Guide: Macbooks and Windows Docking Stations

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro w/ 2.6ft Thunderbolt 3 Cable...
Budget Choice
Certified Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt...
Editor's Pick
Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual...
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro w/ 2.6ft Thunderbolt 3 Cable...
Certified Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt...
Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual...
$437.82
$79.99
$99.00
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Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro w/ 2.6ft Thunderbolt 3 Cable...
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro w/ 2.6ft Thunderbolt 3 Cable...
$437.82
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Budget Choice
Certified Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt...
Certified Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt...
$79.99
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Editor's Pick
Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual...
Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual...
$99.00
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Last update on 2021-10-14 / As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more about us.

Docks are great for people who work primarily on laptops but need a few more functionalities such as more ports, and also viewing the screen on a monitor.

Choosing the right device is essential, and with so many in the market, you might spend too much time learning which is the best. We wrote this article so that you can find the best docks that are compatible with both Windows and Mac with ease.

Can you use a docking station with a Mac?

Yes, you certainly can. It is common to worry whether a device will work with Mac since the standard for most devices is to work primarily with Windows, as it is a more popular (because less expensive) OS. Even so, many docking stations are compatible with Mac.

Some docks offer limited functionality with Macbooks. A few models will only recognize your machine if it has Intel technology. But in this article, we will focus on docks that are fully compatible with all Windows and Mac laptops.

Read Vertical Docking Station For Macbook 

Do docking stations work with all laptops?

Some docking stations are compatible with many operating systems, while others are more limited. Plenty of docking stations in the market right now offer compatibility only with Windows and Mac because those are the most used systems.

However, even good brands are manufacturing docks that are compatible with Chrome OS and Linux, since many people work with those.

When you are buying a docking station, make sure it is compatible with your operating system and with your ports.

What to look for when buying?

First of all, compatibility. If your laptop runs Windows, make sure to pick a dock that supports it (this should be no problem, though). If it runs Mac, pick a dock compatible with Mac.

Then, check if your laptop supports Thunderbolt 3 (check manually here). Many docks nowadays are powered with Thunderbolt 3, a technology that uses USB-C to increase data transfer speed. If your laptop doesn’t support it, you don’t need to get a dock with that tech, as it will be more expensive but you won’t even feel the difference.

If your laptop supports Thunderbolt 3, then consider getting a dock that uses it. Everything will run smoother.

Another important matter is: how many monitors would you like to connect to your laptop? Some docking stations are dual monitor while others can support up to three monitors. Most will support only two, and the cheapest can support only one.

Finally, the number of ports is very important. If you need to connect plenty of USB devices, read SD cards, etc., a dock will help with that. However, if all you need is to connect more USB devices, you might consider getting a cheap USB hub instead of a dock.

What is the difference between a hub and a docking station?

Hubs are devices with plenty of ports (usually all USBs) that let you plug in more devices into your laptop. So, a hub expands the physical connectivity of your machine. Also, the hub is powered by your laptop.

Docking stations, on the other hand, can do everything a hub does and much more. The most basic models will allow you to connect at least one monitor, thereby expanding your workspace.

Gamers can make great use of them to plug in a cooling pad, a keyboard, a mouse, and anything else that they need in their gaming space. Professionals also might need them when the number of ports on their laptop isn’t enough (nowadays, laptops have few ports, especially the thin ones).

Docking stations usually connect through USB-C, and many of them even make use of Thunderbolt technology to improve data transfer. And they are not powered by your machine, as instead they are plugged into the wall, being able to feed power to your laptop and peripherals too.

Does a docking station charge a laptop?

Some models do. You need to check what the description of the docking stations says and if the voltage is compatible with your laptop.

Best docking stations for Mac and Windows

Now that you know whether it is a dock or hub you need, let’s check great docking stations that work with either Mac or Windows. We will list at least one cheap dock that doesn’t use Thunderbolt in case your machine is a bit older and doesn’t support it.

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro w/ 2.6ft Thunderbolt 3 Cable...
  • The new M1-based MacBooks does not support dual “Extended” displays through their Thunderbolt 3 ports. This means that when...
  • Compatible with macOS and Windows USB-C laptops (Thunderbolt speeds require Thunderbolt 3 port)
  • Connect multiple devices to your laptop through a single dock, including monitors, hard drives, drawing tablet, mouse, keyboard,...

Last update on 2021-10-14 / As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more about us.

This Belkin docking station is a premium device powered by Thunderbolt 3 that should meet all your needs. You can connect your laptop to two monitors through this dock, so your workspace gets expanded and your productivity can skyrocket.

