Editor’s note: Tested with 9to5Toys is a new series focused on everyday accessories and essentials to take your setup to the next level, starting with the new Anker PowerExpand Elite Dock. Have a product you’d like to see us review? Sound off in the comment section below!
Anker has been around for years, offering everyday essential accessories for iPhones, Android devices, Macs, and PCs. So when Anker introduced its first Thunderbolt 3 dock, you better believe that it got our attention. There is no shortage of USB-C docks on the market today, adding a few extra I/O ports to your setup. However, making the jump to Thunderbolt 3 contracts the number of offerings notably. Given Anker’s track record and the competitive price of its new docks, it was a no-brainer for a review here at Tested with 9to5Toys. Below you’ll find a breakdown of specs and the various pros and cons of going with Anker’s first Thunderbolt 3 dock, the PowerExpand Elite.
Anker enters Thunderbolt 3 market
In mid-June, Anker introduced a pair of Thunderbolt 3 docks starting at $199.99 for the PowerExpand 7-in-1 model. The entry-level version offers seven ports, card readers, and more. However, it’s somewhat limited in scope when compared to the upgraded PowerExpand Elite, which is the focus of today’s Tested with 9to5Toys. The $299.99 model arrives with 13 ports, including extra I/O like Gigabit Ethernet and more.
First up, let us take a full look at the specs found on the Anker PowerExpand Elite, per the item listing:
- Incredible Expansion: Equipped with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, 2 USB-C ports, 4 USB-A ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, SD/microSD card slots, and a 3.5 mm AUX port.
- Unparalleled Charging Options: With 85W and 15W Thunderbolt 3 ports plus an 18W USB-C Power Delivery port, PowerExpand offers multiple ways to get a high-speed charge for anything from laptops to phones and more.
- Media Display: The Thunderbolt 3 port supports 5K@60Hz while the HDMI port supports a resolution of 4K@60Hz. Connect to both simultaneously to enjoy crystal-clear streaming or mirroring across 2 displays.
In the box
Upon receiving the Anker PowerExpand Elite, I was particularly anxious to find out what was included in the box. Particularly, there was plenty of suspense around the question of whether or not a Thunderbolt 3 cable was included. Low and behold, there it was. A Thunderbolt 3 cable that’s just over 2-feet in length. There’s also a power brick with a 2-piece design, which is likely required due to the amount of power this thing pushes out.
Setup is straightforward with minimal fuss. Just plug in the power brick and attach the Thunderbolt 3 cable. On the front is a large power button, which when pushed activates a blue LED notification light and begins the pairing with your MacBook or PC. In my usage, I was pairing the PowerExpand Elite with a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Coming in at 4.9- by 3.5-inches in size, there isn’t a lot of bulk or a large footprint here, which is certainly a welcome feature. When compared to other Thunderbolt 3 docks, most notably this option from Belkin, the physical dimensions trend favorably towards Anker.
The user-facing side delivers SD and microSD slots, along with a headphone jack, a 5Gbps USB-A port, and dual 10Gbps USB-C ports. The decision to go without any Thunderbolt 3 connectivity from the front is, however, a notable downfall.
Flipping the PowerExpand Elite around reveals a pair of 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 ports — one for connecting your device and another for added accessories. There’s also a USB-A port, HDMI, and Gigabit Ethernet.
Using the Anker Power Expand Elite
My main point of comparison for today’s review is Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 dock, which has long been one of the few champions in this category. There are plenty of USB-C docks out there with a smaller footprint, but Belkin’s offering has largely been the favorite in recent memory.
Anker’s biggest selling point on the PowerExpand Elite is its small footprint, which I detailed above. It hardly takes up any room underneath my monitor. The same can be said for the Belkin alternative; however, nearly all of the ports are in the rear, save for a single USB-A and headphone port. It’s a big win for Anker’s latest release to have so many forward-facing ports.
One of the features that I was most excited about was the inclusion of forward-facing microSD and SD card slots. Quick and easy access to a way to transfer images and videos is a huge win in my book. This is something that the Belkin alternative fails to offer in any way, so this is a particularly notable inclusion for me when comparing.
Anker also shines here with dual USB-C ports on the front, one of which offers Power Delivery, making it easy to charge up a connected device while also transferring data.
The benefits of centering your setup around Thunderbolt 3 have long been covered on the 9to5 network. Anker’s PowerExpand Elite offers notably fast data transfer speeds in comparison to USB 3.1 and USB-C. For example, Anker rates a 20GB transfer at just under seven seconds with Thunderbolt 3. That would take notably longer with a traditional USB-A dock at around a minute or more.
Tested with 9to5Toys
Without a doubt, there’s plenty to be enthused about when breaking down Anker’s PowerExpand Elite. Ample connectivity, a small footprint, and an Apple-friendly design with aluminum accents.
However, from a value standpoint, there are some concerns. Not everyone is going to be ready to shell out $300 for a Thunderbolt 3 dock. Of course, Anker looks to solve some of those concerns with its lower-priced 7-in-1 dock.
I’m very impressed with Anker’s first Thunderbolt 3 attempt overall. The forward-facing I/O is particularly helpful and makes it easy to quickly connect up various accessories or storage. As well, the vertical design is a big plus in my book.
If you’re willing to pay the $300, the latest from Anker sits up well against any Thunderbolt 3 dock as far as I’m concerned. That will be even more true when it goes on sale for the first time.
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