The CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt Dock stands out as an outstanding dock. It offers all the ports any modern desk may need while providing a reliable user experience.
Incredible 98W power delivery
Fantastic port options
Extra Thunderbolt Ports
Great design and build quality
No HDMI - Only DP and USB-C
Why you can trust TechRadar
There is a gold standard in any category. Specifically, when it comes to products, every category of gear has a gold standard product that every other product in that category is trying to beat or sway people away from. Regarding Thunderbolt docks, it's widely accepted that CalDigit's TS line has been at the top, if not the very top, of the pack for years. The CalDigit TS3 was a great dock we reviewed almost precisely five years ago, in January of 2019. With the TS4, it has only improved. Though it has not solved every question from the TS3, as far as the best laptop docking stations go, it has been enhanced in other areas and has finally earned a full 5-star review from TechRadar Pro.
CalDigit TS4: Unboxing and First Impressions
Unboxing the CalDigit TS4 was uneventful; however, I am not the least bit upset about that. Not every unboxing can be as aesthetically pleasing as a new Apple device (ok, yes, I am an Apple fanatic). When I pick up the new CalDigit TS4, I focus more on the dock than anything else. So, after I opened the box and got to the pier, I could fully appreciate the craftsmanship of the famous TS4 Dock from CalDigit. The TS4 is unashamedly robust, but not in an obnoxious way. Instead, it feels high quality, durable, and like a powerhouse. It's like how a Ford F250 Diesel feels like it can drive forever, how a Jeep can navigate and maneuver unknown terrain, or how a MacBook Pro can be a workhorse laptop that even the most demanding production jobs can rely on.
I've reviewed more than my fair share of docks. Usually, the fancy docks feel a bit gimmicky, are made with much plastic, feel like they could break with heavy use, or don't look great. The CalDigit TS4 is different. It feels like something I can rely on for years to come, and it feels like something I can depend on for my demanding workday, no matter what may come my way that day. I've had docks fail on me, even the best portable SSDs and hard drives fail, and computers die or crash; I've experienced it all. I don't have any concerns with the TS4; I know it will work every time without fail.
CalDigit TS4: Design and Build Quality
The CalDigit TS4 is a metal box designed for horizontal or vertical use. CalDigit even included some bumpers that I could put on the now bottom side of my TS4 when I opted to use this dock horizontally on my Grovemade Desk shelf. Moving on beyond the apparent shape of this dock, one thing that has been intentionally designed is the port layout. Many of the docks I have tried and used will put the upstream/host USB-C/Thunderbolt port on the front of the device, subsequently cluttering desk setups. While this setup can sometimes be helpful, most desk setups get cluttered with a port in the front.
Ports: 3x Thunderbolt 4, 3x USB-C, 5x USB-A, 1x DP, 1x SD, 1x 1.5 GB Ethernet, 3x Audio Jacks, 1x DC Power Line In
Power Delivery: 98W
Dimensions: 5.55 x 1.65 x 4.46 inches
Weight: 1.41 lbs
Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, iPadOS, ChromeOS,
That's why CalDigit put all of the "plug it and forget about it" ports on the back of the TS4, allowing the front to stay clean, except for when needed. I can leave my Ethernet port, display out, a few USB-A devices, any Thunderbolt devices, and even some speakers all plugged into the back without cluttering my desktop. Now, when I need to plug in a thumb drive, an SSD, a set of headphones, or an SD Card, the front of my TS4 is completely clear of obstruction. I love having the front of this dock clean and clear most of the time, only to be used when I need to use something temporarily.
One thing that could be a potential issue for users is that this dock needs an HDMI out. It has a couple of Thunderbolt ports, which is how I plugged in my monitor, and a DisplayPort, but no HDMI. While this won't matter for some, HDMI is still quite popular, which could cause an issue for those who rely on it to run a display.
CalDigit TS4: In use
Using the TS4 has been as expected. There have been zero issues. I have been thrilled with the number of ports I have, and I have no worries about this dock having any problems moving forward. At this time, I have this dock on a single-monitor desk setup. Utilizing Thunderbolt, I plugged this monitor into one of the two extra Thunderbolt ports available in addition to the host port. I also plugged in the main power supply, gig internet via ethernet, and my Logi bolt plug.
Another fantastic element of using this dock is the power delivery. I have changed my phone, camera, Apple Watch and more. I've been quite impressed with the power available from this dock. All the devices I have thrown at this dock charge much faster than on previous docks I have used, all thanks to the overall 98W laptop power delivery and the high-speed charging ports around the rest of the device. I have also noticed that these devices will continue charging or operating even when I don't have my laptop plugged into the host port. Many docks only have "online" charging, meaning the charging-capable ports only work while a laptop or host device is plugged in. With the CalDigit TS4, I can unplug my computer and walk away or be done working for the day and trust that my devices will continue to charge until they finish charging, thanks to the offline charging feature.
Lastly, I'll mention how having SD quick access to an SD and MicroSD card slot on the front of this dock is helpful. I can easily dump photos from my camera, write files to my 3D printer, etc.
Having all of these ports available has been an enormous help, and they make even my MacBook Air feel much more capable without having to plug in a ton of dongles and adapters.
|Clean, highly useful design
|Strong and durable materials
|Ease of use
|Very easy to use
|Great for nearly anyone
|Premium price, premium build
CalDigit TS4: Final verdict
The CalDigit TS4 has met my impressively high expectations for docking stations, especially for the updated and upgraded impressive CalDigit TS3. The only person I may not recommend this dock to is someone who does not need a dock at all because this dock is just about perfect for everyone.
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Former TechRadar Pro B2B Hardware Editor, Collin has been in journalism for years, with experience in small and large markets, including Gearadical, DailyBeast, FutureNet, and more.
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