Review: Corsair TBT100 is a reliable Thunderbolt 3 dock in a competitive market

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2021
Corsair's new TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 docking station for Mac and PC packs 11 ports onto a thin aluminum body along with 85W of power delivery.

The Corsair TBT100
The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock


We've seen some great Thunderbolt 3 docks hit the market, hitting various price points with a variety of ports. The new TBT100 is yet another option to consider that balances functionality with design.

Port selection

Corsair has made a quality selection of ports available on the new TBT100.

Ports

  • 1 Thunderbolt 3 (input)

  • 2 USB-C 3.1

  • 2 USB-A 3.1

  • Gigabit Ethernet

  • 2 HDMI 2.0

  • Kensington security slot

  • SD card reader

  • 3.5mm Audio input/output port
There is a sole Thunderbolt 3 port on the TBT100, used as the input. It is capable of delivering up to 85W of power to your Mac which is almost top speed for a 15-inch MacBook Pro and just shy of the maximum 96W of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That's basically the largest power output we've seen and this makes a big difference when using the dock with a portable Mac.

As for the USB ports, the USB 3.1 Type-C ports are capable of 15 watts of power delivery and 10 gigabits per second of data. The USB Type-A ports are limited to 5 gigabits per second and 7.5 watts of power to connected devices. These ports are also capable of supporting wake on USB and booting over USB.

Performance of the USB ports was on-par with what we expected, with UASP instructions properly passed through the dock. We connected our new SanDisk Extreme SSD and in our Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, it resulted in speeds, on average, of about 900 megabytes per second with the 10gbit/second USB 3.2 type C port. That is only about 30 megabytes per second below our recorded speed when connected directly to our Mac, and is an expected result.

The 3.5mm TRRS audio jack is a dual-purpose input/output port, and functions as expected with wired headphones.

The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock rear ports
The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock rear ports


Just as with nearly every dock, Corsair included a Gigabit Ethernet port, with expected networking speeds delivered during our testing.

For external displays, the TBT100 can handle two displays over HDMI at up to full 4096 x 2160 4K resolution at 60Hz and HDR. Unfortunately, that limit cuts off 5K display support -- but that isn't a surprise with existing Thunderbolt 3 docks.

Corsair TBT100 Design

We're quite enamored with the design of the Corsair TBT100. It is very slim which makes it very easy to slide under basic monitor stands. It is both wider and thinner than the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock. Corsair purchased the Elgato brand, splitting off the peripherals business from the Eve line of HomeKit accessories.

The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock front SD card reader, headphone jack, USB port, and power button
The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock front SD card reader, headphone jack, USB port, and power button


At the moment, Corsair still sells the Elgato Pro dock as well as this new TBT100. There are a few differences, but the biggest is that the Elgato dock as a second Thunderbolt 3 port to daisy chain additional devices, which is admittedly very much a pro feature.

This dock features an all-aluminum enclosure with black plastic on the front and back. The corners have a very cool taper to them that rounds them and gives it more of a unique appearance. It is one of the better-looking Thunderbolt 3 docks we've tested.

On the front of the dock is that SD card reader, the audio jack, and a USB-C port. These are exactly the ports that we are looking for. We rarely use USB-A any longer so we appreciate that those ports were relegated to the back of the device. With USB-C, we can quickly plug in external media such as a video scratch disk or a flash drive.

The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock
The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock


We -- for a second -- had hoped to see a microSD card reader as that is what fits into our action cams and portable recorders but we started keeping a microSD to SD adapter in there and we were good. That's one less port we need and we can read both SD or microSD cards. As we mentioned, it is a UHS-II card reader which is rare in docks.

Our biggest gripe on the design, and nearly every Thunderbolt 3 dock design, is the massive power brick that we need to use. By offloading the power supply, Corsair does get to keep the TBT100 smaller and the heat down, but the brick is quick substantial and just adds to the pile of power adapters sitting below our desk.

Should you buy the Corsair TBT100?

For many out there, the Corsair TBT100 is just the right dock they're looking for. It has the common ports and speeds that make sense for the average use. That's the speedy UHS-II SD card reader in the front, dual USB-C ports as well as two USB-A ports, and two HDMI outputs.

Some docks go a bit more obscure with Display Port outputs, or lean into too many USB-A ports, or cheap out with slower card readers.

Corsair focused on what is important and delivered that.

The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock
The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 dock on our desk


Perhaps the biggest downside is the solo Thunderbolt 3 port. With only one port, you can't daisy chain additional Thunderbolt 3 devices after the dock. But the way around that is to make the TBT100 the last device on the chain. Connect a RAID Thunderbolt RAID storage device or two, then put the TBT100 last.

The manual power button is also unique, something we've only seen once or twice in the past. Some may not care whatsoever about this ability but it does allow the quick power toggle for any connected accessories and can slightly drop the amount of vampire power draw when your machine isn't docked.

As the more mass-market choice between this and its Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock, Corsair hit the nail squarely on the head. Not only is it cheaper, but it has the ports people will need while trimming the features typically only required of the pros.

