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Belkin’s Connect Thunderbolt 3 Dock Core arrived in bare-bones packaging, and the product is equally unadorned: It’s a smartly designed “powered” Thunderbolt 3 travel dock that also makes for a great budget Thunderbolt dock. It ranks highly among our recommended best Thunderbolt docks for your laptop.
(Just be careful: Belkin sells the B2B169, also marketed as the Thunderbolt Dock Core, which is a much cheaper but entirely different product designed to help a laptop plug into a projector. Don’t be fooled!)
At a nearly square 5.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches and 0.47 pounds, the Thunderbolt Connect Dock Core doesn’t take up much room or weight, and the included 7.9-inch Thunderbolt 3 cord provides ample length for flexibility.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Ports are adequately spaced out around the flat, black plastic cube, with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports providing a stable 4K/60Hz experience to both of my 4K displays. There’s gigabit ethernet and a 3.5mm audio jack, but good luck telling the USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 Type A ports apart—they’re not labeled. (All told, there is a 10Gbps USB-C port capable of power delivery to charge your laptop, one 10Gbps USB-A port, one 5Gbps USB-A port, one DisplayPort, one HDMI 2.0 port, gigabit ethernet, and a headphone jack.)
Save for the irritating lack of labels on the USB-A ports, the Dock Core worked as expected, with solid performance. The plastic shell does warm, but not to worrisome levels. (Some customers on Belkin’s site have reported unreliable performance from ethernet and some I/O, which we did not experience.) The dock ships with a two-year manufacturer warranty if this does prove to be a problem.
Mark Hachman / IDG
There’s one small catch: The additional USB-C port on the Dock is a vanilla USB-C port that needs to be connected to a 60W charger to power the dock—which isn’t supplied. That’s fine if your laptop charges with a USB-C charger; if it doesn’t, you’ll need to buy one. Otherwise, the lack of a charger certainly saves space while on the go.