Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD review: Expand your MacBook I/O

Apple / Hardware Reviews / Reviews / Tech
Belkin Thunderbolt 3

With a Mac like look and most of the I/O you’re looking for, the Belkin could be a good choice.

TA-ratings-94Now that the new MacBooks are sporting strictly Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) connections, you might need a dock. With the lack of I/O on the new Macs, you don’t want to just throw out your old peripherals. This is where the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD comes into play. Belkin isn’t the first to the party, but it certainly is a top competitor in the market. Like most of the other docks, the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD isn’t cheap. While the price tag isn’t small, it at least provides plenty of I/O to get you through your day. Read on for the full review of the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD.

Specifications

The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD has the following features and specifications:

  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2xAudio Out (AUX)
  • 3x USB-A 3.0
  • 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
  • DisplayPort
  • Connect 8 separate devices through a single Thunderbolt cable
  • Dual 4K video output (Display Port, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
  • 85W PD powers your computer through 3.3-foot / 1-meter Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps cable
  • Daisy chain up to 5 Thunderbolt devices from the dock
Belkin Thunderbolt 3

Box contents

What’s In The Box

  • Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD
  • 3.3-foot / 1-meter Belkin Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • Power adapter
  • Documentation/Warranty
Belkin Thunderbolt 3

Very Apple/Mac looking in design.

Design

Belkin sticks with an Apple MacBook Pro motif here wrapping the majority of the dock in aluminum. The motif extends to the bottom of the dock with its MacBook Pro-like rubber feet and stance. The sides and back are a nice, premium, black, glossy plastic that lends a nice accent to the aluminum chassis. The dock itself isn’t one bit heavy, it’s actually impressively light. It’s not overly massive, so it won’t take up much room on your desk.

Around the front (thank God they include front ports) you’ll find one of the USB-A 3.0 ports, which is great if you need to use a thumb drive quickly. Also located on the front is one of the two AUX ports, so that makes it easy to plug a pair of headphones in. Moving around the back you’ll find the rest of your I/O. From left to right, Ethernet, AUX, 2 USB-A 3.0, 2 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), DisplayPort and the power connector.

Speaking of power, the power supply on this thing is nearly as large as the unit itself. I’d have to say this isn’t going to be something you lug around with you all the time. It makes sense that the power supply needs to be large since the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD can push two 4K monitors at the same time. So while I would have liked to see a smaller power supply, I do understand the need for the extra juice. Overall, the design is nice and will really compliment your Apple products. I do wish they would have offered other colors beyond silver.

Ease of Use

There’s nothing easier than plug-and-play, and this is as easy as it gets. The hardest part is finding some place to keep that giant power supply from being seen, but that’s no deal breaker.

Belkin Thunderbolt 3

Front USB-a 3.0 and AUX port

Performance

One of the key features of this dock is the ability to drive two 4K monitors at the same time. Unfortunately, I don’t have two 4K monitors, but I did have a 4K monitor from AOC I was reviewing at the same time as the Belkin. I was able to test connectivity between the one 4K monitor and a Lenovo 2K monitor and everything worked brilliantly. Connecting two 1920×1080 monitors was nothing for this dock either, everything ran nice and smooth. The power pass through is a great feature as well, allowing you to power your laptop through the dock rather than using the separate power cable for your Mac. This is especially handy for those who have the 13″ MacBook Pro with only 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports on it.

As far as data transfer, I was able to transfer a combination of video files, raw files, jpg files, png files, and documents totaling 80GB from one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports to a USB 3.0 Patriot SuperSonic SSD in just under 9 minutes. There’s no doubt that this thing has the power as long as the source you’re transferring it to can handle the transfer speeds. When trying to transfer the same files to a USB 2.0 thumb drive, I was quoted almost 2 hours for transfer.

Belkin Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt ports, DisplayPort and power connection.

You’re also able to daisy chain up to 5 Thunderbolt 3 devices using the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD. The dock performs as expected, although it is missing one key I/O for photographers and that is the SD Card reader. Not being able to see the internals, all I can say is that it appears they could have added an SD Card reader right next to the USB-A 3.0 port in the front. I know many photographers and videographers would have appreciated this feature, and it was one piece of I/O that was really missed on the MacBook Pro.

The Express Dock HD isn’t compatible with Windows and is pretty much focused on MacBook Pro users. It performs very well, we weren’t able to test dual 4K displays but it pushes a 4K and 2K just fine. Transfer speeds were really great, I don’t know how we lived in the past with such slow transfer speeds (sarcasm). Overall the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD performs magnificently right on par with the competition.

Belkin Thunderbolt 3

Ethernet, AUX, and USB-A 3.0 ports.

Price/Value

The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD isn’t exactly cheap. Coming in at a pretty large $349.99USD, it will set you back some cash. While the price tag may be a shocker to some, it’s competitive. This dock is pushing two 4K screens and has plenty of speedy I/O to keep you productive. There’s probably going to be cheaper alternatives coming to market at some point but likely from lesser known brands. Belkin has a good reputation. The price is high but the value is there.

Wrap Up

This is another solid Thunderbolt 3 dock for the new MacBooks. If enough quality brands like Belkin continue to make these docks, prices may eventually come down a bit. For now, if you’re needing one straight away, you’re going to have to pay.

*We were sent a sample of the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD for the purposes of this review.

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD

$349.99USD
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD
9.4

Design

9/10

    Ease of Use

    10/10

      Performance

      10/10

        Price/Value

        9/10

          Nailed it

          • Nice design
          • Slim and lightweight
          • Plenty of I/O options

          Needs work

          • Pricey, very pricey
          • No SD Card reader
          • Wish there was a space grey
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