CalDigit has been making some of the best Thunderbolt docks and other connectivity hardware for years, building up a strong reputation for quality and powerful performance. The TS4 is CalDigit's major release from 2022, and it acts as a successor to the TS3 Plus, which used the now-outdated Thunderbolt 3 to connect. The CalDigit TS4 uses the latest Thunderbolt 4 technology to boost performance and port selection, and the result is an impressive dock that bests most of the competition.
The TS4 has 18 total ports, up to 98W of charging to the host laptop (with plenty of charging capability for the individual ports), and it's built into a sturdy aluminum shell with ribbed design for heat dissipation and a bit of extra style. It even works in both horizontal and vertical orientations. The TS4 is more expensive than a lot of other Thunderbolt 4 docks in the same category, but it really does push everything to the max. If you want the best Thunderbolt 4 dock out there in terms of power and performance, you've found it. I've been using this dock for months with no real issues, but is it the right hardware for your specific desktop?
CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock
CalDigit's TS4 represents the best Thunderbolt 4 docking station you can buy today, at least as long as you want the most ports and power. It costs a lot at around $400, but it's the right choice for those who don't want to compromise.
- Three Thunderbolt 4 (one host), three USB-C, five USB-A, DP 1.4, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm combo, 3.5mm in/out, SD/microSD card reader (UHS-II)
- USB Power Delivery
- Up to 98W to host, 20W front USB-C, 7.5W USB-C, 7.5W USB-A
- Power supply included
- Two years
- Max display res.
- [email protected], dual [email protected]
- Many ports and 98W of charging
- Extra security via Kensington lock slot
- DisplayPort 1.4
- Expensive, sometimes sold out
- Shorter warranty than some competing docks
- Two downstream TB4 ports
CalDigit TS4: Price and availability
- Stock has become more reliable since release in 2022
- Available starting around $400
CalDigit's TS4 launched in early 2022 and almost immediately sold out. The good news is that most of the stock shortage issues seem to have been ironed out, and you can now often find it for sale at third-party retailers like Amazon and B&H. CalDigit's official website also has it for sale, along with other great docking hardware like the Element Hub and SOHO Dock.
You can expect to pay about $400 for this dock, making it one of the most expensive Thunderbolt 4 options on the market. We'll explore why the dock remains so popular despite its price, but know that this hardware doesn't come cheap.
CalDigit TS4: Design and connectivity
- Solid aluminum construction
- Works vertically or horizontally
- So many ports
CalDigit's TS4, like the TS3 Plus, is built into a rather compact aluminum case made up of three pieces held tightly together with screws. Included are removable rubber pads should you want to use the dock horizontally. Otherwise, a built-in rubber pad is intended for a vertical orientation. Whereas most Thunderbolt 4 docks work only horizontally, I appreciate the extra effort on CalDigit's part.
The case is ribbed to better dissipate heat (though that wasn't a problem for me), and it also gives it a bit of flair. The TS4 is a bit larger than the TS3, but it also comes with more ports. This is a Thunderbolt 4 dock, and though it will work with older tech like Thunderbolt 3 and standard USB-C, you'll get the best experience by connecting to a laptop with the latest Thunderbolt standard.
A 0.8-meter cable is included, allowing you to connect to the host laptop through a Thunderbolt 4 port on the back of the dock. I always appreciate a detachable cable since you won't have to replace the entire dock should the cable receive damage. Once connected, the dock opens up 17 more ports for use. The back of the dock, aside from the host port, has two more downstream Thunderbolt 4, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, four USB-A 3.2 (Gen 2), 3.5mm audio in and out, USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2), DisplayPort 1.4, and the AC adapter plug.
The front of the dock adds UHS-II SD and microSD card readers, a 3.5mm audio combo jack, two more USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2), and a USB-A 3.2 (Gen 2). Many people likely won't fully utilize the three 3.5mm jacks, but you're still getting a ton of connectivity that will improve your workflow.
CalDigit subtracted one potential downstream Thunderbolt 4 port to make room for DisplayPort 1.4. This decision might cramp your specific workflow, but I feel like the two remaining downstream ports are enough for most users and the native DP 1.4 port makes it easier to connect modern monitors. The microSD and SD card readers can function simultaneously, and you can expect UHS-II speeds better suited for photographers or power users who need the extra transfer speed.
