Review of the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 4

CalDigit is famous for its TS3 and TS3+ hubs. These are the hubs that have the most ports on them and which you can position upright or on their sides on your desk. The combination of those two parameters — expansion capability and position flexibility — makes these the most wanted expansion docks on the market. And now, with the TS4, the first parameter gets another dramatic upgrade. The TS4 is an even more capable hub in the same form factor and size as its predecessors.

CalDigit’s TS4 offers no less than 18 ports of connectivity, three of which are Thunderbolt 4 40Gbps types with one of them a dedicated host port. It makes the TS4 compatible with PCs, Macs and iPads as well as other tablets with a USB-C type connector. Unique to the TS4 is that it includes a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port, which is becoming a new standard for routers, switches, and NAS devices.

To make the new TS4 ready for increasingly power hungry devices, CalDigit has fitted out its host Thunderbolt 4 port with up to 98W of power delivery. As far as I can tell, that is the highest charging capability provided by any Thunderbolt 4 dock on the market.

The eight USB ports on the TS4 are a mixture of USB-A and USB-C type connectors, and, also as a first as far as I know, all of these USB ports offer 10Gbps performance. Both the USB-C and USB-A ports, however, are for data only. If you wish to connect monitors you must connect them to the Thunderbolt 4 ports. That does make you lose at least one 40Gbps port, but for most people 10Gbps will do and for power users it’s possible to hook up another dedicated Thunderbolt 4 hub on the TS4’s free Thunderbolt 4 port.

One of the front-facing USB-C ports can supply up to 20W of power. This is ideal for an accessory like Apple’s MagSafe wireless charger. The front USB-A port, all of the USB-C ports, and two of the rear USB-A ports provide offline charging. I like it that not all USB ports do, as it allows you to selectively hook up devices that should be cut off from power during the night.

For users who want to connect monitors to the new dock, a single monitor can either connect to the DisplayPort connector or to one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports. There’s no dedicated HDMI port, so if you wish to connect a HDMI monitor, you must connect it through either an active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, or use a USB-C to HDMI adapter.

If you own an M1 Pro, M1 Max, or Intel based Mac, you can connect up to two displays. M1 based Macs, however, do not support dual monitor setups through their Thunderbolt ports, so one of these will need to connect through the DisplayPort. Windows PC Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 users can connect up to two displays using the Thunderbolt ports.

Much to my delight, the TS4 has two memory card slots with SD 4.0 support. Both are front facing and one is the traditionally available regular SD connector, while the other one is a microSD port. Even better is that both card slots offer UHS-II performance and on the TS4 that is slightly faster than my dedicated UHS-II microSD dual card reader by ProGrade.

Some people connect their headphones to a dock. The TS4 has two audio output ports, one on the front and one on the back. The back of the device also offers an audio input port for connecting a microphone. The front audio port is a combo port, so it accepts both headphones and a mic. You cannot use the three ports all at once. Audio will default to the front port if both front and rear ports are used.

Finally, if you still use an Apple SuperDrive, CalDigit has developed a driver so that it can be directly connected to the TS4. This was available on previous generations of the Thunderbolt Station as well.

The TS4 is built like the TS3+ — as a tank that is — so you will enjoy its expansion capabilities for years to come as previous generations were built like a tank. That makes the price of €324.99 / £324.99 — don’t know if that’s a Brexit benefit — exactly right.