With the fast adoption of Thunderbolt 3 and now Thunderbolt 4, users have never had more opportunities to expand their computer connectivity. Whether it is for ultrafast storage or 4K displays, Thunderbolt docks are the ultimate docking stations these days.
The Anker PowerExpand Elite Thunderbolt 3 Dock is a fixed-location dock, but it is compact if you want to bring it along and build a neat work setup in your hotel room.
That said, keep an eye on the power supply size because the included 180W (20V, 9A) power supply is pretty sizeable, but that’s unfortunately normal for this Wattage.
I like how compact and well-built this product is, and at 1.1 Lbs, it feels very sturdy. The chassis is all metal and acts as an efficient heatsink. That’s particularly useful if you power a laptop directly from the PowerExpand Elite Thunderbolt 3 dock because it will get warm when used to its full potential."USB COMPATIBILITY MIGHT BE AN ESSENTIAL FEATURE IF YOU WANT TO RE-USE THE DOCK"
This dock’s huge advantage is that it can also function over USB protocol via a USB-C port with DisplayPort Alt Mode and Power Delivery (check your computer manual for confirmation). Also check the compatibility fine prints on the official website, especially if you have an M1 Mac.
Many people are shocked to learn that some Thunderbolt docks do not work at all when connected to a non-Thunderbolt computer.
USB compatibility might be an essential feature if you want to re-use the dock with a plain USB 3.x computer, like some AMD-powered 2021 computers (Thunderbolt is an Intel technology).
The sheer number of ports is impressive, especially given the compact nature of this design, but look at the list below:
|2x Thunderbolt 3 ports (85W + 15W, 1x 5K@60Hz)|
|2x USB-C ports (18W PD)|
|4x USB-A ports|
|1x HDMI port (4k@60Hz)|
|1x Ethernet port|
|1x SD/microSD card slots|
|1x 3.5 mm AUX port.|
Out of the box, it’s possible to connect two 4K/60 monitors using the dock’s HDMI port and one of the Thunderbolt ports simultaneously, which is more than enough for most users.
In some instances, you can use a USB-C to Dual HDMI splitter (not included) to connect three displays to the dock. If you need even higher display connectivity or resolution, you might want to check the upcoming Thunderbolt 4 docks.
The ports placement makes a lot of sense too. The ones that you will fiddle with more often, such as SD+microSD, headphone jack. A few frequently accessed ports are in the front.
All the networking, monitors, fixed storage, and power ports are in the back. If it had a volume knob in the front of the top, that would be perfect (Anker: hint, hint).
The bottom of the dock has a rubber surface to prevent slippage as much as possible, but I would use both hands if I need to connect/disconnect something. There isn’t a way to secure it to the desk with screws. That’s a common situation with docks.
If you don’t use it all the time, there’s an ON/OFF button. It’s convenient if you have lots of high-powered equipment that you only use from time to time.
It could also be helpful if you need to “reset” the dock by simulating a cable disconnect. I leave it on all the time, but I’ve been in these situations before (with other docks) when some peripherals require a connection reset.
Because the non-slip rubber is at the bottom, this dock needs to sit vertically, so check for its height (4.96”) if you want to place it under your monitor (or monitor stand). You won’t be able to lay it down on its side because the metal surface is not flat and is quite slippery."JUST AS FAST AS OUR FASTEST INTERNAL THUNDERBOLT NATIVE PORTS"
As usual, we’ve tested SSD drives and Ethernet speeds, and we can report that the dock is just as fast as our fastest internal Thunderbolt native ports. We’ve tested this with the new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 that has TB4 ports.
The Gigabit Ethernet port will maximize the internet or network connectivity, and we can saturate our 1Gbps symmetrical internet connection at the office. WiFi-6 usually maxes out between 300 Mbps to 600 Mbps depending on the device. Wired Ethernet also has a lower latency if you’re a gamer or do something latency-sensitive.
The 3.5mm port shows up as a new “Realtek USB2.0 Audio” sound device in Windows. That’s normal as there is no analog audio passthrough option in any of the docks we’ve tested.
With 85W of maximum laptop charge, this dock can accommodate more powerful computers than the 60W docks we looked at. If you have a moderately power-hungry laptop, you can still have a neat 1-cable setup, and that’s appreciable to anyone who wants a minimalist desk.
A couple of other USB ports support 15W and 18W to fast-charge mobile devices. Some mobiles can now charge at an insane 160W but keep in mind that this 180W potentially has to power the laptop and other peripherals.
The Thunderbolt 3 cable is only 2.3 ft and reduces your options when placing the computer and dock a bit far apart.The cables are relatively expensive, but given the price of this dock, I’d love to see a longer cable.
The Anker PowerExpand Elite Thunderbolt 3 Dock is an excellent Thunderbolt dock that gives users excellent connectivity in a super-compact size.
I suspect that its price of $269.99 might make some people assess their needs before purchasing it, but this is as much connectivity as you’re going to get with Thunderbolt 3. There are alternative docking stations options, but the dual USB-C / Thunderbolt connectivity and the compact design set it apart.