Dell has launched a Thunderbolt 4 dock that will not only be extremely useful to content creators who face being short on i/o ports but the Dock promises to be upgradeable in the future. Can modular peripherals be the next big thing?
The new Dell Thunderbolt Dock comes packed with one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port on the front face, but it’s the rear panel that sports all the performance. On the back, there are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, a USB-C Multifunction DisplayPort, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and gigabit ethernet.
It’s a bit mystifying why a device that is being marketed as being designed for the long term is still relying on HDMI 2.0, rather than the nextgen 2.1 spec, but here’s where the future-proofing really kicks in. The Dell Thunderbolt 4 Dock is modular and can be upgraded over time.
With a simple removal of a few screws, the i/o port interface can be removed and a next-generation faster interface can be inserted in its place. Moreover, the power cable is also modular, making it easy to replace should it become faulty or damaged.
The dock is also designed with Dell’s “PowerShare” technology and delivers up to 130w of power to devices that could need recharging. The PowerShare technology promises to recharge connected mobile devices up to 80% in an hour and 35% in 20 minutes.
But the cost of being able to swap out an aging Thunderbolt module for the next generation i/o spec isn’t cheap. The Dell Thunderbolt Dock will run you $470, while the modules will fetch $160.00.
Competing models without the upgradeability or Dell’s PowerShare feature hover at around $250, making them more affordable in the short run.
But here’s the thing. How often does the promise of upgradeability really pay off? Remember when upgradeable laptops were heralded as the next big thing? But the new parts never really came, especially after Apple began gluing and bolting parts into place to make it impossible, much less repairable.
Furthermore, the design of the upgrade module seems to indicate that only the TB4 ports can be upgraded, meaning you’re stuck with HDMI 2.0 as your spec in the future, rather than getting a boost to 2.1, or upgrading the other ports when they move to their next-generation spec. And $160 to pay to replace the power cable is a bit steep.
It may be an apples and oranges comparison, but I’m still not convinced that paying a premium for that promise makes it a better value. It seems more like Lucy is tempting Charlie Brown with the promise of kicking the proverbial football.
The Dell Thunderbolt 4 Dock will ship in the summer of 2022.
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