The best docking stations are built to turn any laptop into a desktop replacement. From providing your laptop upwards of ten extra ports to powering all kinds of different peripherals at once, a dock can unlock the true potential of your laptop (and clean up desks riddled with wires).
Some laptops need docking stations more than others, even if they are rightfully the best laptops on the market. If you happen to own a Dell XPS 13, or any other Ultrabook with a limited port variety, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. To expand that selection of ports, you’re going to want the right docking station.
For those who own a MacBook and are looking for extra ports, check out the best USB-C hubs for MacBook and the best docking stations for MacBook. You’ll find that Dell’s XPS line and other recently announced laptops now come with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, and if you’re looking to make the most of the new connection, we’ve put together a brief explainer about the latest charging standard below.
What is Thunderbolt 4?
Thunderbolt 4 is an upgraded cable connection interface from Intel capable of powering your devices, transferring data, and transferring video to an external monitor all at once — all with just one port.
Thunderbolt 4 is compatible with plenty of connections including DisplayPort, PCle and USB 4.0. Better yet, it is backward compatible with previous versions of Thunderbolt and connects via USB Type-C.
When it comes to speed, Thunderbolt 4 ports have a 40Gbps bidirectional bandwidth. You’ll find that Thunderbolt 3 delivers the same speeds, which allows data to be moved to and from external drives at high speeds and up to five Thunderbolt devices to be connected. However, Thunderbolt 4 stands out by increasing Thunderbolt 3’s minimum PCIe data requirements from 16Gbps to 32Gbps. What does this mean? More room for higher transfer rates and better performance.
For example, those looking to connect to external monitors and get dual 4K resolution at a refresh rate of 60Hz, or up to a single 8K-resolution input at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, will want to seek out Thunderbolt 4-compatible laptops.
As an additional perk, Thunderbolt 4 allows a laptop to be brought out of hibernation with peripherals, such as a mouse or keyboard, that are connected through a docking station. It’s hardly a game-changer, but it’s the little things that make using a laptop all the more efficient.
Thunderbolt 4 is relatively new, so there are still those who may not have monitors or peripherals with Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, or USB-C connectivity. That said, those with laptops like the Dell XPS 13 9310, or anyone looking at getting upcoming releases such as Dell’s refreshed XPS 15 and XPS 17, Asus ROG Zephyrus M16, or MSI’s new Creator Z16, will find that Thunderbolt 4 connectivity is here to stay.
The good news is Thunderbolt 4 docking stations have arrived, but the better news is you don’t necessarily need…
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