The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock for the MacBook Pro and also for the MacBook. At $349 it’s not a cheap dock option, but it offers a lot of connectivity through a single cable and supports two 4K monitors. It’s an essential MacBook Pro accessory.
The 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro notebooks come with two to four USB C ports, which means a lot of dongles and adapters if you need to hook up a full set of accessories at your desk. We set aside our Mac Pro and hooked the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock to the 15-inch MacBook Pro to see what it could do.
This allows us to use a single cable to connect to the MacBook Pro for charging, connecting two monitors and a plethora of accessories. It’s an impressive tool that makes using the MacBook Pro as a primary device much easier. Plugging in multiple adapters anytime you want to work at a desk is no fun and while you will still need some adapters to get the most out of the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock you can leave them plugged in.
Belkin designs the Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock to match the Apple style with anodized aluminum and black trim. This isn’t a dock that you are supposed to hide under a desk or behind a monitor. It’s meant to be seen on your desk and there are even two front facing ports that allow you to connect headphones or to plug in another USB device.
The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock ports are;
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Audio Out
- 3x USB-A 3.0
- 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- Status Indicator
- Headphone Audio Out
Belkin includes a USB C THunderbolt three cable in the box so you can connect to your MacBook without buying another cable. The dock uses an included power supply, which means you can keep your MacBook Pro charger in a bag instead of tied up at a desk. This means you don’t need to spend $90 on a spare charger. Unlike the more affordable Moshi USB C dock, the Belkin pumps out 85W, which is what you need to charge the 15-inch MacBook Pro at full speed.
This setup allows you to connect two 4K displays one over DisplayPort and one with USB C. You can use USB C adapters to turn that port into a Display Port or HDMI. While many monitors support DisplayPort, it would be nice to see an HDMI connection without the need for an adapter. Ultimately this is something that we can overlook since there are cheap adapters for DisplayPort or USB C. If you are using a USB C ThunderBolt 3 monitor, you can daisy chain off of that, but if you are using an adapter the USB C ports are filled up thanks to the connection to your Mac and one adapter to a monitor. The Dock drove our 34-inch curved Samsung display and an Apple Cinema Display with an adapter very nicely. We connected an array of accessories and hard drives through USB and USB adapters without any issues.
The audio out from the back connects to a set of speakers for better sound at our desk and it works well. Occasionally we had to re-select the output device on the Mac to use that connection after disconnecting, but that may be a macOS Sierra issue.
One thing that is definitely missing from the dock, and should be there at this price is an SD card slot on the front. There is no SD card slot on the MacBook Pro and USB ports are at a premium on the dock so it would be awesome to see an SD card reader on the front next to the third USB port and headphone jack.
Three USB ports is a good start, but you’ll also likely need to rely on a USB hub to connect everything you would connect to a Mac Pro or similar desktop. Thankfully many monitors now offer USB 3 hubs, so you can plug in other accessories that way.
Even with some areas for improvement, the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock delivers everything it promises with single cable connectivity and charges your MacBook Pro at full speed so you don’t need to buy a separate charger.