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Recent advancements in Thunderbolt technology have brought the ability to include multiple downstream Thunderbolt ports on various docks and hubs, and CalDigit's Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub introduced earlier this year does just that in the form of a compact dock supporting Thunderbolt 4 and USB4.

caldigit-element-hub.jpg

I've long been a fan of CalDigit's Thunderbolt hubs, and I've been using the company's TS3 Plus as my main docking station for many years now. The Element Hub doesn't offer as many dedicated features as some of CalDigit's other docking stations such as an SD card slot or Ethernet port, but if you've got multiple Thunderbolt/USB-C devices and maybe a few USB-A peripherals, the new Element Hub could be a great option.

With Thunderbolt 4 support, the Element Hub offers up to 40 Gb/s transfer speeds overall, which means it can drive up to a 6K display at 60Hz, including dual 4K displays when used with an M1 Pro/Max or Intel Mac (M1 Mac and iPad Pro models are limited to one external display). Windows users can even drive an 8K display via the Element Hub, but only at 30Hz.

caldigit-element-hub-rear.jpg

The flexibility of Thunderbolt 4 means that with an appropriate adapter, you can take advantage of just about type of external display, including Thunderbolt 2/3/4, USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, VGA, and DVI.

The Element Hub features a total of eight ports plus a DC-in port for powering the dock. There are four Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports, which include one upstream port for connecting to the host computer and three independent downstream ports, each of which can support a full 40 Gbps of data transfer, though obviously not all simultaneously. On the opposite side of the dock are four USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports that support up to 10 Gbps of data transfer.

caldigit-element-hub-front.jpg

While the Element Hub is certainly a compact docking solution, it does require an external 150-watt power brick that's significantly larger than the dock itself. Fortunately, most users should be able find a place to hide the adapter away and leave a clean, uncluttered look on their desks, but this really isn't a docking solution you're going to want to take on the road.

Even with the large power brick, the Element Hub is limited to 60 watts of charging power, so it won't be enough to power a bigger MacBook Pro unless you're using it under a light load. But for a smaller MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air, or an iPad Pro, the Element Hub will work just fine, and CalDigit notes that the dock is capable of delivering a full 60 watts of power regardless of other loads, so if you have other Thunderbolt devices drawing power (up to 15 watts from each Thunderbolt port and 7.5 watts from each USB-A port) from the hub, it won't reduce charging power to your computer as some other docks do.

Since it charges the host computer over USB-C, it won't offer the fast charging capabilities available with a MagSafe connection on Apple's latest MacBook Pro models, but as a desktop hub it's more likely to be used for continuous power rather than quickly recharging a depleted notebook anyway. And if you have one of the bigger M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pro models, you'll probably want to connect up MagSafe anyway since the Element Hub tops out at 60 watts.

caldigit-element-hub-side.jpg

One neat design feature of the Element Hub is that it can be flipped over depending on which side of the computer you want it to be placed. The top and bottom of the dock are essentially identical, with the same matte aluminum finish and subtle CalDigit branding. The two long faces of the hub where most of the ports are located are matte black plastic, but they too look good and sit flush and solid with the aluminum body.

It's a simple design, but it's a solid build that gets the job done. Pairs of grooves cut into the surface on each side add a little bit of design flair but also serve as mounting points for the included rubber feet strips that can be easily applied and removed.

With its external power source, the Element Hub supports offline charging, so all of the ports on the hub can be used to charge connected devices even when the hub isn't connected to a computer. The Element Hub also supports Apple's SuperDrive, using CalDigit's custom driver to deliver enough power to support the slim CD/DVD drive. And finally, CalDigit's macOS Docking Station Utility quietly lives in your menu bar and lets you easily eject any storage devices attached to the hub all at once.

I appreciate the flexibility the Element Hub offers, with the Thunderbolt 4 ports offering lots of options, whether it be direct connections of Thunderbolt or USB-C cables or with adapters for even more connectivity. And the USB-A ports offer easy legacy support for those older devices still using the fading standard.