For a similar price, users could consider the popular CalDigit TS3 Plus, which does benefit by having additional USB ports, a second Thunderbolt 3 port, and can support 5K displays, but it also lacks any HDMI ports, opting for a sole DisplayPort port. It wouldn't be surprising if people preferred the dual HDMI ports of the Corsair instead.

At its full price, the Corsair TBT100 may be a bit high compared to its competition, but if discounted at all, it could be a very popular option.

Pros
  • Sleek aluminum body

  • Very thin build

  • Fast UHS-II card reader

  • Front-facing USB-C port

  • Dual HDMI outputs
Cons
  • No second Thunderbolt 3 port

  • No microSD card reader

  • Large external power supply

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy the Corsair TBT100

The new Corsair TBT100 is available on Amazon for $259.99.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,110member
    Only one TB3 port?  This means TB3 stops at this dock which is a deal-breaker for me.  I'm looking for a slim dock like this to bolt under by desk and attach my two daisy-chained Thunderbolt RAID towers to it.  Such a shame that they made that decision.

    Does anyone know of a slim TB3 dock for an iMac?  The gigantic power-supply is not necessary as I do not plan to use it (ever) to charge a laptop.  
    jeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 574member, editor
    sflocal said:
    Only one TB3 port?  This means TB3 stops at this dock which is a deal-breaker for me.  I'm looking for a slim dock like this to bolt under by desk and attach my two daisy-chained Thunderbolt RAID towers to it.  Such a shame that they made that decision.

    Does anyone know of a slim TB3 dock for an iMac?  The gigantic power-supply is not necessary as I do not plan to use it (ever) to charge a laptop.  
    The Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock may be what you're looking for. We talk about it a bit here in this review.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 7
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,132member
    The lack of a second TB3 port is a non-starter.  Also, I've yet to come across any TB dock that could charge more than 1 iPad Pro at a time.  Maybe someone will figure it out someday. 
    jeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,110member
    sflocal said:
    Only one TB3 port?  This means TB3 stops at this dock which is a deal-breaker for me.  I'm looking for a slim dock like this to bolt under by desk and attach my two daisy-chained Thunderbolt RAID towers to it.  Such a shame that they made that decision.

    Does anyone know of a slim TB3 dock for an iMac?  The gigantic power-supply is not necessary as I do not plan to use it (ever) to charge a laptop.  
    The Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock may be what you're looking for. We talk about it a bit here in this review.
    Thanks.  I went with the Caldigit TS3+.  Picking it up today at my local Apple store for my iMac.  While not as slim as the Elgato or Corsair's offerings, it did offer all the ports I was looking for, including a USBc and USBx on the front.  On the plus side, I did find a mounting bracket on eBay specifically for the Caldigit so I can bolt it under my desk.

    I just wish the AC power bricks weren't so massive.

    It was actually what AI recommended as their top choice.  Since they've been using it a while and quite satisfied with it, I figured that's good enough for me!
    edited October 2020 jeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 7
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,464member
    Still no hub with at least four USB-C ports. Why?!?! 
    jeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 7
    sflocal said:
    sflocal said:
    Only one TB3 port?  This means TB3 stops at this dock which is a deal-breaker for me.  I'm looking for a slim dock like this to bolt under by desk and attach my two daisy-chained Thunderbolt RAID towers to it.  Such a shame that they made that decision.

    Does anyone know of a slim TB3 dock for an iMac?  The gigantic power-supply is not necessary as I do not plan to use it (ever) to charge a laptop.  
    The Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock may be what you're looking for. We talk about it a bit here in this review.
    Thanks.  I went with the Caldigit TS3+.  Picking it up today at my local Apple store for my iMac.  While not as slim as the Elgato or Corsair's offerings, it did offer all the ports I was looking for, including a USBc and USBx on the front.  On the plus side, I did find a mounting bracket on eBay specifically for the Caldigit so I can bolt it under my desk.

    I just wish the AC power bricks weren't so massive.

    It was actually what AI recommended as their top choice.  Since they've been using it a while and quite satisfied with it, I figured that's good enough for me!
    The CalDigit TS3+ is great. It’s really quite small, too.

    The fact that it allowed me to NOT have to buy a second power supply for my 15” MacBook Pro made it a no-brainer.

    It has plenty of ports… 15, I think. It’s great that there are USB-A, USB-C, SD Card reader and a headphone jack on the FRONT!
    Why there aren’t more docks with front ports is a real mystery.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    neilmneilm Posts: 989member
    At the office we have a substantial number of MBPs and MBAs with docks driving external monitors, sometimes a pair of them. Most docks use different output port configurations for each monitor connection, usually USB-C/TB3 for one, then either DP, mini-DP, or HDMI for the other. It’s a PITA to have the right cables on hand, especially since not all monitors have all ports at that end.

    I’d give this dock double bonus points for having two identical monitor ports, and for their being HDMI, since those are the most common video cables.
    watto_cobra
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