June 7th, 2021

Thunderbolt 4 Dock for M1 Air

With my recent purchase of an M1 MacBook Air I also upgraded the USB C dock I was using from the StayGo Hub to a Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 Dock. The dream is always to plug in one cable and have everything else run without issues and I was hopeful that this Kensington product would fulfill that dream.

The SD5700T provides 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports on the rear of the dock, along with 3 USB Type A Gen 2 ports. Topping that off is the Gigabit Ethernet port and a DC power input that will deliver 90 watts of power to your device. Kensington says that this dock will deliver 15 watts of power to all the other ports without stealing any power from your device, unlike other devices. Since I don't have other devices I have no way of measuring this. All I can say is that my laptop charges quickly no matter what I have plugged in.

On the front we get an SD Card slot that support USH-II, a USB Type A port, a headphone jack and the Thunderbolt 4 port that connects to your computer.

Overall, the SD5700T almost delivers on that one cable lifestyle. I have it going to a USB 3.0 hub which has most of my peripherals plugged in to it. Then it falls down when trying to connect to my CamLink 4k, which turns my Canon 90D into a web cam. While the signal shows up, the picture freezes after around 20 seconds.

After a bunch of troubleshooting I guess that the USB bandwidth thinks it's taken up. The extra dumb part is that I could plug the CamLink 4k into my older USB C StayGo Hub and it worked just fine. It also had the 10TB hard drive on it and a keyboard just like the Kensington Thunderbolt 4 dock.

I'll keep using the Kensington for a while, but ultimately I'm on the lookout for another USB 4 solution that will fulfill the one cable lifestyle. Currently I plug in the Kensington dock into one of the ports on my M1 Air and plug my CamLink 4k into the other port. It works, but it's not the single cable lifestyle I had hoped to be living.

The other options I see out there in USB 4 land are from CalDigit and OWC. Unfortunately they're hubs not docks, so I wouldn't get Ethernet and an SD reader unless I purchase dongles to turn the USB 4 ports into these interfaces.

The USB 4 world promises to finally unite all the crazy standards that we've been dealing with on a single connector for the last few years, just like all the other standards have promised. We'll have to see if these mythical future actually materializes in a few years.