Late last year, StarTech launched its very first Thunderbolt 4 dock. Since then its lofty price tag has been met with some newfound competition. One thing those lower-cost options can’t quite match, though, is the features, which set StarTech’s Mac upgrade apart thanks to up to 8K display output, 96W power passthrough, and a three Thunderbolt 4 ports, amongst other I/O. Now we’re going hands-on to see how the premium package stacks up.
Hands-on with the new StarTech Thunderbolt 4 Dock
Out of the box, the premium impression of StarTech’s first Thunderbolt 4 dock is made quite apparent with an all-metal casing. The accessory has quite a bit of heft to it and is coated in a dark silver finish that should blend in quite well with your Apple setup.
I am also quite a big fan of the rubberized sides of the hub. Not only does StarTech include rubber feet on the button of its Thunderbolt 4 dock, but also carries that over to the edges of the accessory. So if you’re looking to position it vertically on your desk, there’s some added grip to keep it in place. The one end also has a Kensington lock loop built-in, as well.
Premium build aside, there is a lot to live up to for the $420 price tag, and StarTech looks to back that up with a robust feature array. Other Thunderbolt 4 docks we’ve taken a look at aim to be a more flexible desktop upgrade with a handful of USB-C slots and nothing else. StarTech, on the other hand, is taking a one size fits all approach and packing in just about everything you’ll need for daily use. You’ll find a total of ten ports overall, which range from future-proof inputs to legacy connections and the like.
Most notably are the three rear Thunderbolt 4 ports, which give you the flexibility to extend your Mac to a series of other peripherals – even if they’re the latest accessories on the market that use the new standard. Each of these is rated at the full 40Gb/s transfer rates. To complement the latest USB-C/Thunderbolt standard, you’re also looking at some additional I/O to round out the build.
Gigabit Ethernet is almost a given at price points like this, so you’ll find the networking port added onto the back. That’s alongside three 10Gb/s USB-A 3.1 slots to round out the rear connectivity. On the front, you’re also looking at an SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a standard USB 2.0 slot.
The biggest area that StarTech delivers on with its Thunderbolt 4 dock is on display support. Right off the bat you’ll be able to drive a pair monitors at 4K60Hz with a compatible device. Apple’s standard M1 Macs will be excluded from that due to the single display output limitation, though you will be able to take full advantage of the biggest aspect that lets StarTech’s accessory stand out. It can handle upwards of 8K outputs. As the full breakdown of those display specs, there’s support for 8K30Hz/6K60Hz/5K60Hz single monitor extension.
You’ll plug into the StarTech Thunderbolt 4 hub from the front of the dock, which has a port for connecting the 0.8-meter Thunderbolt 4 cable included in the box to your machine. That placement makes this better suited for those who plan on pairing the accessory with a MacBook rather than a desktop counterpart, though it will work just fine with the likes of a M1 iMac, Mac mini, or even the new Mac Studio.
Those who do plan on taking the mobile computer converted to a desktop workstation approach will also appreciate the 96W power delivery features. It’s enough juice to comfortably charge everything from a MacBook Air to an M1 Max machine while handling all of the other connectivity passthrough.
I’ve been using the StarTech Thunderbolt 4 Dock over the past few weeks as a daily driver for a series of different Macs. My go-to day in and day out is the 14-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro, and I have to say that it has been quite the notable counterpart to my machine. At the times when it isn’t plugged into my portable device, it has powered my podcast-recording M1 Mac setup alongside helping test out the new Mac Studio. In all three cases, it has been quite stable in day-to-day use with little to no crashes, downtime, or issues with display connectivity.
I’ve used other docks that stutter for a few seconds right when you initially plug in your machine, but StarTech’s offering has been quite solid so far across all of my different Macs. So while it may be pricey, that reliability is certainly a step in the right direction for justifying its MSRP.
In contrast to other models on the market, most of the competition lack the 8K support. So if you’re rocking a workstation that is centered around a monitor that falls outside of the usual 4K or 1080p resolution, this Thunderbolt 4 dock should be at the top of your list. Otherwise, the feature set isn’t all too drastically different from the competition. You’ll find a similar stable of I/O on other models with the same Thunderbolt 4 specs to boot. It’s really the display connectivity that makes this one stand out.
The bottom line here is whether or not you’re going to want a future-proof accessory. The $420 price tag is going to be a deal-breaker for some, but if needing any of the higher-end specs noted above now or down the line is something of value, the StarTech Thunderbolt 4 Dock is just about your only option. If not, you’ll be able to save some cash by going with options from Satechi.