The major change since I last did a roundup of Thunderbolt docks is that the latest docks use Thunderbolt 2, which makes them aligned with Apple's Thunderbolt 2 implementation in its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
The market has also grown a little, with a few more offerings to consider. But essentially, the basic functionality of the docks is the same as before: You plug in your display, hard drives, printer, ethernet, headphones, USB devices, and whatever else into the dock, then you connect the dock to your laptop via a single Thunderbolt 2 connection. When you want to take your laptop, you only need to unplug a single cable. When you return to your desk, all you have to do is connect one cable.
In this roundup, I tested seven docks that all use Thunderbolt 2. Some of the docks are quite similar in design, while others are vastly different. All of the docks require a power adapter. All of the manufacturers tout their dock's ability to support 4K monitors, though this is a function of Thunderbolt 2 and not necessarily a dock-specific feature.
I wasn't able to boot from a Yosemite install USB flash drive plugged into the USB port of any of these docks, even though the drive appeared as a bootable drive in System Preferences. You'll need to plug the boot drive directly into a port on your Mac laptop.
All the docks tallied similar results when I tested USB 3 drive performance. Using the Aja System Test and a VisionTek USB Pocket SSD, the docks had read speeds of about 330 MBps and write speeds of about 280 MBps on a mid-2014 15-inch 2.2GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro. All the docks were tested with gigabit ethernet, headphones, and an Apple Thunderbolt Display connected to each dock. (For your reference, the read/write speeds of the VisionTek drive connected directly to the laptop's USB 3 port were 400.3/361.3 MBps.)
One final thing before diving into the products. I tested the docks with a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. A dock would be ideal for the new MacBook since it has the lone USB-C port, but there's currently no way to connect a MacBook to one of these docks--USB-C to Thunderbolt adapters don't exist. (Are they even feasible?) There's at least one MacBook dock in the works called the HydraDock, and there are probably more coming soon.
CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 2
At $235 with a 1-meter Thunderbolt cable ($200 without), the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 2 () is a pretty good deal. CalDigit didn't go with a long, brushed aluminum box design the other docks sport. Instead, the Thunderbolt Station 2 uses a handsome vertical standing "Titanium Grey" aluminum box (CalDigit provides rubber feet to let you rest the dock on its side).
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