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Connecting Your Thunderbolt™ Docking Station

Kensington Thunderbolt Dock connected to a laptop, keybord and different devices.

Thunderbolt™ technology has always been about simplicity and convenience. The standard was created to simultaneously support, via a single cable, the fastest data transfer, the most video bandwidth, and ample power supplied to computers and peripheral devices.

As Thunderbolt™ has evolved from its original standard to iterations such as Thunderbolt™ 3 and 4, and established compatibility between USB-C cables and Thunderbolt™ ports, the technology has reached a new pinnacle of usability. Beginning with Thunderbolt™ 3, a single cable could provide four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while also supplying up to 100W of power. All from one compact port. Thunderbolt™ 4 went on to improve the standard, adding the ability to daisy-chain two 4K monitors or support a single 8K monitor.

Thunderbolt™ and USB-C: Compatible, but a little confusing.

With Thunderbolt™ 3, Intel adopted the USB-C connector as the standard Thunderbolt™ interface.  That greatly simplified the ability to connect different devices using the same cables, but Thunderbolt™ ports and USB-C ports have some fundamental performance differences:

  • A Thunderbolt™ 4 port can support both Thunderbolt™ and USB-C devices. (Some Thunderbolt™ 3 devices do not fully support USB-C.) A USB-C port (for USB 3.0, 3.1 or 3.2) can only support USB devices.
  • Any USB-C cable can plug into any Thunderbolt™ 3 or 4 port and vice-versa. However, if the connected device does not use Thunderbolt™ technology, this will limit your data transfer speeds to USB-C capabilities.
  • USB-C compatible devices have different data transfer rates, ranging from 5 Gbps (USB 3.0, 3.1 & 3.2 Gen 1), 10 Gbps (USB 3.1 & 3.2 Gen 2), and 20 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2). By contrast, Thunderbolt™ 3 and 4 devices double the highest transfer rate of USB-C, running as fast as 40 Gbps.

It might simplify things to think of Thunderbolt™ not as a USB cable, but a unique hardware interface standard that does all the same things as USB-C, but many times faster.

To avoid confusion, when you need the full capabilities of Thunderbolt™ technology, make sure your USB-C connector is plugged into a port with a “lightning bolt” icon, the official Thunderbolt™ symbol.

Thunderbolt port close up.

One dock to rule them all.

A Thunderbolt™-compatible dock turns a Thunderbolt™-enabled PC or laptop into a high-speed hub for data transfers, video, audio, storage devices, and power delivery—all through a single cable connected to the computer. Peripherals such as HDMI® and DisplayPort monitors, controllers, network devices, headphones, and more components can then be easily connected to the dock, either directly or with the appropriate USB-C adapters.

Kensington has remained at the forefront of both USB and Thunderbolt™ technologies from the start. We knew the future would depend on a single port to carry all your data between any peripherals. Because we saw the potential, we partnered early on with Newnham Research, which eventually became DisplayLink®.

Since then, we’ve continued to design new docking stations that support the latest capabilities in video and data transfer technologies. To help you find the ideal docking solution, consider these models below. All these docks from Kensington support up to dual 4K video @ 60Hz, up to 40Gbps data transfer speeds, and provide Power Delivery (PD) to charge your laptop or MacBook.

SD5600T Thunderbolt 3 dock connected to dual monitors, a laptop and charging a phone.

Save valuable desk space with a small form factor Thunderbolt™ 4 dock.

If you want all the power of Thunderbolt™ 4 in the smallest form factor possible, our SD2600T Thunderbolt™ 4 Dual 4K Nano Docking Station – 65W PD – Windows/Mac has you covered. With four Thunderbolt 4 ports (one upstream for host device and three downstream for peripherals) and a USB-A port capable of 1.5A charging, this compact, space-saving docking station will help you get more work done while future-proofing your setup.

Direct connections for HDMI®, DisplayPort®, Ethernet and more.

The SD5600T Thunderbolt™ 3 and USB-C Dual 4K Hybrid Docking Station - 96W PD – Windows/Mac is a great choice for connecting legacy devices to a Thunderbolt™-enabled laptop or PC. Features include universal compatibility, the flexibility to select between HDMI® 2.0 and DP 1.2, horizontal or vertical placement options, built-in SD and Micro SD card readers, seven USB ports (two with charging), one Gigabit Ethernet port, and one audio combo jack.  

A Thunderbolt™ 4 dock that offers premium benefits now, and well into the future.

Our SD5700T Thunderbolt™ 4 Dual 4K Docking Station with 90W PD – Windows/Mac is compatible with Thunderbolt™ 4-enabled Windows 10 or later laptops and backward compatibility with Thunderbolt™ 3, USB4®, and USB-C devices running Windows 10 or later, or macOS 11 or later, regardless of how many devices are connected. Features 11-ports, including four Thunderbolt™ ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB-A charging and peripheral ports.

Ideal for users of the latest MacBooks, Surface devices, and other Thunderbolt™ 4-enabled laptops.

At home or in the office, if you’re looking for the latest Thunderbolt™ technology to connect multiple monitors and devices, the universally compatible SD5780T Thunderbolt™ 4 Dual 4K/*6K Docking Station is for you. Includes three Thunderbolt™ ports, one HDMI® 2.1 port, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB-A charging and peripheral ports.

Kensington Thunderbolt™ solutions come with productivity built-in.

Trust Kensington to help you create the perfect desk setup, whether you work at home with limited space or run multiple monitors to keep track of your tasks. Kensington remains an early adopter of any updated Thunderbolt™ and USB-C technologies, helping you configure the ideal workstation using the latest data transfer, video output, and power delivery capabilities. With our Thunderbolt™ solutions, you will be investing in a docking station that supports you now and into the future.

Learn more about Kensington Thunderbolt™ docks