Best Thunderbolt 2 docks for the Mac

Using a Thunderbolt 2 dock has practical benefits. For one thing, it simplifies the connection to your Mac down to a single cable. For another, it makes attaching a wide array of devices to your Mac quick and easy. And with twice the bandwidth of the original Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2 is an even faster way to connect. If that sounds like what you need, here's a roundup of our favorites for you to check out.

Note: These are all standalone docks, as opposed to laptop-specific docks with Thunderbolt 2 support.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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Looking for a way to attach a FireWire drive to your Thunderbolt equipped Mac? OWC's Thunderbolt 2 Dock has it, along with five USB 3.0 ports, so there's a lot of connections on this. There are 12 ports in all: 2x Thunderbolt 2 (one gets used for the Mac, the other can go to a display or something else), 5x USB 3.0 ports, FireWire 800, a 4K-capable HDMI 1.4 connector, Gigabit Ethernet, audio line in, and audio line out.

Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock

The Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock has 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, Gigabit Ethernet, 3x USB 3.0 connectors, a headphone jack, and a microphone input. One of the USB 3.0 ports is front-facing, along with the headphone and microphone jacks. A downloadable Mac utility (available from Elgato's web site) enables you to eject all storage devices at once, so you can disconnect the Mac from the dock without messing up your drives. (Elgato even includes a Thunderbolt cable, something more manufacturers should do.)

Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 2

If you're looking for an easy way to connect fast-as-blazes eSATA hard drives to your Thunderbolt 2-equipped Mac, the Thunderbolt Station 2 is the way to go. It sits vertically on the desktop, looking more like a hard drive than a Thunderbolt 2 dock. The gunmetal-colored case is ribbed on both sides like a heatsink (more of a design effect than a practical feature, but an interesting look). The Thunderbolt Station 2 sports 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports, 4K-capable HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, 3x USB 3.0 ports, 2x eSATA 6G ports, stereo headphone in and mono microphone input. One USB 3.0 port and the mic and headphone jacks are front-facing.

Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express

Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express has 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports, along with Gigabit Ethernet, three USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone input, and HDMI 1.4. One of the USB 3.0 ports and the microphone jacks are forward-facing. Belkin also throws in a Thunderbolt cable. Even so, this is the most expensive dock on our list, so make sure the features it offers are valuable enough to you for the price.

StarTech Thunderbolt 2 Docking Station

StarTech's dock is surprisingly versatile: A higher-output "fast charge" port for high-powered USB devices, eSATA, and Toslink/SPDIF separate it from the competition. In total, the dock sports 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports, HDMI 1.4, 4x USB 3.0 (including the "fast charge" port on the front), eSATA, Toslink (digital audio output), headphone jack, mic jack, Gigabit Ethernet, and a security slot to keep it in place.

Your pick?

If you pick up one of these docks, or are already using one, let me know how it's working for you. If your favorite didn't make the list, tell me about it in the comments!

Peter Cohen