Monday, August 29, 2016

USB-C Dock - The Best Baymax for MacBook

Last year after my visit to the local Apple store and being confused with USB-C and Lightning interfaces, I did intensive research and found that the new interface USB-C is pretty cool only if you have right gears including adapter or docking station to take advantage of this new technology. It’s a new all-in-one solution for power, video, and data delivery using a single cable. Instead of having a backpack full of multiple cable types, you can have one type for all uses and USB-C is the only connector currently available to support the full functions of USB 3.1.

Amazon is always a great resort for me to buy gears though this time, it looked like such new technology has been either mis-used or immature to adopt. Many reviews indicated the poor quality of cable and lack of charging capability of their USB-C devices. You will be fine if using a USB-C Windows laptop, Dell has a good laptop where has several interface ports. Such charging function is just an extra bonus for them, but if you have MacBook like me, you must need a charging device while doing data transfer and video output all together through a lightning-like port: USB-C - the one and ONLY one port on MacBook.

With that in mind, I pretty much skipped all the little brands on Amazon and only focus on the big guys. I was looking for several big brands, OWC, CalDigit and Belkin. OWC one looks very good though I do not like a plastic casing, plus several Amazon reviews revealed its incapability of supporting Apple DVD burner. The SuperDrive.

Belkin has nothing but all USB-C cables, that's great. Cable business may make more sense to them.

So I settled down to CalDigit's one. After waiting and waiting, I finally got my CalDigit USB-C dock. Been a long waiting though the waiting is over and it's more than worthy to wait such a long time ;) It works pretty well.

I was surprised to know CalDigit is sending out their USB-C Dock with a Thunderbolt 3 type-c cable. (Included in 149 dollars deal)

Lots of bad reviews on Amazon talking about how their poor USB-C cable burnt their computers. 
Benson from Google also has intensive experience with many of those poor quality cables: 

So getting a Thunderbolt 3 cable from CalDigit did ease my tension since Thunderbolt is backed by Intel and Apple, the cables certified by Intel should be much more sturdy.

And just to let you know the similar Thunderbolt 3 cable on Amazon is costing more than 20 dollars, like this 0.5m (1.6 ft) Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) USB-C Cable - Thunderbolt and USB Compatible  and CalDigit gives that to you for free.

Next, I tested out superdrive, iPad charging and my WD USB 3.0 4TB My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive. All are working properly. Ethernet is working well too. Apple MacBook got power from this USB-C dock.

Both Ethernet and Superdrive require driver download and installed.

My superdrive is connecting to one of the USB ports on the back. iPad Pro is connecting to the USB-C  port on the back too. Charging time is faster than Apple's iPad pro adapter. 

I got an expensive Apple MKQ42AM/A USB-C to Lightning Cable (2M). For any Type-C cable to iOS Devices, you should always get an Apple cable to be safe. 

I was trying my cheap Samsung 4K display to connect to either DisplayPort or HDMI on the back. Again, works fine. It can do 2K/60Hz or 4K/30Hz. No problem. 

I was also surprised to know I could do fast offline charging on MacBook disconnecting through the USB-C port. According to CalDigit site, the front USB port can also do fast offline charging too. The Type-C port can do up to 3A, which is 15W, the front USB port can do 2.1A, which is 10.5W. Both are perfect for iOS devices.

I tested this companion few days,  and like it. It is designed for the desktop use, not portable, so having it with a solid sturdy built and heavy aluminum case is what I was looking for. It's a good investment comparing to an 80 dollars dongle from Apple. Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. So if you travel a lot, get an Apple one, if you need a desktop version, CalDigit's one is one of great choices.

9/2 Updates: I guess this quick review of CalDigit USB-C dock did draw many visitors. I got several emails and asked me about this dock. 

The part I like about this dock is the laptop charging, 4K support that comes from HDMI or DisplayPort, my 3-year old SuperDrive DVD burner support and more extended USB ports. Plus an extra bonus FREE Thunderbolt 3 cable!
While looking around this dock information on caldigit site, I was delighted to know that they have lots of useful information on its faq. 

