Laptop Mag Verdict
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 dock is a sublime piece of equipment to have on hand throughout your day, offering a wide selection of I/O and plenty of power. If you own a laptop that’s paltry on ports, it only takes one Thunderbolt 4 or USB Type-C port for the CalDigit TS4 to transform your setup into a fully-fledged workstation.
Great port selection
98W of host Power Delivery
2.5Gb Ethernet and USB-C 20W PD
Offline charging support
Looks great at any workstation
$399 is steep
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Price: $399 / £399
Ports: 3 x Thunderbolt 4/USB4 (40Gb/s), 3 x USB-C 3.2 (Data only 10Gb/s), 5 x USB-A 3.2 (10Gb/s), 1 x SD card reader, 1 x microSD card reader. 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x front combo audio jack, 1 x rear audio jack in, 1 x read audio jack out, 1 x DC in.
Supports: Windows or macOS TBT4/TBT3/USB4 laptops and USB4 Chromebooks
Storage, cables, accessories, and adapters — these are just some of the things you may have seen the CalDigit name applied to as you’ve shopped around for your top-tech needs. But the brand’s docks and hubs are what catch my eye more than anything else, and the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 is a prime example of why.
In the quest for manufacturers to deliver thinner and lighter laptops, port selection is the most common sacrifice. Ethernet ports? No chance. Type-A USB ports? Nada. DisplayPort/HDMI? Keep dreaming. The more svelte your laptop, the less likely you are to have any extra connectivity options. When it comes to certain laptops, it’s Thunderbolt or bust, and even they might be short in supply.
Thankfully, when it comes to the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4, it only takes a single Thunderbolt 4 or USB Type-C port to revolutionize your desktop — providing an I/O overhaul that can deliver an incredible workstation setup from even the puniest of port offerings. Read on to learn more about the latest addition to our best USB-C hub page.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 price
It’s a shame that this section of the review comes first because the TS4’s price tag is going to put many of you on the back foot for the rest of this review. However, let’s get right to one of the biggest hurdles CalDigit’s dock faces in winning you over.
Available at a price of $399/£399, the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4’s lofty price tag is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s not the most expensive docking station we’ve come across by any stretch, and it’s still cheaper than the Targus’s $442.99 USB-C Universal Quad 4K Docking Station — a docking station that provides no Thunderbolt 4 support, or SD card readers, and has fewer ports overall.
When considering the CalDigit’s price, it’s vital we keep value in mind, and while expensive, the TS4 offers a formidable amount of ports alongside plenty of power. Whether or not that justifies its near-$400 price tag however, will come down to how much use you can draw out of the device and how important a docking station is in your setup.
Personally, the price seems a little high, but if a sale or deal knocks just a little off of CalDigit’s asking price then this would be an instant purchase for sure.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 design
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 is a docking station delight in terms of overall design and quality. The metallic chassis is a sleek, lightly-brushed aluminum frame that stays relatively true to the signature CalDigit design that’s wowed since 2015.
At just 1.41 pounds, the TS4 is light in the hands and won’t be a burden if placed into a backpack for travel. CalDigit’s dock is also small enough to find a home in any setup, standing or laid flat, at just 5.55 x 4.46 x 1.65 inches in size.
The docking station's base is covered by a single layer of grippy plastic that ensures the device won't slide or topple when upright. If you prefer it laid horizontally, CalDigit also supplies two grippy rubber feet that effortlessly slip onto the chassis’ ridge-laden frame which do a fantastic job of keeping such a lightweight device in place even when making use of more rigid cables.
The TS4’s ridged frame is a classic look for external devices that somehow never seems dated — even if it does, at times, resemble the metal comb of some high-tech musical box when placed on its side. Its modern aesthetic meets a classic look in splendid fashion, it’s unique, somewhat timeless, and looks great next to devices and setups of all colors.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 ports
Here’s where the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 really begins to shine. The port selection on offer here is second to none, with a mix of modern and legacy ports covering all your bases — with one slight omission.
The front of the dock features a UHS-II SD/Micro SD card reader; a single Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) USB port with offline charging (meaning it will provide up to 7.5W of charge — even with the host computer disconnected); two Type-C 3.2, Gen 2 (10Gb/s) USB ports, both of which feature host-only charging with one supplying 20W and the other 7.5W; and finally, a 3.5mm mic/audio combo jack that’s ideal for wired headsets.
