The ubiquitous need for USB hubs while we're in the transition period between legacy ports and the new standard has resulted in thousands of options flooding the market. It can often be hard to distinguish which ones are worth the money, but today, we'll look at one that certainly is: CalDigit's SOHO dock.
What Is It?
The market seems to be awash with USB-C hubs of varying quality, and the main selling point is often how many different ports can be stuffed into a device to make it look like it will solve all the world’s problems. CalDigit has taken the opposite approach here and carefully calculated what a USB-C Gen 2 port is capable of. This hub may not have the most ports of any on the market, but CalDigit has ensured that everything will perform exceptionally with separated video and data lanes to ensure that no port disrupts another and reduces the performance.
One of the things I have appreciated about every CalDigit device I’ve had in my hands has been the build quality. The SOHO Dock is no exception in this regard. It is made from recycled aluminium that not only feels good but does a great job of dissipating heat.
All of the ports feel premium, and there is no wiggle like you find with cheaper hubs. Cables sit snuggly and remain connected even if the dock is knocked around during use, making it perfect for on-location shooting. The design is well thought out and cables you don’t frequently change, like monitor connections, are on the back of the device, while SD cards and regular USB ports are on the front.
Of all the attention to detail, possibly my favorite feature of the SOHO dock is actually the SD card slot. We expect UHS-II on any dock worth its salt these days, but Caldigit went the extra mile and included gold plated contacts to ensure sustained transfer speeds and a click-in mechanism for holding the SD card like in our cameras. No more jamming the SD card in on the slot at the wrong angle or not being able to insert it properly.
On the rear of the hub, we find a USB-C port dedicated to pass-through power, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a Display Port 1.4 port. The display ports support mirrored monitors on both Mac OS and Windows, and further support extended desktops on Windows machines. These were as plug-and-play, as you would expect from a modern device.
CalDigit specifies that dual 4K 60Hz is possible in mirrored mode (regardless of OS) with this hub and that 4K 30Hz is possible with extended displays in Windows. I don’t use 4K displays at this time, so I was only able to test 1080p on both my Eizo and Dell monitors. Both worked flawlessly with both extended and mirrored desktops.
On the front, we get access to an additional USB-C 3.2 Gen. 2 port to replace the one on the computer that is taken up by the hub. We also get a USB-A 3.2 Gen. 2 port and two SD card slots. The top SD card slot is for full-size SD cards and the bottom is a micro-SD slot, which is sure to please GoPro or drone users.
Like any good hub, the Caldigit SOHO is completely plug-and-play. It is also bus-powered, so you don’t need any additional cables other than the included USB-C able to get it up and running. Of course, it does have pass-through power delivery support (up to 100 W) if you do want to, for example, charge a laptop that only has one USB-C port while using the hub.
Using all ports, I’ve been able to get very close to theoretical maximums with both SD cards and SSDs. My Sandisk Extreme Pro 300 MB/s cards read at ~280 MB/s sustained for the entire transfer and my CalDigit Tuff Nano drives get 400-500 MB/s transfer speeds. These are not even close to the theoretical maximum of the USB-C port itself, so there’s definitely room to grow here as our external memory gets faster.
One of the great things about a bus-powered hub, besides not needing to take up yet another power plug, is that you can run it on an Android or iOS device with a USB-C port as well. This gives you access to memory cards, external hard drives, and, if the port supports DP Alt mode, external monitors as well.
I did a quick test with some Android devices we have lying around and had great success with my mother-in-law’s Galaxy Note 8 and Samsung DeX. It was quite a bit of fun to use the note as a trackpad for a full PC experience on my Eizo CS2420 (slight overkill, I know). My LG V50S doesn’t fully support DP Alt mode, so while I’m able to gain access to external drives and other USB peripherals, monitor support is not fully possible. This is typical of LG devices and not a reflection on the CalDigit dock.
Pass-through power is, of course, possible up to 100 W, and I had no problems running my Lenovo laptop while charging through the CalDigit hub. You don’t gain any extra performance out of the hub itself, but charging is certainly useful if you’re planning on a heavy workload.
When CalDigit sent this hub over, my first response was: “why didn’t you release this a year ago?” I’ve been through several other alternatives, and I haven’t found anything that just works like the CalDigit SOHO Dock. Every other device I’ve tried has lacked in one area or another. If you’re looking for a dock that will take advantage of everything a USB-C port can do but don’t want an extra power brick or need the additional options that Thunderbolt provides, this is an excellent option. You can pick one up here.
What I Liked
- All ports full spec
- Small and light
- Clicked SD card slot
What I Felt Could Be Improved
- Personal gripe: I’d love two full-size SD card slots