CalDigit TS4: Performance and charging
- Up to 98W of power to the host laptop
- Works across multiple operating systems
- Best used with Thunderbolt 4
The TS4 can handle a lot of simultaneous connections thanks to its wide port selection, and it can also charge your devices. Most importantly, the dock can deliver up to 98W of power back to the host laptop, keeping it charged when you need to leave the office. You can also keep accessories topped up with the other ports. The front USB-C hookups can charge at 20W and 7.5W, respectively, while the front USB-A port hits 7.5W. All rear USB ports can manage 7.5W, while the downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports can hit 15W.
Charging works while the dock is connected to a host laptop, but some ports can also charge when the dock is asleep. The front USB-A, two rear USB-A ports, and all the USB-C ports will continue to charge even if there's no host laptop connected. Keep in mind that the USB ports are all rated for speedy 10Gbps transfer speeds, the 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port allows for blazing internet speeds, and the downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports can handle data, power, or display.
The CalDigit TS4 is compatible with Windows 10/11 and macOS 11.4 Big Sur or newer, plus it should work with iPads and Chromebooks that use Thunderbolt or USB-C. Monitor support is a bit of a mixed bag depending on the system you're connecting to the dock. Windows and ChromeOS can handle up to dual 4K displays at 60Hz or one 8K display at 60Hz (as long as the computer supports it), while M1 Pro and M1 Max Macs can go up to dual 6K displays at 60Hz. Standard M1 Macs support just one external display.
Note that this display support assumes you're connected with Thunderbolt 4. Connecting with Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C will still land you quite good functionality, but shelling out this much money to not use the dock with a TB4 host laptop isn't recommended.
When I first started using the dock last year, I ran into a couple of complications with a Dell XPS 13 (9300) using Thunderbolt 3 and an XPG Xenia 14 using Thunderbolt 4. The XPS 13 simply didn't want to connect due to what I can only figure out to be an issue on Dell's end, while the XPG Xenia 14's BIOS wasn't up-to-date enough to handle the dock's full functionality. Since then, I've used the TS4 with dozens of laptops, including Windows and Mac, without issue. It's included in many of our roundups for individual laptops, including the best docks for the HP Dragonfly Folio G3.
CalDigit TS4: Compared to the competition
- Plenty of other great TB4 docks available
- Can spend less on many other docks
Our collection of the best Thunderbolt docks has a bunch of great hardware to check out, and it even already includes the TS4 as a top pick for power users. That's a perfect classification for a dock that has more ports, charging potential, and overall performance than a lot of the competition. If you don't want to spend quite as much — or simply don't need as many ports — there are plenty of available alternatives.
Kensington's SD5780T nearly matches the TS4's power delivery at 96W, it has 11 total ports, including the host Thunderbolt 4 hookup, it comes with a longer three-year warranty, and it works across Windows and Mac devices. You get dual [email protected] display support (or [email protected], with the option of [email protected] with DSC), a detachable cable, and a build that's mostly aluminum with plastic faceplates. The dock lies horizontal and takes up more space, but you're looking at a much lower price that regularly starts around $300 or less.
CalDigit's own Element Hub is another quality option for users who want to focus specifically on expanding USB-A and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. It regularly costs around $250 and comes with four USB-A 3.2 (Gen 2) ports and three downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports. It also has an AC adapter plug and a host TB4 hookup on the side. The dock is compact and built well.
Should you buy the CalDigit TS4?
You should buy the CalDigit TS4 if ...
- You want the best port selection and performance from a Thunderbolt dock
- You don't mind losing one downstream TB4 port to DisplayPort 1.4
- You have $400 to spend on a docking station
- You have a laptop with Thunderbolt 4 capabilities
You shouldn't buy the CalDigit TS4 if ...
- You don't have a laptop with Thunderbolt 4 (or USB4)
- You want at least three downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports
- You don't need the best performance at a high price
The CalDigit TS4 is a worthy successor to the TS3 Plus, and, like the older dock, it's a top choice for power users who can afford to spend about $400 on an accessory. The TS4 can handle more accessories with better charging potential than many other docks, and it's the perfect pairing with a modern laptop that includes Thunderbolt 4 or USB4.
Stock levels have evened out since the dock's release last year, and you can now more reliably find the dock for sale. It will cost more than a lot of the competition, but it's worth the money if you're aiming to design the ultimate workstation setup.
CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock
CalDigit's TS4 docking station is a top pick for power users who don't want to bother with inferior performance or port selection. It costs more than most of the competition though, so be prepared to shell out.