Accell Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station

If you’re looking for a dock with a different approach to physical design, look no further than the Accell Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station. And if you’re not sure why you need a dock, read this.

I have had a chance to try out the Accell dock for several weeks, both at a stationary desk and also on location. I put it through its paces connecting SSD drives, regular drives, USB sticks, ethernet and monitors.

How do you evaluate a dock? I look at three things: ports, performance and design. I need to match up all of those items with what I really need. For example, I don’t use SD cards anymore, so having an SD slot isn’t that important to me now.

Ports

The Accell dock has a range of ports. There are 5 USB A connectors. Note that I said “connectors.” That’s because they’re not all the same “ports.” These USB connectors include two USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 with BC 1.2 and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports.

A full complement of ports makes for easy laptop connections.
A full complement of ports makes for easy laptop connections.

I shudder to think how many words I’ve written explaining USB nomenclature, but until there’s some sanity…

The USB 3.0 ports are high speed with a theoretical speed of 5Gbit/s. The USB 3.0 with the BC 1.2 has the same speed as a USB 3.0 port but adds high-speed charging of capable devices. High speed is enabled by allowing more current (1.5A vs 900mA) to be supplied at that port. (You can tell which port has the high-speed charging by the lighting bolt attached to the high-speed icon.) The USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports support 10Gbit/s.

This icon indicates that the port supports high-speed charging.
This icon indicates that the port supports high-speed charging.

Now back to your regularly scheduled…

The dock has a Gigabit Ethernet connector for network connection and a DisplayPort connector. The DisplayPort can drive a single 4K display at 60hz. If you need to get to HDMI, you’ll need to purchase an inexpensive adaptor cable.

The ports are well marked even on a metal chassis.
The ports are well marked even on a metal chassis.

Lastly, there are two Thunderbolt 3 connectors, one for connecting to the computer and one to continue the Thunderbolt 3 daisy chain. You could also use this connector via an adaptor cable to drive a DisplayPort display. This would also be at 4k 60hz.

Performance

You might wonder what I mean by performance—it’s a dock, isn’t it? If the ports work I’m done—right? Of course, you need to trust that the ports work, but I also want to make sure that the Thunderbolt daisy-chain delivers the speed.

I connected a laptop to the dock and then the dock to a Thunderbolt 3 SSD array. I also connected ethernet and a monitor. When I ran all my usual speed tests, I didn’t see any difference compared to the SSD array connected directly to the laptop.

Depending on your laptop, the Thunderbolt connection may also provide enough power to keep your laptop charged—the spec is 70 watts.

Design

This dock is unique amongst the docks I’ve tested because it’s designed to tuck under your laptop. At the end of the sloping top, there’s a rubber bumper that supports the back end of your laptop, tilting it. Because the bumper is rubber, the friction of the laptop bottom on the rubber keeps it in place. Obviously, you don’t have to use it in this position.

A top-mounted rubber bumper allows you to prop up the back of your laptop with the dock.
A top-mounted rubber bumper allows you to prop up the back of your laptop with the dock.

In order to make this design work, connectors are located on both the right side and the back of the unit. The side houses the audio connectors and two USB 3.0 ports. The remaining connectors are on the back.

Side USB ports make it easy to attach USB sticks without having to get out of your chair.
Side USB ports make it easy to attach USB sticks without having to get out of your chair.

Because there’s a metal casing surrounding the electronics, the dock feels substantial. When it’s on a flat surface, you feel assured it won’t be going anywhere. That’s a good thing on location. Another nice thing to have on location is quiet—there’s no fan in this dock.

A series of LED illuminated dots light up orange if the unit has power and blue if your computer is connected properly. The ports are clearly labeled, so you know which USB ports are which. Note that this is a Thunderbolt dock. If your computer doesn’t have a Thunderbolt connection, this device isn’t for you.

Wrap Up

Everyone’s needs in a dock are different. For me, this is a well-designed dock, substantially constructed, with expected throughput and enough ports for me. Anything I would change? Maybe a longer included Thunderbolt 3 cable, but I always want longer cables.

You can find out more about the device here.

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