
CalDigit's Thunderbolt Station 4 (TS4) is a docking station with 98W charging power and an impressive array of 18 ports, ideal for Mac computers with a wide range of connectivity requirements.
The docking station is priced at $399.99, reflecting its high-speed data transfer, extensive connectivity and powerful charging capabilities. While it may not be the most budget-friendly option on the market, its performance and convenience make it a compelling case for professionals working with demanding workloads and complex Mac setups. In this review, we'll dive deeper into the TS4's capabilities to determine whether its price is worth it and help you figure out if it's right for your specific needs.
The dock comes with 0.8. ft. Thunderbolt 4 cable, two rubber feet, one power cord, one 230W power supply, and a 2-year CalDigit warranty.
The CalDigit TS4 Docking Station features a high-quality, durable aluminum housing. Its overall footprint is quite compact (141 x 42 x 113mm), meaning it doesn't take up too much desk space. If it's too tall for your desktop, simply slide on a pair of included rubber strips for cushioning and tip the dock on its side. The aluminum body is ribbed, giving it a more industrial look while also providing additional surface area for efficient heat dissipation.
The TS4's design, while compact, doesn't compromise on functionality. It has an impressive 18 ports, which are logically split between the front and back of the dock. The front panel features easy-to-access USB-C, USB-A and SD card slots, as well as an audio in and out port. Meanwhile, the rear panel houses the remaining ports, including Thunderbolt 4, USB-C, USB-A, DisplayPort, and Ethernet.
The docking station is accompanied by a large power supply, which, although necessary for its function, slightly detracts from the portability of the device and is an important factor in terms of cable management.
The docking station is equipped with eight USB ports, divided into USB-C and USB-A options. There are three 10Gbps USB-C ports (two conveniently located in the front and one in the rear) for fast data transfer speeds and power delivery. The dock also features five 10Gbps USB-A ports to accommodate older hardware. Four of these ports are located on the back of the device, and one is on the front for easy access.
One notable advantage is that the USB ports also provide enough power for charging. One of the front 20W USB-C ports is suitable for a MagSafe charger or even a HomePod mini. The two rear Thunderbolt ports can provide 15W of power, while the remaining USB-C and USB-A ports can deliver 7.5W. This means that even without a host computer, many ports will continue to supply power to your devices, turning the TS4 into a convenient charging station.
SD card slots
Two slots accommodate both full-size SD cards and microSD cards, and UHS-II support ensures sufficient data transfer speeds for photographers and videographers. The placement of these slots on the front panel of the TS4 is another thoughtful touch, allowing for easy access and quick card replacement.
It's worth noting that these slots are UHS-II and not the latest UHS-III specification, which means they won't offer the fastest data rates available on the market for users with UHS-III cards. Despite this, UHS-II is still more than fast enough for the vast majority of users.
CalDigit TS4 offers comprehensive support for external displays, a feature that is especially valuable for professionals who require multiple monitors for their workflow. The dock supports up to two 6K 60Hz screens when connected via Thunderbolt 4 ports, providing plenty of screen real estate. What's more, if your requirements focus on refresh rates, the TS4 can support up to 240Hz at 1440p resolution. This makes it ideal for graphic designers, video editors, and other professionals who require Mac setups with multiple high-resolution monitors.
In addition to Thunderbolt 4 ports, TS4 also includes a DisplayPort 1.4 port. DisplayPort 1.4 supports high resolutions and refresh rates, as well as features like HDR, making it a great choice for a wide range of displays. However, the device noticeably lacks an HDMI port, which may be a disadvantage for those who use HDMI for their display setup, such as those who use smaller OLED TVs as monitors.
The 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port provides significantly faster data transfer rates than standard Gigabit Ethernet and delivers high performance. While using the CalDigit TS4, the Ethernet port provided exceptional performance, delivering the fastest speeds observed on the router even when other ports were at near capacity.
The CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt Dock features three audio ports, including a 3.5mm audio in, a 3.5mm audio out, and a 3.5mm combo jack. This trio of audio ports provides a versatile set of use cases to suit both input and output needs.
The 3.5mm combo port on the front panel is especially convenient for quickly connecting headphones. Separate 3.5mm audio input and output ports provide even greater flexibility, allowing you to connect stand-alone microphones and speakers. For example, you can connect an external microphone for better voice recording during video calls or audio recordings. A dedicated output port allows you to connect speakers without having to frequently unplug your headphones.
During testing, the CalDigit TS4's audio ports provided clear, high-quality audio with no noticeable distortion or noise interference. The ease of access and audio quality make these ports a great feature for those who need multiple audio connection options on a Thunderbolt dock.
Overall, the CalDigit TS4 offers best-in-class connectivity as a Thunderbolt dock with an extremely versatile selection of ports. With convenient port placement, charging options, and a discreet design, it's a great choice for those looking for plenty of connectivity options. The ability to connect a single Thunderbolt cable to your MacBook and instantly activate two external displays, connect to more than a dozen peripherals, and even charge devices regardless of whether the computer is connected is extremely useful.
While its bulky power supply and lack of an HDMI port may put off some users, it still offers a wide range of features that make it a strong competitor in the market. The TS4 is easy to recommend to any Mac user looking to level up their configuration and meet a wide range of connectivity needs.
How to Buy
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 can be purchased directly from the CalDigit website, as well as from other online retailers such as Amazon. The price at the time of writing is $399.99, although prices may vary depending on retailer and current promotions or sales.
Note: CalDigit provided MacRumors Thunderbolt Station 4 for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.
Tags: CalDigit, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 459 comments