Spinning the device around, we get to the business end of the dock which features four Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) USB ports, two of which provide 7.5W of host charge with the other delivering offline charging at the same rate. There are also three Thunderbolt 4 / USB4 (40Gb/s) ports, two of which deliver downstream devices 15W of charge, and the third is a host port with 98W of Power Delivery.
Also featured along the rear of the device is a single Type-C 3.2, Gen 2 (10Gb/s) USB port that delivers 7.5W of host power; a 2.5 Gigabit (2.5GBASE-T) Ethernet port; two separate 3.5mm audio jacks for input and output; a single DisplayPort 1.4 video output; a DC input that supplies the device with up to 230W of power; and finally a Kensington lock slot to keep your device safe and tethered to your desk when you’re out and about.
The TS4’s singular DisplayPort is the only area where the device comes up short in terms of port availability. While it can support 8K video output at up to 8K @ 60Hz for TBT4/3 and USB4 PCs (and dual 4K displays @ 60Hz on similar PCs, TBT4/USB4 Chromebooks, TBT3 Macs, and M1/M2 Pro/Max and M1 Ultra MacBooks) if your monitor is HDMI you will need to invest in an adapter (or two if you intend to use dual monitors) that further increases your costs when picking up this dock.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 performance
CalDigit states that the Thunderbolt Station 4 is “18 ports of extreme connectivity,” and I’m happy to say they aren’t wrong.
One of the key elements of CalDigit’s dock is its sublime power output. There are plenty of Thunderbolt 4 docks that claim to have a high Power Delivery to the host machine, but the more devices you connect, the more power is drawn away from that primary connection.
The TS4 doesn’t have this issue, thanks to its large 230W power supply. No matter how many devices are drawing power from the dock you’re guaranteed 98W of Power Delivery to the host machine.
It’s a claim I put to the test as best I could, connecting just about every device I could get my hands on to the dock to see if CalDigit’s claims held true. I charged my phone, iPad, Logitech G Pro X Superlight wireless mouse, wireless keyboard, a second tablet (and phone), and then connected my Dell XPS 15 to the host port.
My laptop raised a slight fuss at the fact it wasn’t connected to its intended 140W power supply, but sure enough, the CalDigit delivered a charge at a steady enough rate to not just keep my laptop going throughout my work day, but charged it up to full (albeit at a slower rate than usual.)
I’m no fan of cables laying around, and that made me especially thankful for the fact the TS4’s host port is at the back of the device. It goes a long way toward keeping your workspace clutter-free and allows the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 to perfectly blend in with your setup.
Even though my laptop has a built-in SD Card reader, I still found the CalDigit’s reader useful — if anything more so. Using the TS4’s SD Card reader meant I didn’t have to worry about forgetting to remove the card from the laptop before placing it in my bag avoiding any potential knocks or damage to the card in question.
I tested the DisplayPort’s capabilities with an external MSI monitor, enjoying a lag and stutter-free experience in the process. Even with the dock charging so many devices, there were no hiccups to show for it. The TS4 simply bounded along as if nothing would phase it.
And nothing did. My time with the TS4 was practically flawless when it came to performance. Even when attempting to use up as many ports as physically possible, CalDigit’s dock remained cool under pressure — never once giving me cause for concern.
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 is everything you could need from a Thunderbolt-capable dock and more. Thanks to its impressive performance and unflinching Power Delivery, the TS4 has very quickly become, not only the best accessory on my desktop but also one of my top picks for the best laptop docking stations you can buy today.
It is however not a flawless recommendation, there’s still the issue of the TS4’s price to consider. Taking price into account alongside any potential need you might face for picking up adapters for any non-DisplayPort monitors you own (which CalDigit sells for $34.99 / £34.99 a pop) might push the TS4’s premium $399/£399 cost even higher, resulting in it being a stretch too far for some. This is a burden that might be eased if CalDigit provided at least one adapter out of the box.
However, that being said, CalDigit’s 18-in-1 docking station is a fantastic device and an ideal core which you can focus on building your dream setup around.
Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.