I used Plugable’s cheapest Thunderbolt 4 dock and it transformed my workspace — here’s how

With great power comes great value for money

Plugable TBT4-UD5 on a desk
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Plugable)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Plugable’s TBT4-UD5 lands in that sweet spot of Thunderbolt 4 docking stations — offering a ton of I/O in a slim design at an impressively affordable price. Ethernet purists will miss 2.5Gbps speeds and if you’re looking for a more stand-out design, this is rather bland. But for most people this is one of the best docks you can buy right now.


  • +

    Huge array of ports

  • +

    Support for two 4K displays

  • +

    Up to 100W power delivery

  • +

    Impressive value for money


  • -

    Plastic design is meh

  • -

    External power brick can be a pain

  • -

    Ethernet port limited — no 2.5Gbps available

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

Laptop docking stations are a bit of a minefield — the many options out there can be very hit and miss for the sheer amount of money you pay. That’s why the Plugable TBT4-UD5 (catchy name, I know) is such a breakthrough in this category.

I mean $200 for a Thunderbolt 4 station?! …what’s the catch? Turns out that for most people, there isn’t any. The port array is perfect for every workload, you’ve got that full 100W power delivery support for even the hungriest of USB-C laptops, you can connect two 4K displays with ease, and you can get all this for a price that is comparatively cheap compared to its competitors.

Are there snags in the formula? Sure. If you’re a framerate purist, the HDMI 2.0 ports stop short of giving you a full 4K 120Hz picture, and internet speed demons will be seeking the 2.5 Gbps ethernet speeds that this doesn’t provide. Plus, if you’re looking for a little style to your docking station, this rather dull slab adorned with Plugable’s logo is not going to turn heads.

However, whether you’re a newly-inducted member of the work-from-home crowd, or a seasoned veteran looking for an affordable upgrade to your desk setup, this is arguably the best bang for your buck right now.

Plugable TBT4-UD5: Cheat Sheet

  • What is it? This is a Thunderbolt 4 docking station.
  • Who’s it for? This is perfect for laptop users who want to build a powerful home office setup around it.
  • What’s the price? The TBT4-UD5 comes in at $199.
  • What ports do you get? On the TBT4-UD5, you’ll find two HDMI 2.0 ports, one gigabit ethernet, a Thunderbolt 4, four USB-A, another USB-C, combo audio jack, and both a full-size and microSD card slot.
  • Are there any caveats to this docking station? A docking station is just as much about the laptop as it is the station itself. For example, standard M1/M2/M3 MacBooks will only support a single display output. Make sure you check your laptop specs, and reach out in the Tom’s Guide forums if you have any questions!

Plugable TBT4-UD5: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Dimensions8.9 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches
Weight12.9 ounces
Ports (front)3.5mm audio jack, SD card, microSD card, 2x USB-A 5Gbps, Thunderbolt 4 (host), Thunderbolt 4 (downstream)
Ports (back)2x HDMI 2.0, 2x USB-A 10Gbps, USB-C 10Gbps, Gigabit ethernet

Plugable TBT4-UD5: The ups

For most of you, this is a go-to docking station for your laptop. Let me explain why with three key reasons.

All the ports most of you could ever want

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Whatever your requirements are in your workload, the TBT4-UD5 has the ports to support it. Do a lot of photography? Say hello to the SD or microSD card slots. Got a dense multitasking workload for two displays? Those two HDMI 2.0 outlets get you a 4K 60Hz picture across both.

Add to that the legacy ports in the form of four USB-A, alongside the more current standards like USB-C and Thunderbolt 4, and you’ve got a fully-featured, powerful accessory for any desk. Oh, and we didn’t even talk about the gigabit ethernet for a stronger wired internet connection. This really does have it all.

Fully-fledged power delivery

You read a lot about 100W power delivery out of docking stations, but there’s a lot out there that don’t necessarily hit that mark. Through my own testing, I can confirm this is not a problem here.

When using a USB-C power meter tester, I comfortably hit this number — providing that confidence for users with more particularly power-hungry laptops.

Value for money

(Image credit: Plugable)

Let’s list some of Plugable’s comparable competition here. CalDigit’s TS4 gives you a couple additional benefits like additional USB ports, DisplayPort 1.4 and ethernet with 2.5Gbps speeds, but you’re paying $450 for the pleasure.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Surface Thunderbolt 4 dock doesn’t have anywhere near the number of ports (and no SD card slots), and you’re coughing up $300 for it. 

Plugable falls right in the middle of these two, and in doing so, the company has found the sweet spot in terms of price-to-performance. You get a lot of versatility for $200 here!

Plugable TBT4-UD5: The downs

That’s not to say it’s completely fault-free, though. These issues may be a little more for the docking station purists, but they’re worth knowing for those who have specific needs.

It’s a little bland

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For what it’s capable of, the design is a little unremarkable. It’s a black plastic shell that is lightweight for what it does, 

Some people will prefer a more understated accessory atop their desk — I certainly do. That’s why I actually prefer this black slab adorning my setup. However, I totally get this isn’t to everyone’s tastes.

Plus, if you’re limited for space, the beasty power brick may be a bit of an obstruction in setting up. I know this is a bit of a norm when it comes to Thunderbolt docks, but personally, I’d love to see a future where the power supply is always implemented into the dock itself.

Some port limitations

Namely, there are two limitations. First, the ethernet is constrained to gigabit rather than the 2.5Gbps we see in the likes of the Caldigit. And second, you’re getting HDMI 2.0 ports — not the full HDMI 2.1.

To most of you, these won’t be a big obstacle. Most internet speed capabilities of your average broadband packages can’t hit these speed requirements, and it’ll only take serious gamers and the most intense workloads to require a full 120Hz refresh rate. But if you do fall into these niches, you’ll need to pay more.

Plugable TBT4-UD5: Verdict

For most people, the Plugable TBT4-UD5 is going to give you everything you need to get stuff done. A ton of ports and impressive performance at a sweet, sweet price. If you’re on the lookout for a Thunderbolt 4 docking station, you’ll struggle to find one as versatile-yet-affordable as this option.

For some specific requirements, there are port limitations, and if you’re looking for something flashier, this ain’t it chief. But for the vast majority that want to easily plug their laptop into a home setup with all the ports to boost your productivity, this is the dock to snag.

Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.