Ever since Apple introduced USB-C ports on Mac laptops and desktops, people have needed to use a dongle or hub to increase their connectivity options. Having looked at several options, we think the CalDigit SOHO Dock may be the perfect accessory for Mac users at home or on the go.
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Apple Tech Talk Scorecard
|Overall design is excellent||Experienced occasional monitor issues|
|Wide variety of connection types|
CalDigit SOHO Dock – Unboxing
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, SOHO stands for Small Office Home Office. That seems to be a perfect name for the unit as even the packaging says “get down to business”.
In the box is the CalDigit SOHO Dock, and a 19.685” (0.5m) USC-C to USB-C cable used to connect the dock to your Mac.
The dock measures 3.66” Long x 2.53” wide x 0.75” high (93mm x 64.3mm x 19mm), and weighs 0.19lbs (0.09kg). The case is made of a durable, high-quality aluminum.
CalDigit also provides a 21-page User Manual on their web site. Since there really isn’t much you need to know on how to use the CalDigit SOHO Dock, the manual provides a good overview of the different connection types and specifications of each port.
The dock can be connected to a Mac by itself and be used as a bus-powered device, to provide extra connectivity alone or can be connected to an AC charger, up to 100W output, to power the dock and provide pass-through charging to your Mac.
The CalDigit SOHO Dock has a wide variety of ports to meet just about any connection needs.
On the front of the dock (starting from the left hand side), is a SD 4.0 UHS-II Card Reader and a microSD 4.0 UHS-II Card Reader, a USB-C 3.2 Gen.2 Data port and a USB-A 3.2 Gen.2 port.
On the right side (as you are looking at the front of the dock), is a USB-C 100Gb/s Host Connection, which can be used with USB-C Laptops and Tablets, Thunderbolt 3 Laptops and Thunderbolt 4 Laptops.
On the rear is a HDMI 2.0b connection capable of supporting a 4K monitor, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, also capable of supporting a 4K monitor and a USB-C Power Delivery port which supports pass-through laptop charging. The USB-C Power Delivery port is intended for laptop charging only and will not support data or video transfer.
CalDigit SOHO Dock – Installation
Setting up the CalDigit SOHO Dock was effortless. We merely connected the dock to our MacBook Pro, using the included USB-C to USB-C cable and it was immediately recognized and ready to use.
CalDigit suggests that you use the included cable for the host connection, to ensure maximum 10Gb/s performance. Using other cables, including the OEM Apple cable included with their newer USB-C power supplies, does not support the full 10Gb/s speeds.
That said, we did use the Apple cable to connect the AC power supple to the power in port on the dock.
CalDigit SOHO Dock – Test Results
We like that CalDigit made the Host cable removeable and appreciate that it is a reasonable length. All too often, we are faced with hubs that have the host connection hard wired into the hub and the cable is too short to place the hub where we really need it. The included cable not only let the CalDigit SOHO dock sit flat on our desk, but the cable was long enough to allow us to move it forward from the side of the MacBook Pro to make it easy to reach and make connections.
We used the HDMI connection to attach our external monitor but the dock also supports dual external monitors through the use of both the HDMI and DisplayPort connections simultaneously.
During our testing, we used both the front facing USB-C and USB-A ports to connect external hard drives and had no issues with data transfer. The CalDigit SOHO dock provided a solid connection with no unintended drive disconnects. And because the ports are front facing, we had no issue connecting or disconnecting the cables from the drives to the dock.
That said, we would have liked one more USB-C port on the rear of the dock for our Time Machine drive. This has nothing to do with the actual performance of the dock or the drive, but is about cable management so we wouldn’t have to snake the drive cable from behind the dock to the front side. It would also leave the USB-C port on the front open for other use.
Of course, that is all due to the way we have our desk arranged. For other people, having the USB-C port on the rear may be of no value.
You will also notice that the dock produces a fair amount of heat and the aluminum case gets quite warm to the touch. This is expected, as the dock is designed to shed heat the more it is used. While no one should be concerned about getting burned, the normal operating temperature is 82F – 122F (28C to 50C).
The only real issue we experienced during our testing was an occasional monitor issue. More than once, we noticed that upon waking our MacBook Pro, the monitor would indicate it was receiving a video signal (based on the monitor indicator light) but there was no image on the screen. In some cases, we corrected this by opening and the closing the lid on our laptop. Other times, we had to disconnect the monitor cable from the HDMI port on the dock and reconnect it. In other instances, we got some interference on the screen which did clear up with a quick reconnect of the HDMI cable.
To be fair, we are using a fairly old monitor and use an adapter to make the HDMI connection, and we have experienced similar problems with other docks and hubs, so the issue could very well be with that adapter or monitor cable, rather that the CalDigit SOHO Dock.
Also on the CalDigit site, we found a link for several downloads for things like the Apple Super Drive, Apple Keyboard and Improved iPhone/iPad Charging. There is no description for these but we assume they are additional drivers in case you are using the dock for one of these devices. There was also a download for a “Docking Station Utility”. We downloaded this and installed it on our MacBook Pro but other than seeing a new icon on our menu bar, we can’t figure out what this utility is supposed to do as we see no difference in the operation of the dock.
The Bottom Line
Picking the right dock is a very personal thing. Getting the right mix of ports and size of the dock, may make all the difference between a useful accessory and a pretty paper weight.
Having looked at several different docks, we think the CalDigit SOHO Dock is an excellent choice for your consideration. It has a good variety of ports and the removable Host connection cable makes it easy to store and transport. We also like the ability to use it as a bus-powered device or powered from an AC power source.
The CalDigit SOHO Dock comes with a 2-year warranty It works on both Intel and the new M1 Macs, and is available from Amazon.
If the CalDigit SOHO Hub doesn’t have the exact port set-up you are looking for, check out some of their other offerings on their web site here.
We would like to thank the folks at CalDigit for providing the CalDigit SOHO Dock for our testing and review.
How do you connect your external devices to your Mac? Do you have a favorite dock or hub? What connection types do you use most? Why not join the conversation and leave a comment below?
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