Thunderbolt 4 is the new connector in town, and a raft of hubs and docks are becoming available to offer multiples of the super-fast port via one easy connection to your computer.
The Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is a neat and compact hub with a powerful laptop charger built-in.
Anker has called its solution a Mini Dock, where others have labelled their similar products as Hubs.
There’s no right or wrong label. All the so-called “hubs” are really “mini docks”, and in some ways, Anker has the more accurate description.
Specs and features
The Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock features four 40Gbps Thunderbolt 4 ports – one of which is required to connect to your computer.
Anker is a charging specialist, and the mini dock’s 85W upstream laptop charging is impressive. Only the much more expensive Sonnettech Echo 11 Thunderbolt 4 Dock beats it at 90W. Other hubs otherwise similar in specifications to the Anker Mini Dock max out at 60W.
The Anker’s other three TB4 ports can charge connected devices at 15W each, but there’s a catch as the total external power supply is quite low at 100W.
That means that if you are charging a laptop at 85W, the maximum left to simultaneously charge other connected devices is 15W – so it’s possible that only one of the other three TB4 ports can be fully powering its device.
In reality, you may be using all three of the available ports only rarely and the 85W power to your laptop will be the most important to you. But a higher wattage external power supply would have been appreciated. The Caldigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub, for example, boasts a 150W supply to power its other three TB4 and four 10Gbps USB-A ports.
Aside from power, the three available TB4 ports can be used for a wide variety of connection possibilities.
The obvious opportunities are for fast SSDs that can take advantage of the 40Gbps bandwidth to provide a super-speedy data-transfer rate.
It lives up to its mini dock status by also offering you the chance to connect up to two external displays.
These could attach directly if the monitors feature a USB-C port. If they don’t, you’ll need an adapter for either HDMI or DisplayPort. These adapters are not included, although it does ship with a 2.3ft Thunderbolt 4 cable to connect to your laptop or tablet.
The Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports support connecting a single monitor in up to 8K at 30Hz, or to dual displays each in up to 4K at 60Hz.
Apple’s latest M1-based MacBooks supports only a single display. Intel-based Macs are fine with two.
Most, but not all, TB4 hubs include an old-school but speedy USB-A port at 10Gbps, and the Anker mini dock has one at its front.
On the back, along with the three TB4 ports and power slot is a handy on/off button. Anker includes one of these on its larger PowerExpand Thunderbolt 3 dock, and we love the ability to turn the hub/dock off at the end of the day. Leaving a laptop plugged in will eventually degrade its battery.
Design and build
Compact (124-x-72-24mm) and lightweight (224g) it might be, but factor in the external power supply and the Anker Mini Dock is not too portable – from an in-the-pocket point of view.
Its case is corrugated aluminium, and it looks good next to even the best-looking laptop.
Alongside the USB-A port on the front is the laptop-connecting TB4 port. We would have preferred this at the back as it’s less obtrusive there – may be swapped for the Power button.
At $199 or £199 the Anker Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is priced at the top end compared to similar TB4 hubs. The Caldigit Element Hub has the same price in the UK (although, at $229, is more expensive in the US) but boasts three more 10Gbps USB-A ports. The Anker wins on laptop charging, but the Caldigit aces it on total power supply.
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub is cheaper at $189/£139 and is evenly matched on everything except for the 85W power and on/off button.
The Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock beats other similar Thunderbolt 4 hubs with its 85W laptop-charging power (compared to 60W elsewhere). That said, its total 100W external power supply feels a little light given the potential 67.5W power drain if all the ports required charging simultaneously.
We also love the Power button that further sets it apart from the pack.
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