If you are worried about charging your laptop, the voltage of this dock is 85w.

It might not feature as many ports as other models in the market right now, but its quality is worth the price. All you have to do is plug your devices and start working (or playing, in case you are getting it to play games).

Specs

  • Dual 4K @60Hz
  • Thunderbolt 3 (40GB/s data transfer)
  • 85w upstream charging
  • 1 x USB-A 3.1
  • 1 x USB-C 3.1
  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 1 x Audio in/out
  • 1 x 170W PSU (Power Supply Unit)
  • 1 x Thunderbolt 3
  • 1 x Thunderbolt 3 port
  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 1 x GB Ethernet
  • 4 x USB-A 3.0 ports

Pros

  • Great visuals
  • Enough ports to organize your workspace
  • Thunderbolt 3 for high speed
  • Ability to connect up to two 4K monitors

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Other models in the market have more ports

What do the reviews say?

Buyers point to the fact that this docking station truly delivers the speed it promises. People with huge workspaces who demand a docking station to keep all connected and organized feel very happy acquiring this product.

Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Certified Cable Matters Dual 4K 60Hz DisplayPort Thunderbolt...
  • Thunderbolt 3 adapter adds Ethernet, USB 3.0, and dual monitors with DisplayPort over a single Thunderbolt 3 connection; Connect...
  • Dual 4K graphics video resolution support for uncompressed video resolutions up to 4096x2160@60Hz or a single 5K display...
  • 3 in 1 function Thunderbolt docking station in a rugged metal housing provides all the functions to work on the road when...

Last update on 2021-10-14 / As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more about us.

In case you want a docking station only to connect your laptop to two monitors through a Thunderbolt connection, this Cable Matters dock might be what you have been looking for. It is very cheap when compared to other options in the market, but you will get few port options.

When you connect this dock to your laptop, you have four ports out of it: 2 HDMI, one Ethernet, and one USB. This makes the dock very compact and easy to carry around in case that is also what you need.

The biggest pitfall is that you don’t get as many USB ports as on other docks. But you can solve this by getting a very cheap USB hub to go together.

This dock made by Cable Matters ends up being the perfect solution for professionals that don’t use many USB devices but do need to properly visualize their work on one or two bigger screens.

Specs

  • Thunderbolt 3
  • 2x HDMI
  • USB-C connection
  • 1x USB 3.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet

Pros

  • Thunderbolt
  • Easy to carry around
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Few ports

What do the reviews say?

It is truly plug-and-play. Since this dock offers few ports, it is also very easy to get going. The few incompatibilities faced can happen due to buyers being unaware of what the dock truly supports.

Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual Monitor

Sale
Plugable USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station Dual...
  • FLEXIBLE EXPANDABILITY - A single USB 3.0 connection from a host PC to this dock provides dual video outputs, wired Gigabit...
  • DUAL HD MONITORS - Built-in HDMI and DVI outputs each supporting 1920x1200 resolution @ 60Hz refresh rate. Includes DVI to VGA...
  • COMPATIBILITY - Docking station compatible with Windows 11, 10, 8.x and 7, and macOS 10.14+. Additional adapter needed for USB-C...

Last update on 2021-10-14 / As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more about us.

The Plugable Docking Station is the option for people with older laptops that don’t support Thunderbolt 3. We already commented on that and linked the site where you can check whether your laptop supports Thunderbolt. If it doesn’t, there is no use getting a dock with such tech, as you will pay more for something you won’t take advantage of.

Now, the Plugable dock has plenty of ports and also allows you to connect your laptop to two monitors. One of the video ports is HDMI, while the other is DVI but can be adapted to plug into HDMI monitors.

You also won’t need a USB hub when you are using this dock, because it has six USB ports.

This dock is intended for professional uses, not for gaming. It is an amazing device to visualize your work on two additional monitors, but you will face problems if you try to play games while connected to it.

Specs

  • 1x HDMI port & 1x DVI port
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 4x USB 2.0
  • 1x 3.5mm Headphone/Speaker Jack
  • 1x 3.5mm Microphone Jack
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet

Pros

  • Good price
  • Plenty of ports
  • Compatible with many devices

Cons

  • No Thunderbolt

What do the reviews say?

Most customers have had plenty of success installing this device into their workspace. Some, on the other hand, complain about lag. However, these are only a few. Perhaps they got a defective product or didn’t check for compatibility.

Final Thoughts

Docking stations are synonymous with productivity enhancement. Getting one will make your work smoother no matter what it is that you do. That way, getting the right device matters immensely.

The obvious pick here would be the Belkin dock. That is if your laptop supports Thunderbolt and you need plenty of ports.