Dell Thunderbolt Dock TB16: Our first take

Thunderbolt docks are boring, and Dell’s TB16 is no exception

A system dock should disappear when it’s working correctly, but Dell’s makes a bit too much fuss.

With the advent of Thunderbolt 3, and its massive power and data capabilities, docks are going from bulky, awkward stands to slim, powerful connectivity extenders. Dell’s TB16, for example, includes a swath of wired connection options, and charges compatible Dell laptops over a single Thunderbolt 3 cable. Yet it’s small enough to easily hide away on a desk.

That kind of simplicity doesn’t come cheap, and the TB16 carries a $300 suggested retail price — not so cheap when you consider the cost of a Dell laptop on top. Is the TB16 the accessory you’ve been waiting for, or is a generic dock a better option?

Short cable provides little relief

While the idea of a dock that the computer doesn’t physically attach to might seem odd, it’s quickly becoming the norm. The Dell TB16 is a bit larger than an Intel NUC. It sports a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm audio out on the front. The back holds the rest of the ports, of which there are many. For video outputs, there’s one each of VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Mini-DisplayPort, plus two USB 2.0 ports, one more USB 3.0 Type-A, USB 3.0 Type-C, and 3.5mm audio in.

The main issue we have with the design is the Thunderbolt 3 cable itself. It’s very short, at just 18 inches long, and it extends permanently from the dock’s left side. The Thunderbolt 3 port on our test system, the Dell XPS 15, is also on the left side. The only good way to connect them, then, is by setting the dock directly behind where the computer sits. It also has a rather large power brick, though that means it will charge compatible Dell laptops.

We also took issue with the TB16’s need for software support. The dock leans heavily on Dell’s drivers and software to handle its myriad outputs, so it often takes some time to load after waking up the system some sleep, and may not work at all on a restart until the user logs in, and the driver kicks in.

Warranty information

Purchased on its own, Dell’s TB16 dock carries a one year warranty against manufacturer defects, as well as regular wear and tear. Purchase it with a compatible laptop, however, and the dock’s warranty is automatically extended to match the laptop’s warranty. Some Dell laptops offer warranties of three to five years.

Conclusion

Dell’s TB16 Thunderbolt 3 dock doesn’t set itself apart from the pack, unless you’re buying it alongside a Dell laptop. The charging power and extra warranty coverage are solid value adds, but its competitors from other mainstream OEMs manage to slide in under the $200 price point. That said, there aren’t many of them, and many are system specific. It makes sense to purchase one with a new XPS 13 or XPS 15, particularly if you can find a deal below $250. Otherwise, it’s not better than any other dock.

Highs

  • Solid connectivity
  • Charges laptop

Lows

  • Short leash
  • Software reliant
  • Awkward cable position
Computing

Nose cam no more. How Dell avoided a notch and fixed the XPS 13’s biggest flaw

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Computing

Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 vs. Dell XPS 13

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?
Computing

Dell teases new XPS laptop with Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake for summer 2019

After teasing a mysterious Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop during Intel's keynote, Dell confirmed that it will announce a new 10th-generation Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop this year. The new XPS notebook could debut as early as summer.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Nvidia’s next midrange card might be a GTX 1660 Ti, rumors suggest

Nvidia may be working on a non-RTX Turing graphics card called the 1660 Ti. Rumors suggest it will have around 20 percent fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 2060 and will lack ray tracing support.
Deals

From Samsung to HP, here are the best cheap Chromebook deals right now

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- with most…
Computing

Chromebook 13 vs. Google Pixelbook: Acer model takes on the king

Acer's Chromebook 13 is throwing tons of speed at the Chrome OS market, to go with a midrange build and traditional clamshell design. Is that enough to challenge the Google Pixelbook?
Computing

Data breach compromises 773 million records, 21 million passwords

A security researcher was alerted to a collection of breached data that included more than 773 million compromised records. After digging deeper, the breach was revealed to contain more than 21 million passwords.
Computing

Faster new PCIe 5.0 standard leapfrogs the best feature of AMD’s Ryzen 3

PCIe 5.0 will bring even faster data transfers, but it may only be found on HPCs and servers initially. The standard is four times faster than your current PC at transferring data, and new devices could appear later this year.
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.
Computing

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases

If you recently picked up a new MacBook, you’ll want something to protect its gorgeous exterior. Here, we've gathered the best MacBook cases and covers, whether you're looking for style or protection.