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CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt hub review: The dock of our dreams

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The new CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4 — or TS4 — connects 18 ports to your Mac and delivers plenty of power.

This new dock is one of few Thunderbolt 4 hubs to come to market. Apple's just started to adopt Thunderbolt 4, and we're sure to see an influx from major accessory makers soon.

That said, CalDigit has a reputation for creating some of the best hubs on the market, and the TS4 is no exception.

A familiar design

The TS4 borrows its design from the TS3 Plus and the original TS3. It has an all-metal design with ridges down the sides that double as heat sinks.

One end of the TS4 has a rubber foot, allowing it to stand vertically. You can slide on two rubber feet to sit it on its side if you prefer.

CalDigit TS4
CalDigit TS4 works in two orientations

The dedicated power supply for the TS4 has a large barrel connector that plugs into the back of the dock. The supply is rated for 230W of total power delivery.

Ports, ports, and more ports

At launch, the TS4 has a lot of firsts. It isn't the first Thunderbolt 4 hub or even the first from CalDigit. It is the first to have 18 ports, the first Thunderbolt 4 dock with 98W of power delivery, and the first with a 2.5Gb Ethernet port.

If we expand on those ports further, there are six ports on the front. The front-facing ports include:

  • UHS-II SD 4 Card reader
  • UHS-II SD 4 microSD card reader
  • Audio combo jack
  • USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s, 7.5W)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s, 7.5W)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s, 20W)

On the back, there are an additional 12 ports plus a security slot. The rear ports include:

  • 2.5Gb Ethernet
  • Audio input
  • Audio output
  • (4X) USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s, 7.5W)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s, 7.5W)
  • Upstream Thunderbolt 4 port
  • (2X) Downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports (15W)
  • DisplayPort 1.4

A great Mac addition

Looking specifically at our Mac setup, there's a reason we're so thrilled by this dock.

Using MagSafe with the CalDigit TS4
Using MagSafe with the CalDigit TS4

Since there is a front-facing 20W USB-C port, we can use MagSafe. Connect your MagSafe cable and you can charge any iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 at up to 15W.

All USB-C, the front-facing USB-A, and two of the rear USB-A all can deliver power while not connected to your Mac. Even when the host is powered down, this turns the TS4 into a great charging station for your accessories.

We connected our Apple Watch charger, a GoPro, our Rode microphones, and our AirPods. All can power up while we step away from the desk.

We're using the Thunderbolt 4-equipped 16-inch MacBook Pro, which gained an SD card slot with the redesign. Even though this is a UHS-II card slot, Apple limits it to only 250MB/s. UHS-II is capable of 312MB/s, which is what the CalDigit TS4 supports.

Top down view of the CalDigit TS4
Top down view of the CalDigit TS4

That makes the TS4 faster at transferring data from supported SD cards. Not to mention you don't need to use an adapter with MicroSD cards.

Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro is a big machine and can accept up to 140W over MagSafe. The 98W of power here is still below that maximum, but it's the most we've seen yet from a Thunderbolt dock.

Thunderbolt 4
Thunderbolt 4

The TS3 Plus has been a great dock, but we got so many more benefits with the TS4.

CalDigit TS4 versus CalDigit TS3 Plus

As popular as the CalDigit TS3 Plus was, it was only apt to compare this next-generation model to it.

 TS3 PlusTS4
Price$299.99$359.99
EthernetGigabit Ethernet2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
Card ReaderUHS-II SD Card SlotUHS-II SD & microSD Card Slots
AudioAudio in
Audio out
Audio in
Audio out
Audio Combo Jack
Security SlotN/AYes
Video OutputDisplayPort 1.4DisplayPort 1.4
Digital OpticalYesN/A
USB-CUSB-C 3.1 Gen 1 (Data Only)
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (Data Only)
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (20W)
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (7.5W)
USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (7.5W)
Thunderbolt(1X) Upstream Thunderbolt 3
(1X) Downstream Thunderbolt 3
(1X) Upstream Thunderbolt 4
(2X) Downstream Thunderbolt 4
USB-A(5X) USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, 5Gb/s, 7.5W
(5X) USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 10Gb/s, 7.5W
(3X) With Offline Power
Supported External DisplaysOne 5K display
Dual 4K displays at 60Hz
One 8K display
One 6K display
Dual 6K displays
Power Delivery87W98W

There are improvements across the board with the TS4. CaDigit increased the number of ports, increased the data and charging speed on many USB ports, increased the number of Thunderbolt ports, upped the power delivery, and increased the maximum display output.

Physically, the devices are quite similar. They sport similar designs, though the TS4 is slightly larger. The TS4 is taller and deeper than the TS3 Plus, but looks very similar from a style perspective.

Support for plenty of displays

The TS4 can power a single 8K external display, though this is currently unsupported on the Mac.

Mac users can still run dual 6K displays through the dock, or any two lower resolution displays. That includes Apple's Pro Display XDR.

CalDigit upped the DisplayPort on the TS4 to version 1.4, but we still wish they opted for HDMI. There is an HDMI port on our Mac, but with a dock, the idea is you can have only one cable to connect or disconnect.

DisplayPort is still around, but not as common as HDMI is in 2022. It isn't the end of the world, and the AppleInsider staff is split as to which they prefer.

Should you buy the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4?

Accessories connected to the TS4
Accessories connected to the TS4

Thunderbolt 4 didn't increase the speed of Thunderbolt, but it's enabled plenty of new functionality here. The Thunderbolt 4 controller chip included is why there are multiple downstream Thunderbolt ports on the device, and why this dock will still work with non-Thunderbolt 4 devices.

You can easily plug an iPad Pro (USB 4) or an older Mac with Thunderbolt 3 and still get most of the features of the TS4. This makes it incredibly versatile and the dock we'd recommend, even if you don't have Thunderbolt 4 yet.

You can use this with your Thunderbolt 3 Mac and then be future-proofed when you eventually upgrade to a new Thunderbolt 4-equipped machine.

CalDigit TS4 box
CalDigit TS4 box

We've almost no qualms with the CalDigit TS4, outside of its lack of HDMI. With so many ports and lots of power, this is the undisputed king of Thunderbolt 4 docks.

Pros

  • Delivers 98W of power to your Mac
  • Multiple Thunderbolt outputs
  • 20W USB-C which even supports MagSafe
  • Compact, versatile design
  • Plenty of USB-C ports
  • Supports Apple Pro Display XDR and up to 8K resolution
  • Backward compatible with USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3

Cons

  • No HDMI output
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro can charge faster than this supports

Rating: 5 out of 5

Where to buy

You can check out the CalDigit TS4 on both Amazon as well as B&H. B&H will have it in stock mid-February while Amazon says mid-March.