Quick Look: Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 Dock 5

Quick Look: Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt 3 Dock

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Introduction

Corsair Logo

I would like to thank Corsair for supplying the review sample.


The Corsair TBT100 Thunderbolt dock in many ways reminds us of the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 docks, but offers a different set of I/O. Corsair acquired Elgato a while back, so the TBT100 is a result of having that knowledge and expertise in-house now as well. The Corsair TBT100 is a bit more compact than the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock and comes in at a much lower price point to boot.

Packaging, Contents and A Closer Look


A yellow box will certainly draw your attention on a retailer's shelf, with an image of the device on front and two further shots of it on the rear for you to clearly see which connectivity the unit provides. There is another, inner package you have to pull out, inside of which the device and all its accessories are stored neatly.


Corsair ships the unit with a passive Thunderbolt 3 cable alongside the power cable. As the TBT100 also offers power delivery via Thunderbolt, you will find an external 100 W unit to provide it. That means you no longer have to use your laptop's power adapter—it will all be done through a single cable.


A warranty guide and basic manual round out the extras within the package.


As previously mentioned, the Corsair TBT100 feels a bit more compact than the Elgato units and comes with an edgier design as well. The housing is made out of metal and sports a similar "gunmetal gray" color tone as those found on Apple notebooks, so the unit should match nicely on your desktop in such a scenario. On the scale, we can see that the TBT100 is rather hefty, weighing 430 grams.


Looking at the front, you will find a power switch alongside a USB-C 10 Gbps connector, SD card reader, and 3.5 mm audio-combo port. In the rear, where the bulk of I/O is located, are two USB 3.0 Type A, a Gigabit Ethernet, another USB-C 10 Gbps, two 4K@60Hz capable HDMI ports, and the Thunderbolt 3 port to interface with the host system. To the very right is the power port and a hole to secure the TBT100 with a Kensington lock.

Inner Workings


There is no need for you to take apart the device as it is essentially plug and play, but for the sake of this article, we have disassembled it to show you the insides. The metal casing holds both the PCB and a metal heatspreader, which comes with a few thermal pads to keep things cool enough even when utilizing all the ports. The PCB is clearly Corsair branded and extremely clean, with most of the ICs on the top of the multi-layered PCB.


At the core of the device is the Intel JHL 7440 Thunderbolt IC, which offers a dual-port configuration with a TDP of 2.4 W and DisplayPort 1.4 support even though the TBT100 does not offer such an interface. Right next to it is the Texas Instruments TPS65983BA power delivery IC, so you may charge your notebook by passing electricity from the external PSU through the TBT100 and its Thunderbolt 3 interface.


In the center of the PCB is the VLI VL822-Q8 USB 3.1 controller which also supports vendor specific charging via USB profiles, like those from Apple and Samsung.


The VLI VL817 Q7 USB 3.1 Gen1 hub controller ensures the TBT100 has all those aforementioned Type-A ports with modern interface speeds. Next to that is the Realtek ALC4050, which is a USB-C to audio jack interface DAC, so you can plug your classic headphones straight into the TBT100.


The Realtek RTL8153B—you may have guessed it—offers the 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet interface by translating it to USB on the internal side. In essence, it is the sort of IC you would find in a modern USB-C to Ethernet dongle as well. Close to the physical port itself, Corsair employs a GST5009M LF discrete LAN magnetics IC, which allows for long-haul connectivity and offers quite a few additional features, like POE. It is great to see, and I welcome this amount of over-kill.


Remember that the Intel Thunderbolt IC can handle DisplayPort? Because the TBT100 utilizes HDMI, there are two ITE IT6563FN DP receiver to HDMI transmitter ICs, one for each port, at the back of the device.


The GL3232S is a USB 3.1 Gen1 memory card controller with UHS-I interface support, so you can throw pretty much any modern SD card at it without issue.


Lastly, there is another smaller IC on the other end of the PCB, which I was unable to identify fully, but it could have something to do with the power button and its LED.

Software


While the Corsair TBT100 works right out of the box without any software applications, you may also download an app to make ejecting/disconnecting devices easier. It shows up as a little Corsair logo in the status bar on Mac OS and literally only offers the option "Unplug Thunderbolt Dock." This way, you won't have to worry about having to disconnect every attached device within your operating system, but can do so in a controlled and automated fashion, in one fell swoop before pulling the cable out of your notebook, for example. Within the simple application, you may set it to start automatically as well.

Up and Running


Using the Corsair TBT100 is incredibly easy, which is the essential point really. The single Thunderbolt 3 cable connects to the notebook and immediately starts charging it as needed as well. The power button lights up with a tiny white LED as soon as turned on and operational, so you will always know about the state of the unit by looking at it. The SD card reader holds the card securely, and since it is soldered to the top of the PCB, you don't need to flip the card over to slide it in. Any of the rear ports instantly work as soon as you plug anything in, be it an HDMI monitor, Ethernet cable, or a USB storage device.

Once in place, the Corsair TBT100 will quickly become an essential part of your desktop environment, especially if you are using a notebook as the brains of your setup. In my scenario, I am utilized the unit for this review with an HDMI-based 27" 1440P monitor, one USB-C based NVMe drive, one USB-A-based Time Capsule 2.5" spinning storage unit, and the USB 3.0 hub of the monitor via the second USB-A connector, as well as the SD-Card reader to pull pictures onto the notebook. Lastly, the audio port turned out to be extremely useful, allowing me to keep a headset attached at all times for my "work from home" setup for quick and functional Microsoft Teams chats, or even audio when watching Netflix or playing games in Bootcamp using my Razer eGPU.

With all that and proper charging of the 13" Macbook Pro, all I had to worry about was a single Thunderbolt cable so that my actual charging adapter stays inside my notebook bag when I am on the go. So while the $230 (MSRP $259) for the Corsair TBT100 is quite the investment, it is absolutely worth it for elaborate setups like this.
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