Do Docking Stations Charge Laptops? Debunking Common Myths

You work from a laptop yet the majority of your time is spent at a desk. Sound familiar? 

If so you’ll easily be able to associate with how inconvenient it can be when you have access to only a small number of ports (far less than seen on a PC) yet need to link up to multiple peripheral devices at the same time. 

This is why docking stations with their wide array of ports (USB-A, USB-C, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet….) are so popular and form an essential part of any desk setup powered by a laptop.

If your laptop supports USB-C or Thunderbolt charging you’ll be able to take advantage of a select number of docking stations which have the ability to throughput power and charge your laptop whilst it is docked.

Conveniently, docking stations that have more than one powered port can simultaneously charge multiple devices so long as the wattage demands of each device is met.  

This means that with only a single USB-C or Thunderbolt port you’ll be able to receive charge without the need to be connected directly to your laptop’s native charger.

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Be careful to read the product description carefully when choosing a docking station as some mid range and most lower end docks, including the popular Plugable UD-6950Z will provide you with a fantastic selection of ports but no charging capabilities.

Can a docking station charge multiple devices?

Many docking stations that are capable of through-putting power to your laptop will have more than one powered port. This means that in addition to the laptop being charged you’ll also be able to charge additional devices at the same time.

The Anker 577 Thunderbolt for example provides up to 85W to charge a laptop but also has an additional Thunderbolt 3 (15W) + USB-C (18W) which can each be used to charge or power peripherals.

Check for the mention of Power Delivery (PD) against each port in the product description, but it’s not uncommon to find Thunderbolt 3, USB-C and even USB-A ports that carry charge from a docking station.

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Does a  docking station still need to use a laptop’s power adapter?

Docking stations, especially many of the high end models such as the Caldigit TS3 Plus feature an in-built AC/DC converter meaning you don’t need to use your laptop’s power adaptor charger in the setup in order to transfer power into your machine. 

The advantage of using a docking station such as the TS3 Plus includes a faster charge time for many laptops owing to the high wattage that is being delivered.

Where a docking station doesn’t have an AC/DC converter in-built you will have to use the power brick that comes with the laptop to provide electricity initially to the docking station which will then pass it onto the laptop.

Which type of docking station connection is best? USB-C or Thunderbolt 3?

Docking stations link to your laptop via a single connection – typically via USB-C or Thunderbolt. 

With the newest iteration of USB-C cables now capable of delivering up to 240W of charge (keep an eye out for the 240W certified logo), and Thunderbolt topping out at 100W, there is an argument for opting for a USB-C connection when considering the ability to charge a laptop alone.

If you have a Thunderbolt laptop however, you will want to pick up a docking station that is equipped with a Thunderbolt connection to take advantage of the improved data transfer speeds that Thunderbolt has over USB-C (40Gbps vs 5-10Gbps). 

A USB-C docking station will still operate when connected to a Thunderbolt port but you won’t be making full use of the machine’s capabilities. 

How much charge can a laptop docking station deliver?

Mid-range docking stations are capable of delivering around 60W of power through USB-C, which should be ample charge to operate most laptops.

If you have a high-end laptop with discrete graphics however, you’re going to need far more than 60W (sometimes far in excess of even 100W!) to be delivered from your docking station, otherwise your laptop will slowly run out of power despite the dock being connected and functioning as intended. 

High end docking stations such as the Caldigit TS3 Plus can pass through 87W of charge, whilst the Dell WD19 provides 130W.

For some of the most power hungry workstation laptops, such as the Dell Precision 7760, even these docking stations will not be adequate to provide ample charge in the absence of the laptop’s charger. 

Round up

Created to improve the connectivity of laptops, many docking stations are also capable of feeding charge through their USB-C or Thunderbolt connection. 

If your laptop is capable of receiving power from either a USB-C or Thunderbolt, this will prevent the need to have both the original charger and the docking station occupying ports and makes the process of setting up your workstation extremely elegant. 

Docking stations come in a wide range of specifications and not all provide throughput charging, so it’s important to check the spec carefully before buying. 

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