Latest developments in Thunderbolt know-how have introduced the flexibility to incorporate a number of downstream Thunderbolt ports on numerous docks and hubs, and CalDigit’s Thunderbolt 4 Factor Hub launched earlier this 12 months does simply that within the type of a compact dock supporting Thunderbolt 4 and USB4.
I’ve lengthy been a fan of CalDigit’s Thunderbolt hubs, and I have been utilizing the corporate’s TS3 Plus as my principal docking station for a few years now. The Factor Hub does not provide as many devoted options as a few of CalDigit’s different docking stations resembling an SD card slot or Ethernet port, however should you’ve obtained a number of Thunderbolt/USB-C units and possibly just a few USB-A peripherals, the brand new Factor Hub may very well be a fantastic choice.
With Thunderbolt 4 help, the Factor Hub provides as much as 40 Gb/s switch speeds general, which suggests it could drive as much as a 6K show at 60Hz, together with twin 4K shows when used with an M1 Professional/Max or Intel Mac (M1 Mac and iPad Professional fashions are restricted to 1 exterior show). Home windows customers may even drive an 8K show by way of the Factor Hub, however solely at 30Hz.
The pliability of Thunderbolt 4 implies that with an acceptable adapter, you’ll be able to benefit from nearly kind of exterior show, together with Thunderbolt 2/3/4, USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, VGA, and DVI.
The Factor Hub contains a whole of eight ports plus a DC-in port for powering the dock. There are 4 Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports, which embrace one upstream port for connecting to the host laptop and three impartial downstream ports, every of which may help a full 40 Gbps of knowledge switch, although clearly not all concurrently. On the alternative aspect of the dock are 4 USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports that help as much as 10 Gbps of knowledge switch.
Whereas the Factor Hub is definitely a compact docking answer, it does require an exterior 150-watt energy brick that is considerably bigger than the dock itself. Fortuitously, most customers ought to have the opportunity discover a place to cover the adapter away and depart a clear, uncluttered look on their desks, however this actually is not a docking answer you are going to wish to tackle the street.
Even with the big energy brick, the Factor Hub is restricted to 60 watts of charging energy, so it will not be sufficient to energy a much bigger MacBook Professional except you are utilizing it underneath a light-weight load. However for a smaller MacBook Professional, a MacBook Air, or an iPad Professional, the Factor Hub will work simply wonderful, and CalDigit notes that the dock is able to delivering a full 60 watts of energy no matter different hundreds, so when you have different Thunderbolt units drawing energy (as much as 15 watts from every Thunderbolt port and seven.5 watts from every USB-A port) from the hub, it will not cut back charging energy to your laptop as another docks do.
Because it costs the host laptop over USB-C, it will not provide the quick charging capabilities accessible with a MagSafe connection on Apple’s newest MacBook Professional fashions, however as a desktop hub it is extra probably for use for steady energy quite than shortly recharging a depleted pocket book anyway. And when you have one of many larger M1 Professional/Max MacBook Professional fashions, you will in all probability wish to join up MagSafe anyway for the reason that Factor Hub tops out at 60 watts.
One neat design function of the Factor Hub is that it may be flipped over relying on which aspect of the pc you need it to be positioned. The highest and backside of the dock are basically an identical, with the identical matte aluminum end and delicate CalDigit branding. The 2 lengthy faces of the hub the place many of the ports are positioned are matte black plastic, however they too look good and sit flush and strong with the aluminum physique.
It is a easy design, but it surely’s a strong construct that will get the job accomplished. Pairs of grooves lower into the floor on all sides add slightly little bit of design aptitude but additionally function mounting factors for the included rubber ft strips that may be simply utilized and eliminated.
With its exterior energy supply, the Factor Hub helps offline charging, so the entire ports on the hub can be utilized to cost linked units even when the hub is not linked to a pc. The Factor Hub additionally helps Apple’s SuperDrive, utilizing CalDigit’s customized driver to ship sufficient energy to help the slim CD/DVD drive. And eventually, CalDigit’s macOS Docking Station Utility quietly lives in your menu bar and allows you to simply eject any storage units connected to the hub unexpectedly.
I recognize the flexibleness the Factor Hub provides, with the Thunderbolt 4 ports providing a lot of choices, whether or not or not it’s direct connections of Thunderbolt or USB-C cables or with adapters for much more connectivity. And the USB-A ports provide straightforward legacy help for these older units nonetheless utilizing the fading commonplace.
I ran some pace assessments utilizing Blackmagic Disk Pace Take a look at and a Sandisk G-Drive Professional SSD that makes use of Thunderbolt for max speeds. The drive is marketed to help as much as a most of two,800 MBps learn pace, and I get pretty near that when the drive is linked on to my 2021 MacBook Professional, with learn speeds coming in at over 2,500 MBps and write speeds approaching 2,000 MBps.
Connecting the drive to the MacBook Professional by way of the Factor Hub with no different equipment connected to the hub, I noticed little or no in the way in which of a pace penalty, with the learn pace coming in at basically an identical to the direct connection and the write pace dropping all the way down to the 1,750 MBps vary.
Whereas the Factor Hub options three downstream Thunderbolt 3 ports every able to supporting a theoretical most of 40 Gbps, it is essential to keep in mind that they’re all sharing a single Thunderbolt connection to the pc, so when you have a number of units linked to the hub, efficiency could be impacted.
That is evident when each the SanDisk SSD and one among my LG UltraFine 5K shows are linked to the Factor Hub. The 5K show requires a big quantity of that Thunderbolt bandwidth going from the pc to the hub, so write speeds on the SSD drop to underneath 800 MBps in my testing. Given the primarily unidirectional side of show connectivity, learn speeds for the SSD stay unaffected, coming in above 2,500 MBps.
Even with that efficiency hit, the supply of three downstream Thunderbolt ports provides most flexibility when connecting a number of peripherals, and the Factor Hub’s extra 4 USB-A ports means it could function a wonderful docking station for a lot of customers. It’ll require some dongles when you have HDMI or DisplayPort exterior shows although, and should you require extra options like an Ethernet port, SD slot, or 3.5mm audio, you may wish to take a look at another choices.
Given excessive demand and chip shortages, CalDigit has had important bother conserving the Factor Hub in inventory, and in the mean time the perfect availability is thru Amazon, the place it is priced at $249.99. A 0.8-meter Thunderbolt 4 cable is included within the field, whereas CalDigit provides a number of completely different USB-C adapters for connecting numerous shows.