You can find all your questions from that page including monitor support, charging and superdrive, network. 

According to this faq, the 4K monitor is limited to MacBook's 4K/30Hz. Dual monitor support is not supported in MacBook. I was trying to connect both HDMI and DisplayPort to two monitors, one is 4K and one is my old 1080P, they both showing the same screen, so mirror support for dual monitor in confirmed, no dual extended. This is limited by MacBook, not by this Dock. It can still support dual monitor showing different screen if I connect it to a  WindowsThunderbolt 3 laptop. I dont have it now.

9/7 Updates: To answer the same question from several MacBook users who had tried the USB-C bus powered dock or other USB-C docks and had trouble when two external hard drives plugged in at the same time, I can confirm that CalDigit USB-C Dock has no such problem. I tried both WD and Seagate bus powered portable drives, both are connecting to this dock. I can transfer files in between two drives and speed are USB 3.0 level.

11/1 Update: Lots of emails came to me and asked me if I still like this USB-C Dock. The answer is YES. I did not find any problem so far. I am not a heavy and pro user, a single 4K 30hz video output, charging, USB HDDs, network and SuperDrive are all what I need.

11/2 Update: I was told by someone who read this blog that his CalDigit USB-C Dock works and does charge Apple's MacBook Pro 2016 he just got today. All the features are expected including video, charging, ethernet, USB drive. It charges up to 60W and that matches what caldigit said on the FAQ. i will be testing one soon too.

11/4 Update:  I also got a MacBook Pro 2016, 13" one that has no fancy touch bar. It is from my friend. I ran a full test with my CalDigit USB-C dock today. It works as expected. One thing I want to point out is that although Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C have smilier functions, they are actually different things. Thunderbolt 3 can do USB-C, charging, video, audio and PCIe.  USB-C can do charging, video, audio and USB. USB-C can not do PCI-e, which is Thunderbolt's main protocol. All these features are optional, so ask around before you buy the laptop and accessories.

If you are like me, do not care about all the new technologies and only want to find a cheaper and reliable product to use,  this USB-C dock does serve the purpose. If you like crazy 40G thing, daisy chain 6 devices, dual extended 4K / 60Hz monitors, you must use Thunderbolt 3 dock. Ask your wife if she allows you to spend 300 to 400 dollars on such Thunderbolt 3 dock :)
For me, a USB-C dock that is less than 150 dollars is good enough.

I have received many emails asking me about CalDigit USB-C Dock and Thunderbolt 3.  I can tell you if you want to do MacBook Pro charging, 13" or 15" , USB-C dock can do it.  If you want to have a single extended monitor up to 4K/30Hz or 4K/60Hz (which requires firmware update from CalDigit and will bring down USB 3 speed to 2.0. This is same design as Apple's new USB-C LG monitor). 

I hope this can give you a good direction.

11/26 Update: I was told by several MacBook Pro 2016, 15" Thunderbolt 3 users who have CalDigit USB-C docks that their external monitors did not work and freeze the macOS when they attempted to plug in monitor. They claimed they were told to try several things, one is to reset MBP's NVRAM, one is to update to macOS 10.12.2 beta. After all the updates and cleanups, MacBook Pro 15" and CalDigit USB-C dock now are happy campers. USB device and external monitors are functioning properly. 

02/19/2017 Update: So I have been using this dock, it works perfectly with my MacBook. I also tried it with MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 touch bar, it works fine too. I was notified by CalDigit and several readers to update this dock's firmware as well as macOS to 10.12.3. After that, my MacBook Pro has been working correctly. No freeze-up. Very nice!

My email is  crazydiamondstar AT if you have any questions. 

Below you can order this USB-C Dock directly from their Amazon store


  1. Good post....thanks for sharing.. very useful for me i will bookmark this for my future needs. Thanks. Complete Set of Desktop on Rent

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