Why a Thunderbolt Dock Could Benefit Your Desktop Laptop Lifestyle

Drop in, turn on, and tune out

  • Today’s laptops make are very capable desktops.
  • Thunderbolt docks help keep setup simple. 
  • The new Bridge Pro Dock is absurdly convenient.
A Thunderbolt 4 ProDock with a MacBook docked and connected to dual screens and a keyboard.


The desktop laptop is more common, useful, and feasible than ever. All you need is the right dock.

As more of us work from home or split our time between home and the office, a laptop is essential. But economically, it's something of a nightmare, especially if you use the thing on your lap. The answer is the desktop laptop, a laptop that docks with peripherals, like a Transformer, to become more powerful, more useful, and more comfortable. 

"I use a Thunderbolt dock to keep my setup organized. Before, my desk looked like it was drowning under a sea of cables. Now, everything is neatly arranged since the dock gives me a centralized location to plug in my cables and keep them out of the way," IT sales manager and Thunderbolt dock enthusiast Shawn Gonzales told Lifewire via email. 

The Desktop Laptop

There are several ways to hook your laptop to a display, a keyboard and mouse/trackpad/trackball, speakers, and whatever other peripherals you need. The most common is probably a dock of some kind. USB-C docks are okay but often unreliable, especially if you rely on them for an Ethernet network connection

"I have not had good experiences with those adapters or any USB networking dongles. Thunderbolt NIC or nothing," Mac user, app developer, and Thunderbolt fan Paul Haddad said on Twitter

A child at a desk using a docked MacBook computer with an external monitor and keyboard.

Annie Pratte / Unpslash

The best—but definitely not cheapest—option is a Thunderbolt dock. 

Brydge's new Thunderbolt 4 ProDock is probably the most convenient way to hook a MacBook up to a desktop setup. Like all Thunderbolt docks, only one connection is needed from the dock to the computer, and it carries data and charges the laptop. The difference here is that the connection is not a cable. Instead, it's a Thunderbolt connection mounted inside the unit. You just slide the MacBook into the slot, like dropping sliced bread into a toaster, and that's it. 

Once docked, your 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro or M2 MacBook Air will be charged at high speed and have access to a combination of USB-C, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, and audio ports. You can even drop your iPhone onto the front foot of the dock's pedestal and charge it via MagSafe. With one of these at work and one at home, you can leave everything connected to the dock, including a display, external drives, network, and so on. 

The downside is that it's $400. A cheaper option, albeit with a regular cable connection, is Hyper's new Thunderbolt 4 Power Hub. This offers just three Thunderbolt ports, in addition to the one used to plug into the computer, but costs $179. It also uses a GaN power source. Most (perhaps all) Thunderbolt docks use a lot of power and get very hot.

I have the Caldigit TS3+, which is excellent but runs hot and requires a big power brick that you have to hide somewhere behind the desk. Even the newer TS4 model uses one. Using GaN makes everything much more compact, practical, and energy efficient. 

A MacBook docked in a Thunderbolt 4 ProDock with two computer monitors and an external keyboard and trackpad on the desk.


Or the Studio Display

Another option is to use a display as the hub. Depending on the model, you can connect your laptop to the monitor with one cable and then connect your peripherals to ports on the monitor itself. These ports are often limited compared to dedicated docks, but if you already have a monitor at home or the office, it’s hard to beat the price. 

For Mac users, the Studio Display is a good option. The connection to your Mac is via Thunderbolt, so you get plenty of bandwidth for any connected devices. The display has built-in speakers, a webcam, and three USB-C ports around back. And, of course, it’s built for the Mac, so integration is deep, with True Tone (which matches the on-screen colors to their real-world surroundings) and the ability to change brightness and volume from the Mac. 

The Totally Wireless Option

Another option is to go totally wireless. You can hook up a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, prop your laptop up on a stand to get it up to eye level, and use it with wireless speakers, Wi-Fi networking, and so on. You’ll need to charge it once in a while, but if you’re using one of Apple’s latest MacBooks, you can do that with a MagSafe connector, and that’s if you even need to charge it at all—the M1 and M2 MacBook batteries can usually go all day unless you’re using very demanding software. 

However you hook things up, though, the desktop-laptop lifestyle is only getting more credible. You have all your data on one device, no matter how or where you’re using it, and with almost no compromises on performance. And with Thunderbolt and reliable display connections, you really do get the best of both worlds.

Was this page helpful?