Which MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors is best?
With recent advancements in both speed and efficiency, Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops are more than capable of being the centerpiece of a fully functional workstation. However, no matter how much power it packs under the hood, your MacBook will always be limited with regard to its monitor size. Thankfully, docking stations are available that let you accessorize your laptop with an additional monitor or two, potentially tripling your display real estate.
The Anker PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB C Adapter lets you expand the ports of your MacBook and connect it to additional monitors as well as other useful devices.
What to know before you buy a MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors
There are three distinct types of MacBook Pro docks available. All three provide similar functionality but vary greatly in how they look and attach to your computer.
- Dongles, which are small breakout boxes that connect to your MacBook via a USB cable, are the least expensive and most common way that people expand the functionality of their computer. These devices are light and portable, although some especially small models may not allow for as much connectivity as some users demand.
- Hubs typically connect to your MacBook Pro directly via the computer’s ports and sit snugly behind, against or under your laptop. Hubs allow for fewer wires and a more compact manner in which to connect an additional monitor or two to your computer. Those looking for a seamless docking solution will likely appreciate that many hub manufacturers provide models that match the now iconic aluminum finish on Apple’s laptops.
- Vertical docking stations provide a saddle into which you slide your entire laptop. These docks are engineered to perfectly line up with the appropriate model of MacBook Pro, connecting to its ports and keeping the computer securely tucked away. While these docks are slick and modern-looking, they require the MacBook to be shut while connected. This means that you will need to provide two additional monitors if you want a dual display, as the computer’s built-in screen will not be viewable.
Your MacBook Pro size
Apple has provided users with a number of MacBook models over the years in various sizes. Because the company tends to make subtle but important modifications to their computers’ exterior dimensions and configurations, it’s important to know which model you own to ensure that the dock you select will be fully compatible with your machine. Some vertical docks are available in different sizes to accommodate varying MacBook dimensions, whereas dongles and most hubs can be used across all models.
Your MacBook Pro’s ports
New MacBook Pro docks will connect via USB-C or Thunderbolt. However, if you own a model that was built before Apple fully embraced that option, you will need to select a dock that can plug into an older USB port. You can use an adapter to connect a dongle that only features USB-C connectivity, but those interested in hubs or vertical docks will likely find that their older computers are not compatible.
Special considerations for M1 MacBook Pro models
MacBook Pro models that feature Apple’s M1 chip are unable to output to two external monitors. Because of this, owners of M1 MacBook pros will be limited to a single additional display only, regardless of which docking station or dongle they purchase.
What to look for in a quality MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors
Select a MacBook dock that includes as many ports as possible. To connect your computer to two additional monitors, you will need one that includes at least two display outputs either in the form of HDMI or Thunderbolt 3. The more you can connect to your computer via a single device, the more usability you will experience and the less clutter you will encounter. Even those who own only a few accessories in addition to their external monitor will enjoy being able to charge their phone or tablet via the dock.
Those who intend to keep their dock visible will appreciate the availability of models that perfectly match the finish of their MacBook Pro. Those who prefer to keep their expansion options tucked away will also find a wide range of black docks that can be hidden behind desks or monitors.
From small, portable dongles to long, thick models that cradle your computer as it rests on your desk, docks are available in a wide range of sizes and configurations. Travelers should invest in those that can be easily tucked away with your computer in its bag, whereas those who work from a single location have the option to install a larger, more capable dock that is designed to be a permanent desk fixture.
Older MacBooks that do not feature USB-C ports can still be used with today’s docks, although an adapter will be required. Often, this adapter needs to be purchased in addition to your favored dock. However, some dock options generously include one to accommodate users who continue to work with older computers.
How much you can expect to spend on a MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors
Inexpensive dongles can be purchased for a little over $20, although most users will appreciate the improvements in build quality and reliability found in ports that cost $60-$120. Some vertical docking stations can cost $150 or more.
MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors FAQ
Will a dock charge my MacBook Pro while I travel?
A. No. Docks allow you to power and charge devices because they draw electricity from your computer. They do not, however, allow you to power or charge your MacBook while you’re on the go.
Can I use a dock to connect my MacBook Pro to an audio system?
A. Depending on the ports present on the dock, yes. Some docks include a headphone jack that you can use to connect your computer to an external sound system.
If I get a new MacBook Pro, will I need a new dock?
A. Possibly. If your new MacBook Pro does not include the same ports as your old one, you’ll have to purchase a new dock or determine what sort of adapter may allow you to continue using your existing one. Docks that connect directly to your computer will need to be replaced if your new laptop’s ports are laid out in a manner that prevents a connection.
What’s the best MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors to buy?
Top MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors
What you need to know: This dock attaches directly to the side of supported MacBook Pro models.
What you’ll love: Creating a seamless look while keeping your connections easy to reach, this dock features a wealth of ports in a compact package. It includes an HDMI port as well as a Thunderbolt 3 port, letting you attach two additional monitors to your MacBook.
What you should consider: This dock fits tightly against your computer and therefore cannot be connected if you use a protective case.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top MacBook Pro docking system for dual monitors for the money
What you need to know: For a great price, you can connect your MacBook Pro to two monitors and more.
What you’ll love: This dock sits on the side of your computer and allows you to connect an external display via HDMI, Thunderbolt or both. It is available in two colors.
What you should consider: This dock covers up the MagSafe charging port on the newest MacBook models.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: In the form of a small tower, this dock has a variety of display ports.
What you’ll love: This dock connects to your MacBook via two USB-C connections and allows you to use additional monitors via HDMI or VGA.
What you should consider: No Thunderbolt port. Incompatible with MacBooks that have a different USB-C port layout.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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