I ran some speed tests using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and a Sandisk G-Drive Pro SSD that uses Thunderbolt for maximum speeds. The drive is advertised to support up to a maximum of 2,800 MBps read speed, and I get fairly close to that when the drive is connected directly to my 2021 MacBook Pro, with read speeds coming in at over 2,500 MBps and write speeds approaching 2,000 MBps.

caldigit-element-hub-direct.jpg
External Thunderbolt SSD connected directly to MacBook Pro

Connecting the drive to the MacBook Pro via the Element Hub with no other accessories attached to the hub, I saw very little in the way of a speed penalty, with the read speed coming in at essentially identical to the direct connection and the write speed dropping down to the 1,750 MBps range.

caldigit-element-hub-solo.jpg
External Thunderbolt SSD connected to Element Hub with no other accessories

While the Element Hub features three downstream Thunderbolt 3 ports each capable of supporting a theoretical maximum of 40 Gbps, it's important to remember that they're all sharing a single Thunderbolt connection to the computer, so if you have multiple devices connected to the hub, performance can be impacted.

This is evident when both the SanDisk SSD and one of my LG UltraFine 5K displays are connected to the Element Hub. The 5K display requires a significant amount of that Thunderbolt bandwidth going from the computer to the hub, so write speeds on the SSD drop to under 800 MBps in my testing. Given the primarily unidirectional aspect of display connectivity, read speeds for the SSD remain unaffected, coming in above 2,500 MBps.

caldigit-element-hub-5k.jpg
External Thunderbolt SSD and 5K display both connected to Element Hub

Even with that performance hit, the availability of three downstream Thunderbolt ports offers maximum flexibility when connecting multiple peripherals, and the Element Hub's additional four USB-A ports means it can serve as an excellent docking station for many users. It will require some dongles if you have HDMI or DisplayPort external displays though, and if you require more features like an Ethernet port, SD slot, or 3.5mm audio, you might want to look at some other options.

Given high demand and chip shortages, CalDigit has had significant trouble keeping the Element Hub in stock, and at the moment the best availability is through Amazon, where it's priced at $249.99. A 0.8-meter Thunderbolt 4 cable is included in the box, while CalDigit offers several different USB-C adapters for connecting various displays.

Article Link: Review: CalDigit's Element Hub Delivers Flexible Thunderbolt and USB Support
 

eddjedi

macrumors 6502a
Sep 7, 2011
560
614
Why did they make this with only 60w power delivery. I cannot find a single USB or Thunderbolt hub, at any price, that offers the single-cable solution I want for my 2021 Macbook Pro (90w power delivery, 4k 60hz, multiple USB-A ports, connected by a single USC-C cable.) If anybody knows of one that works, please let me know!
 

73b

macrumors regular
Aug 22, 2014
172
362
East Coast
These things are insanely expensive for what seems to be just a convenience. I have been looking for a docking station of sorts for my desk, but for $250 I will continue to just plug in power, monitor, and peripherals separately. I understand the use case for people who need very high speed access to many drives and multiple 4K monitors etc (very serious creative professionals) but for a more simple desk setup I haven’t been able to find a reasonable one-cable solution.
 

Macintosh TV

macrumors regular
Nov 3, 2021
161
290
Why did they make this with only 60w power delivery. I cannot find a single USB or Thunderbolt hub, at any price, that offers the single-cable solution I want for my 2021 Macbook Pro (90w power delivery, 4k 60hz, multiple USB-A ports, connected by a single USC-C cable.) If anybody knows of one that works, please let me know!
Waiting on a 100w desktop hub that supports 2 displays. OWC is most likely to produce such but it'll be a little time.
 
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fwmireault

macrumors demi-god
Jul 4, 2019
763
2,858
Montreal, Canada
Why did they make this with only 60w power delivery. I cannot find a single USB or Thunderbolt hub, at any price, that offers the single-cable solution I want for my 2021 Macbook Pro (90w power delivery, 4k 60hz, multiple USB-A ports, connected by a single USC-C cable.) If anybody knows of one that works, please let me know!
This one seems to check all the boxes you are looking for (I didn’t try it myself that said): Link
 
Last edited:

mdatwood

macrumors 6502a
Mar 14, 2010
754
493
East Coast, USA
Waiting on a 100w desktop hub that supports 2 displays. OWC is most likely to produce such but it'll be a little time.
I have this one https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/owc-thunderbolt-dock

96w keeps my 16" mbp m1 max fully charged while running 2 displays.

