Plug your MacBook in and out of a multi-port dock to swiftly add devices and external displays to your laptop. We tested a bunch to find the best USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks available to owners of the latest MacBook, MacBook Air (2018) and MacBook Pro.
If you use your laptop as your principal computer, you would do well to consider attaching at least one larger display to create a hybrid desktop/laptop setup. You can turn that 13in laptop screen into an iMac-sized 27in or even larger monitor by adding an extra display – or add two large screens to extend your screen across your whole desk.
Using a larger display is better for your eyes, and likely will help you improve your posture while working, playing or viewing. With today’s TV streaming services, you can transform your laptop into a 4K television.
One problem with using a MacBook as your main PC is its lack of ports. The 12in MacBook has just one USB-C port, the new MacBook Air boasts two USB-C (actually the superior but visually identical Thunderbolt 3 standard) ports, and the latest MacBook Pro models feature either two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
You need one port for charging (albeit not all the time), and maybe at least another to attach further devices (memory sticks, hard drives, an adapter for Ethernet, external display).
There are many adapters that let you add devices to a USB-C MacBook (see our roundup of the best USB-C adapters), but for maximum flexibility check out these docks that take care of all your extra port requirements, and allow you to simply attach it to your laptop with just one cable when you get to the office or come home.
It makes it much easier to use your laptop in two locations, as it can easily be connected into and out of the dock – although you might need a dock at each end for similar setups.
We’ve also included some MacBook-friendly stands that lack all the extra ports but keep your MacBook/Air/Pro upright and out of the way: saving valuable desk space, reducing clutter, keeping your laptop cool, and saving it from spills.
Note that when in closed (clamshell) mode on a stand the MacBook’s camera is covered – and while the internal microphone (and speakers) are still active it is prone to pick up vibration from the laptop itself. You can use an external microphone and webcam for video conferencing.
We have tested products to match Apple’s MacBook design and colours. You can mix and match the docks and stands – or indeed use one or the other depending on your needs. For example, I have a setup in my office that uses the CalDigit TS3 Plus connected to the Henge Vertical Dock.
Henge Docks Stone Docking Station
With the Henge Stone you can connect multiple devices, plus Ethernet connection and displays, in one great-looking docking station.
Stone features three old-school USB-A (USB 3.1) ports, one Mini DisplayPort, audio/Mic, Gigabit Ethernet, power supply, an SD Card reader, and two USB-C connections (one In, one Out).
It’s plain USB-C rather than Thunderbolt 3, but we still managed to run two displays in Extended mode, albeit with two USB-C cables going into the MacBook Pro rather than one, which you get with the CalDigit TS3 Plus and its Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The Stone dock the best-looking of the docks tested here, matching Apple’s aesthetic both in colour and smooth design.
Read our full Henge Docks Stone Docking Station review
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus)
More powerful than a simple USB-C dock, the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus features the superior (but otherwise physically indistinguishable) Thunderbolt 3 connectors that can run two external displays in Extended mode (via one cable to the laptop) and charge at 85W so makes a great companion to Apple’s 15in MacBook Pro.
It’s packed with ports, front and back, featuring two 40Bbps Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-C ports (one at 5Gbps and the other Gen2 port at 10Gbps), five old-style USB-A (3.1) ports, a DisplayPort 1.2, an SD Card Reader, Digital Optical Audio (S/PDIF), Analog Audio In (Stereo) and Analog Audio Out (Stereo), plus a Gigabit Ethernet port.
Like most of the other docks here, it’s pretty dinky so won’t take up too much space on your desk. Available in Silver and Space Gray, it matches the colours if not quite the smooth design of Apple’s laptops.
We recommend the TS3 Plus for owners of the most recent MacBook Pro models that include the 40Gbps Thunderbolt ports.
Read our full CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus) review
Targus Dock410 USB-C Docking Station
One of the first USB-C docks on the market, the Targus Dock410 has a mass of ports at its sides and rear, including: 1 Gigabit Ethernet; 2 DisplayPort outputs; 1 DVI-D output; 1 HDMI output; 1 USB-C (3.1 Gen 1) port; 3 x USB-A 3.0 ports (one powered for fast charging); and 1 minijack audio input/output.
Targus suggests considering using just one external display with the Dock410 – not because of limitations with the hardware itself, but because of the variable experience you get with different USB-C laptops and tablets. In fact, we were able to run two displays by adding extra adapters, but this didn’t work as smoothly as with the Henge or CalDigit docks.
It’s a bit boxier in looks than the Henge Stone or CalDigit TS3 Plus, but it is still small enough not to overpower your desk.
Read our full Targus Dock410 review.
Henge Vertical Dock
Matching perfectly with its stablemate the Henge Stone tethered dock, the Henge Vertical Dock is a stand of real beauty, and one that has visitors to my desk salivating over in jealousy.
It’s a dock in that it has fast Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (one or two depending on the model of MacBook you buy it for), but it doesn’t boast extra USB-A ports, or other connections to add extra displays or devices. For those, you will need one of the multi-port docks reviewed here.
You can pull it out when you need to move your laptop, and then just place it back in when you’re back at your desk – without having to touch a cable.
Standing proudly upright, it features intake and exhaust vents that move additional air to and from the MacBook’s cooling system.
Of course, it will work alongside other non-Henge docks, such as the CalDigit TS3 Plus.
Twelve South BookArc for MacBook
The BookArc, from Twelve South, is not a dock as it doesn’t boast any ports. It’s a simple, good-looking stand that lifts your Apple laptop off your desk, and supports the MacBook in closed-display mode for a less cluttered desk when paired with one or two external displays.
It has been designed to match the design aesthetic of Apple’s 12in laptops, and works with the MacBook, MacBook Air (pre-2018) and MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), and MacBook Air or Pro with Retina Display. An insert is included with the BookArc so that each laptop fits perfectly. Note that it is not yet compatible with the newest MacBook Air – although Twelve South promises a new insert for this model soon.
Rain Design mTower MacBook Stand
The mTower from Rain Design is another non-dock stand that saves you desk space and elevates the MacBook’s vent to keep your laptop cool.
Its anodised aluminium body – that allows the MacBook to “float” above it – neatly matches the design and colour of the Space Gray and Silver MacBooks.
It raises the laptop 88mm (3.5in) off the desk, and fits the 12in MacBook, 13in and 15in MacBook Pro and 11in and 13in MacBook Air. It includes a number of inserts to make sure your MacBook fits snuggly.