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Black Friday Thunderbolt dock deals: What to expect, early sales

Belkin Connect Thunderbolt 4 Core HubImage: Foundry

Early Black Friday deals on Thunderbolt docks are picking up steam, allowing you to buy discounted docking stations to expand the ports on your laptop.

We’re busy scanning retailer sites, looking for the best early Black Friday deals on Thunderbolt docks in advance of Black Friday. We’ve listed each Thunderbolt dock deal below, followed by an explanation of why we picked them. For more context, scroll down to our FAQ, where we explain how much you should pay for a Black Friday Thunderbolt docking station deal, what features to consider, and more.

Best early Black Friday Thunderbolt dock deals

HP Thunderbolt Dock G2, Thunderbolt 3, 100W charging, $98.85 (72% off at Amazon)Targus USB-C Docking Station, DisplayLink, 65W charging, $103.77 (58% off at Amazon)OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock, Thunderbolt 4, 90W charging, $299.99 (14% off at Amazon)Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Plus, Thunderbolt 3, 60W charging, $129.00 (25% off at Amazon)Anker 778 Thunderbolt Docking Station, Thunderbolt 4, 100W charging, $239.99 (37% off at Amazon)Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core, Thunderbolt 3, 60W charging (unpowered), $99.95 (50% off at Amazon)Kensington SD2500T, Thunderbolt 3, 60W charging, $131.73 (27% off at Amazon)Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 Dual Display Dock, 60W charging, $69.99 (38% off at Target)

I recommend the top three entries here: HP’s Thunderbolt G2, the Targus USB-C dock, and OWC’s Thunderbolt Go.

We’ve reviewed quite a few Thunderbolt docking stations in our list of the best Thunderbolt docks, but many of these don’t make the list. The exception (kind of) is the HP G2 dock. I personally reviewed the HP G4, and it was excellent. The G2 swaps HDMI ports for DisplayPort connections, so that means you’ll have to buy two $14.99 DisplayPort-to-HDMI cables if you only have HDMI connections on your display. Otherwise, the discount is insane!

The Targus USB-C dock uses DisplayLink to approximate the capabilities of a Thunderbolt dock. I love DisplayLink docks, though I haven’t tested this myself. Customers rave over it, though.

I still have a soft spot for the OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock, which eliminates the external power brick entirely.

Anker’s Thunderbolt docks have sometimes been a little questionable — I liked the Anker 568, but not the Apex, which is 11% off at Amazon at $187 — and my colleagues at TechAdvisor were iffy on the Anker 778 currently on sale. But one of its minuses was its high price tag, which this deal solves.

Pay attention to the Belkin Thunderbolt Dock 3 Plus deal — the price is excellent, but some customers have complained that one of the DisplayPort ports doesn’t function properly. (We haven’t tested this dock ourselves.) Just make sure to test this dock within the return window to make sure you don’t have a bad unit. The Kensington SD2500T is about the same price point: older hardware, with only DisplayPort options, and 60W charging might be a little low for newer notebooks. It’s otherwise perfectly fine and customers love it.

The Belkin Dock Core, however, I continue to really like, especially as a travel dock– but it’s not powered, so you’ll have to use a USB-C charger with it. Your laptop’s should work. But they dropped the price further…now half off! Maybe Monoprice noted our mention as well, the discount has jumped from 15 to 38 percent off! (As for the Monoprice — well, Monoprice makes basic hardware, and it continues to do the job.)

As always, remember that Thunderbolt docks don’t play well with some Macs — and Mac buyers tend to downvote products because of that.

FAQ


1.

When is Black Friday?

Officially, Black Friday takes place on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Cyber Monday is the following Monday, or Nov. 27, 2023.

2.

When do early Black Friday deals on Thunderbolt docks begin?

Early Black Friday sales have already begun at several retailers, though sales should ramp up as Black Friday nears. Retailers haven’t been shy about adding early sales to unload inventory before the Black Friday craziness begins.

3.

What should you pay for a Black Friday deal on a Thunderbolt dock?

Prices vary, naturally, but we saw prices range from about $160 to $220 or so during the October Prime Day sale on Thunderbolt docks. We’d hope for more of the same.

In 2023, you benefit from one key trend: Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are roughly the same in terms of throughput and features. But retailers hate keeping old hardware on the shelves. It’s likely that you’ll still see substantial sales on older Thunderbolt 3 hardware, with lesser discounts applied to Thunderbolt 4 docking stations.

4.

I have a USB-C port on my laptop. How do I know what to use with it?

Consult your laptop’s manual. A Thunderbolt port may be labeled with a small lightning-bolt logo, but that icon can sometimes be used to signal that the port can be used for charging, too. If nothing else, a USB-C dongle/hub will always work with a USB-C port.

5.

I still don’t understand the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt. How does it all work?

USB ports have been around for years. USB-C replaced USB-A (the square port) because USB-C was more versatile: The port connector was both reversible and allowed for higher speeds. USB-C ports can be rated for either 5Gbps or 10Gbps, just like a normal USB-A port. Some USB-C ports connect to a Thunderbolt chip inside your laptop, though, and this allows the port to run at a higher, 40Gbps speed. Physically, the connector looks exactly the same. It’s just what it can do that’s different.

6.

What’s the difference between a USB-C hub and a Thunderbolt dock?

Speed and features. A USB-C hub connects to a single 4K (or 1080p) display, and provides a mix of ports: USB-A, SD card slots, and so on. You can usually plug your laptop’s USB-C power cable (if it uses one) right into it.

A Thunderbolt dock supplies even more bandwidth for more ports. There are two key differences: It has enough bandwidth to drive a pair of 4K displays, and many docks come with their own power supply that can charge your laptop as well as your phone. All that occurs via the Thunderbolt cable that connects your laptop to the dock.

7.

My laptop has USB4, not Thunderbolt. Can I use a Thunderbolt dock?

Yes and no. Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB4 all run at 40Gbps across the same connector. USB4 is identical to Thunderbolt 4. But if your laptop runs USB4, it won’t “understand” Thunderbolt 3 protocols.

USB4 laptops are still rare, and have an AMD Ryzen chip inside.

8.

Is Thunderbolt 4 better than Thunderbolt 3?

Physically, they use the same USB-C cable. Functionally, they’re almost the same. Thunderbolt 4 was released almost as a patch to Thunderbolt 3, ensuring that everything worked properly. If your laptop has Thunderbolt, you should probably be able to buy either a Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 dock without any problems. Since Thunderbolt 3 is being phased out, you’ll probably find more discounts on the older Thunderbolt 3 hardware. (For the gory details, see our roundup of the best Thunderbolt docks.)

9.

I own a desktop PC. Do I need a Thunderbolt dock?

Possibly. Historically, the back of a desktop has been chock-full of I/O ports, especially DIY models that you build yourself. Desktops usually have extra room for internal SSDs, SD cards, and so on. However, if your desktop lacks these things, and includes an external Thunderbolt port, you can always add these additional components externally via Thunderbolt.

10.

Some of these docks have had bad reviews on shopping sites. What gives?

Read the user reviews closely. While Macs adopted Thunderbolt first, some of the Apple M1 silicon couldn’t keep up with Intel Thunderbolt controllers used by Windows PCs, and the Apple MacOS experience suffered as a result. If a Windows user complains, pay attention; otherwise, you can dismiss them.

This story was updated at 2:22 PM on Nov. 17 with pricing adjustments.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

Monoprice 12-in-1 USB-C Dock (VGA) review: Not worth itBest DisplayLink docks 2024: Move over, ThunderboltBest Thunderbolt docks 2024: Extend your laptop’s capabilities

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