Why did they make this with only 60w power delivery. I cannot find a single USB or Thunderbolt hub, at any price, that offers the single-cable solution I want for my 2021 Macbook Pro (90w power delivery, 4k 60hz, multiple USB-A ports, connected by a single USC-C cable.) If anybody knows of one that works, please let me know!
Does the one I link above not fit your requirements?
 

hugodrax

macrumors 65816
Jul 15, 2007
1,083
407
I am not sure it’s going to be a big seller. Feels like a solution looking for a problem rushed to market.

I feel like the bosses said I need you to get something out the door fast for sales and this is what he received and he went with it not knowing any better
 
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MallardDuck

macrumors 6502a
Jul 21, 2014
813
1,300
I have two of them - they're rock solid. I don't need a dock with 57 ports I'll never use. I just need a hub bunch of USB C and A ports to plug stuff in, and on that, they work perfectly.

And yup, I do daisychain my old TS3+ for the few other ports I need - that works just fine...and at thunderbolt speeds.
 
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appleArticulate

macrumors member
Jan 6, 2022
67
43
Why did they make this with only 60w power delivery. I cannot find a single USB or Thunderbolt hub, at any price, that offers the single-cable solution I want for my 2021 Macbook Pro (90w power delivery, 4k 60hz, multiple USB-A ports, connected by a single USC-C cable.) If anybody knows of one that works, please let me know!
That doesn’t matter at all. I’m using it with my M1 Pro. Doesn’t need more than that.
 

appleArticulate

macrumors member
Jan 6, 2022
67
43
Only problem with it is that it gets absolutely white hot during use. It was actually overheating my Mac mini because it was laying on top of it. I’ve had to isolate it away from other electronics.
 
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japasneezemonk

macrumors 6502
Jun 13, 2005
466
68
Nomad
The power brick is MASSIVE but I guess it makes sense given how much power it needs to run multiple devices at the same time. I wonder if there is a possibility to integrate GaN technology in the future to merge the power source with the hub but keep the form factor small.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,237
522
I bought this on pre-order (whenever that was...seems like a year ago) and have been quite happy with it. Somehow I must have missed that it only supported 60w charging. That might have caused me to rethink ordering it, but I'm glad I didn't, because I'm looking at my battery icon now and my MacBook Pro 16" is at 100% and has been plugged in for quite a while without any battery drain. Now, as I'm typing this, I'm just barely using this dock, with not much else attached to it...just one external 2560x1440 monitor. So I guess if I was pushing it harder, I'd start to see the battery decrease?
 

bpb

macrumors newbie
Dec 5, 2019
18
20
I've got one for my work from home setup with my 13" MBP. Works a treat. I can keep my monitor, mouse, charging cables, etc all plugged in and just hook/unhook one cable. It also frees up my power brick for keeping in my backpack. It's also quite compact (aside from the hilariously large power brick) so when I travel for long stretches I can keep on using it in the hotel.
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors demi-god
Mar 17, 2005
5,043
903
London, UK
It's weird how everything Thunderbolt related seems to be so much more expensive. I used to think it was just because they were niche but we're onto TB4 now and it's basically merged with USB and yet still, it's $$$s for these hubs. Nevertheless, I'll still likely be in the market for one before long as I'm thinking of moving my PC into a cupboard on the other side of my room so would use a (also ridiculously expensive) Corning optical TB cable and a quality TB hub like this to connect to my monitors. My Mac can stay out though. :D
 
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Duncan-UK

macrumors 6502
Sep 17, 2006
414
664
Just wondering, is the only reason you would use one of these is to access multiple monitor outs? Otherwise given the constraint of a single TB input into the computer wouldn’t daisy chaining work just as well (for example) with multiple drives?
 

RGPphotog

macrumors member
Oct 3, 2012
90
64
Orlando FL
I got two of these things connected to my M1 Max and so far they are fantastic, but do get toasty warm. Also have Caldigit's 10G ethernet adapter connected to one of them... Moar thunderbolts was exactly what I needed and this delivers.

(I hope the next "iMac Pro" comes with at least 6 Thunderbolt ports.)
 
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