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Thunderbolt and USB-C docking stations have long been the go-to solution for those who want the perks of a desktop workstation setup and the freedom to work away from the desk. And with the launch of Apple’s latest M1 Macs last year, Thunderbolt 4 hit the mainstream. Today, we’re taking a look at the new Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Mini Dock, the brand’s first Thunderbolt 4 offering, which arrives with a future-proof design that’s ideal for MacBook setups. But is it worth the more premium price tag? Our latest Tested with 9to5Toys answers that and more.
Hands-on with Anker’s Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock
Entering as the brand’s very first Thunderbolt 4 Dock, this PowerExpand 5-in-1 miniature offering from Anker doesn’t skimp out on the features. Its all-metal housing stacks up to nearly the size of a deck of cards and has a unique design on the top and bottom. And if the Mac emphasis wasn’t apparent from its aluminum stylings, the Thunderbolt 4 port on the front allows you to pair with Apple’s latest machines which support the standard.
Around back, you’re looking at three additional Thunderbolt 4 outputs, as well as a power button and the barrel plug input for the power adapter. Alongside being able to drive a single 8K monitor at 30Hz, there’s also the ability to connect up to two displays at 4K60Hz if you’re running an Intel machine. That’s all rounded out by a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 port up front, as well as 85W power passthrough.
Selling for $199.99, the Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is a bit more premium over alternatives still rocking the previous-generation Thunderbolt 3 tech. So is the future-proof design really worth the extra cash? We’re diving in to find out.
Here’s a look at the spec sheet:
- Equipped with an 85W Thunderbolt 4 upstream port (connects to your laptop), 3 Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports, and 1 USB-A port.
- Connect your USB-C laptop to the Thunderbolt 4 upstream port to get a powerful charge up to 85W. The 3 other Thunderbolt 4 ports also support charging up to 15W.
- The Thunderbolt 4 downstream port supports media display to a single monitor in up to 8K@30Hz, or to dual monitors in up to 4K@60Hz.
- The 3 Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports each support data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps—enough to transfer a 20GB file in just over 10 seconds.
Tested with 9to5Toys
I’ve personally been using this with with a M1 Mac mini and 16-inch MacBook Pro over the past few weeks and have to say that I’m quite impressed overall. Having been a fan of Anker’s gear for some time now, the build quality was nothing short of my expectations, which is to say high quality in just two words.
What really struck me unboxing it was just how compact the Anker Thunderbolt 4 Dock Mini was. It’s honestly a bit funny knowing that the power supply is larger than the actual accessory, but that speaks to Anker’s mission of having a low profile desk accessory. And, of course, the matching Apple aluminum finish is always a nice touch.
But it doesn’t just look the part for integrating into the rest of your Mac setup, as Anker’s reliance of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity makes it a compelling option. While others Thunderbolt docks are packed full of ports to ensure your workstation is ready to handle legacy devices, Anker’s Mini model takes a step in the opposite direction and fully embraces supporting your gear into the feature.
It’s not quite as versatile as other models that are packed with older ports, but having three full-speed Thunderbolt 4 outputs means it can fit into plenty of use cases. Want to connect a pair of 4K monitors? Works like a charm (assuming you’re rocking an Intel machine). Need to plug in a 10GbE adapter? You’re covered. And if future M1 Macs bring in external GPU support or you need to connect another high-bandwidth accessory, Anker’s PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock should be up to the task.
While you might not get the full value of it right now now, those who plan to rock an M1 Mac well into the future will find it to be a solid investment for their workstation. The cherry on top of all of its other compelling features is the the 85W power passthrough, which ensures that you’ll be able to charge a connected device while also driving monitors and more from a single cable.
So when it’s all said and done, the Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is an easy recommendation if you’re looking to grab a model now and rely on it for years to come.