CalDigit Element Hub Review

The CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub is a small aluminium Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4 dock. It has just three Thunderbolt 4 ports and four USB 4 ports, all of which are backward compatible. I thought my mid-2017 iMac wouldn’t be able to use the hub at its full potential, but it is.

The Element Hub does not have the dazzling number of ports as CalDigit’s TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock offering, but it compensates on the performance side, offering four times the performance of traditional USB-C hubs, and enabling Thunderbolt 4 on Macs with Big Sur installed. On PCs you’ll have to check with the maker.

On my iMac, I was able to connect three Thunderbolt 3 devices to the Element Hub and a few of them daisy chained to other Thunderbolt 3 equipment. The whole bunch appeared in the Finder and I could drive an NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD at close to its direct connected highest speed on my humble Mac. As expected, the speed of each device will drop to lower levels when you concurrently use them.

But here’s the biggest joy of using the Element Hub: you’re set free of having to daisy chain Thunderbolt devices as you can at least plug in three of them, one neatly next to the other. And that makes a whopping difference in terms of cable management and it expands the number of Thunderbolt devices you can hook up simultaneously, even if they have only one Thunderbolt port.

An added benefit of the Element Hub is that it doesn’t suffer from speed loss as much as other docks do. That’s due to the high 3000MB/sec the Element Hub supports as well as the use of USB-A ports that support 10Gb/s throughput (USB 3.2 Gen.2).

In short, I am impressed with the Element Hub and, as it can be used in tandem with, for example, a TS3 Plus, you can have an abundance of ports and the flexibility of USB-like connectivity for Thunderbolt equipment all at once. In addition, the Element Hub can be used upside down which allows you to use it at either side of a laptop without sacrificing looks.

In terms of monitors it supports, the Element Hub is just as impressive. You can, for instance, drive a 4K 30Hz and 60Hz monitor with it. That’s not such a big deal, but you can also hook up the Apple Pro Display XDR and use it with Apple’s latest 12.9in iPad Pros, and that is a big deal.

Thunderbolt and USB4 computer users can daisy-chain Thunderbolt, USB4, USB-C and USB-A devices to the Element Hub. If you have a non-Thunderbolt or USB 3.2 only host, you can daisy-chain USB-C devices only.

Finally, the Element Hub will charge a tablet or a low-power 60W laptop through its Thunderbolt computer port on the side.

All this comes in a device that is the size of two SSD’s stacked on top of each other. If it weren’t for its power brick, the whole thing would weigh next to nothing as well.

At €194.86 it’s almost as expensive as CalDigit’s TS3 Plus, but its feature set is so well thought-out and the ability to run Thunderbolt equipment in a true plug-and-play setup is so much more efficient that it is an investment worth every cent.

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