Although Apple doesn't build its own Mac docking stations or hubs, others fill the gaps. Here's how to decide which of two popular options—a Henge Docks or Twelve South product—is best for you.
Whether you're working remotely from a home office or at corporate headquarters, if you're using a Mac, chances are you must connect additional peripherals. The need is particularly true if your Mac is one of the newer laptop models possessing only a pair of USB-C ports, one of which is typically dedicated to the power adapter. A docking station is necessary, but which dock is right for you? The answer, as is so often the case, depends on the accessories you plan to use and how you plan to use the dock.
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Henge Docks Stone Pro
The $239.99 Henge Docks Stone Pro (Figure A) is a true docking station. Now owned and distributed by Brydge, the dock includes its own 87-watt power supply, a fact and value that should not be underestimated. Apple's own 61-watt and 96-watt power adapters cost $69 and $79 by themselves, and that doesn't include the cost of a necessary $19 USB-C charge cable. Wherever you use the Stone Pro, you can leave its paired power adapter with the dock, thereby saving you the hassle of schlepping a power adapter with you on commutes and freeing your OEM Apple adapter for secondary use and your travels.
Even when purchased at its full, non-sale price of $329.99, the Stone Pro is worth its cost due to the dock's ability to power two 4K monitors. Thanks to the dock's myriad ports, Mac users will find the desktop accessory handy for connecting a number of other peripherals. All told, the Stone Pro offers almost a dozen ports:
- Audio / microphone
- 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps USB-C
- Three 4.1 Gen 1 5Gbps USB-A
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Two Thunderbolt 3
- Up to 4K60Hz DisplayPort
- Dock power
- SDXC UHS-II SD Card
Because the Stone Pro ships with its own Thunderbolt 3 cable for connecting the dock to a Mac, there's nothing else needed except the other peripherals you typically use in your home or corporate office. Connecting or disconnecting this single Thunderbolt 3 cable permits you to take your Mac and come and go. Using the Stone Pro, there's no need to connect and disconnect multiple monitors, a power cable, external hard drives, printers, a network connection, and other peripherals every time you enter or exit the office.
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Add in the fact the Henge Docks work well—I've used one for hundreds of hours and never encountered any connectivity or compatibility issues. Plus, the Stone dock series' metal finish matches other accessories and looks good, while also propping up the Mac making its integrated display easier to see and the Mac keyboard easier to use.
The Stone Pro is a little bigger, though, and requires its own power adapter. Those are both blessings and curses. If you frequently work from a single location, the Stone Pro is my definitive preference and recommendation. If, however, you are frequently on the move, give Twelve South's StayGo USB-C Hub a look.
StayGo USB-C Hub
Sized roughly a little smaller than an iPhone 11, the $99 StayGo USB-C Hub (Figure B) can easily be packed in a laptop bag and taken wherever you go. The StayGo doesn't include a separate power supply, meaning you'll have to pack your Mac's standard Apple OEM power adapter whenever you travel whether traveling to work, your home office, a business meeting or a coffee shop. Twelve South does include a small travel cable that fits neatly inside the well-designed hub itself. In case you use the hub long-term in a single location, Twelve South also includes a 1-meter desk cable that better assists desktop deployment.
In addition to its USB-C port with pass-through 85-watt USB-C power delivery charging dedicated to connecting to the Mac and its 100-watt max USB-C power input port, the StayGo also includes the following:
- 4K Full 1080p 30Hz HDMI
- USB-A 3.0 / BC 1.2 charging port with 5Gbps BC 12.75-watt fast charge
- Two USB-A 3.0 with up to 5Gbps with 900mA power
- Gigabit Ethernet
- SD/Micro SD UHS-I Card
- Micro SD UHS-I Card
The StayGo's aluminum shell dissipates heat, and support for a Micro SD card provides expanded compatibility for such media. While I suspect future versions will replace some of the USB-A ports with USB-C alternatives, until then Mac users can always tap a $19 Apple USB-C to USB adapter to eliminate any compatibility issues working with newer USB-C components.
Which should you use?
If you require multiple displays, need a second power source and frequently work from just one other location, the Stone Pro will serve Mac users' needs best. If you only work with a single HDMI-connected display and travel frequently, however, the StayGo will meet your needs and save you some money.
SEE: 31 Mac keyboard shortcuts business users need to know (TechRepublic Download)
Regardless which you choose, both devices are well designed, work reliably and provide a range of additional connectivity options. In an age when Apple's designers are increasingly limiting the number of ports native to MacBook laptops of all varieties, docks and hubs will prove necessary, so such third-party solutions should enjoy healthy sales.
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