A USB-C docking station has become invaluable to us this year. Maybe, like us, you switched over from using a desktop to a laptop for mobility or you’ve only ever owned a laptop. But also like a lot of us this year, we suddenly found ourselves working from home and wanting a more desktop-like setup with a monitor, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet, without constantly swapping dongles and relying on Bluetooth. The only problem: Many new laptops don’t have as many connections as they used to.
What you’ll typically find in place of those connections are USB-C ports. This do-it-all port can run multiple displays, move data, power your devices and more with the help of a docking station and a single USB-C cable. There are, of course, lots of options in this category mostly coming down to exactly what connections you need as well as how portable you need it to be. Here are some of our favorite USB-C docking stations that we’ve tested. We’ll continue to update this list as we find new models to recommend. And if you’re lookingwe’ve tested.
Keep in mind. For instance, devices will only be fully supported by a computer with a Thunderbolt USB-C port. Unfortunately, you can’t just look at the port and know what you have. Check with your computer manufacturer for what your laptop (or desktop) model supports before you buy.
Accell’s simple, low-profile design won’t tip over like vertical docks and it’s easier to blindly plug into its connections. If you’ve got limited desk space, it might actually fit on the base of your monitor. Plus, the slim, lightweight body and its small power adapter slip easily into your bag if you need to travel with it.
In back you’ll find three USB 3.1 Gen 2 type-A ports, two HDMI ports (one 4K, one 1080p), an Ethernet port and jacks for mic input and headphone output. A single USB-C port is on the right side. Accell includes USB-C-to-USB-C and USB-C-to-USB-A cables to connect to your laptop.
True to its name, you can connect it to your laptop and it will near-instantly start mirroring your display without needing a driver installed first. However, if you want to extend displays, you’ll need to download a driver for MacOS or Windows; Accell conveniently stores them onboard; a screen appears when you connect to the dock that gives you the option to install it.
It also works with Chromebooks. You’ll have to move to the Chrome OS beta channel to use it at the moment, but that’s as simple as toggling it on in Chrome’s settings, updating the OS and rebooting. Also, if you have an Android phone or tablet you can download the free Accell app and then connect to the dock to mirror your device’s display to a single 1080p-resolution monitor and use a keyboard and mouse if you want, too. I tested it with my Galaxy S9 and while there was a slight lag, it otherwise worked fine.
The PowerExpand Elite is part USB-C dock and part charging station. In back are 85- and 15-watt Thunderbolt 3 ports and in front is an 18-watt USB-C power delivery port. A Thunderbolt 3 port supports up to a 5K-resolution display at 60Hz while its HDMI 2.0 port can support a display up to 4K resolution at 60Hz. Or you can run a USB-C-to-HDMI dual splitter and connect two 4K displays at 30Hz so you can run up to three monitors between the HDMI and Thunderbolt 3 ports.
You’ll also have four USB-A ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack and MicroSD and SD card slots. A 3.5mm combo jack handles audio output and input.
To provide enough juice to run everything, though, the PowerExpand Elite has a large 180-watt power adapter. Also, the fanless design means the body is one big heatsink so it can get hot when it’s fully loaded. You can stand it vertically to help keep it cooler. The Thunderbolt 3 port supports 5K@60Hz while the HDMI port supports a resolution of 4K@60Hz
If you want to expand your laptop’s port options as well as dock your Nintendo Switch, the $65 Dock Pro 60 is all you need. The slim, small, lightweight dock has two USB-C ports, one of which supports power input. Connect your laptop (or Switch) to the other USB-C port and use the dock’s HDMI port to connect to a TV or external (resolutions up to 4K UHD at 30Hz will work) and you’re all ready to start work or playing with friends and family on a bigger screen. There are also two USB-A ports.
Bonus for Samsung Galaxy device users: The Dock Pro 60 supports Samsung DeX so you can use your phone or tablet with an external display and a desktop-style experience.
Our top pick for creatives, this CalDigit can handle up to two 4K 60Hz (4,096×2,160 pixels with 30-bit color) monitors with its full-size DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 port. Or you can connect a single 5K 60Hz display with Thunderbolt 3 port. You also get five USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone and mic jacks, optical audio out and an SD card slot that supports speeds up to 312MB per second.
Just a simple hub at a good price. On the left there’s an HDMI output that supports displays up to 1080p at 30Hz or UHD (3,840×2,160 pixels) at 30Hz, a USB-A port and a USB-C port for pass-through charging up to 100 watts. The other side has two more USB-A ports and microSD and SD card slots, and in front is a Gigabit Ethernet port.