Dell TB16 ThunderBolt 3 Review

Dell TB15 ThunderBolt 3 Dock

A Bit Of Background History… The Awful TB15 Experience..

It has been just over 10 months now since I took delivery of my excellent Dell XPS 13 9350 but there has been one major issue since it arrived, this being the TB15 docking station that I ordered with it.

After the excitement of unpacking the hardware I found my excitement turn to frustration as it quickly became apparent that there were many, many issues with the new Thunderbolt TB15 dock. Screens randomly flickered, turned off, refused to display on, USB keyboards suffered lag and your mouse had a mind of its own.. All of which was extremely disappointing after upgrading from my previous Dell Latitude E7440 ultrabook which worked fine with the standard Dell dock.

After an initial call to Dell ProSupport I was advised that a small batch of TB15 docks had issues with flickering monitors and issues with USB keyboards & mice, a replacement was arranged and arrived a few days later. The replacement when it arrived bared all the same model and part number info as the original, so I wasn’t convinced and issues occurred immediately.

During the next few months I was advised that a replacement model was due out and I was provided later on with a USB 3.0 D3100 port replicator (which also suffered from weird graphics issues but nothing to the extent that I was now used to) as an alternative to enable me to do my work.

On the surface of it the TB15 foot print is ideal with a VGA, HDMI, Display & Mini Display Port, Ethernet Port and 5 USB ports (3 of which were USB 3.0) in a small box format, best of all the only cable running to your laptop is a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable. So what had gone wrong?.

Fast Forward To 23rd Jan 2017 – TB16..   Dell.. All Is Forgiven

When I arrived to work I found that my new TB16 replacement was waiting for me. On opening up the box and unpacking the device it started to become clear where some of the issues with the previous model were.

The only noticeable difference between the two docking stations is the vents on the sides of the new model, previously forums were full of people complaining about the heat issues on the old model. From every other angle the dock is virtually the same as the TB15, and that isn’t a bad thing.

So here it is..

Top View
Rear Port View
Side Vents

Having played around with the dock I can say that all of the previous issues I experienced have been resolved. Removing the USB-C cable to bring your laptop for a meeting no longer results in the will it or wont it work moment when plugging the cable back in.

Note : Make sure that you are running the latest release of your Dell system’s BIOS though as there is a noticed contained within the box.

So Is It A Good Dock?

In my personal opinion, of all three of the USB 3.0 docking stations I have had the use of over the past 10 months, the TB16 is the clear winner. Having a single cable to plug into your system is a far cry from having to route your charger cable across the back of your desk every morning.

Size Comparison – XPS13 & TB16

With the new model providing stability, the benefit of this goes beyond just Dell hardware, as other systems with USB-C connectivity should be able to fully utilise this docking station. The lack of available ThunderBolt dock alternatives is something that struck me when looking for non Dell options as a replacement. Many offer compromise solutions such as dual display ports but no device charging and so on, this obviously will improve over time though as more devices move to the new USB-C format.

So now Dell has a product that works not only on its own hardware, but also for those of you who want the all in one dock with as many ports as you would need in normal use.

Below are the raw specs of the TB16

Dell Thunderbolt Dock (TB16)
Display Ports VGA, mDP, HDMI, DP, Thunderbolt
Number Displays Supported 3 @ 60Hz 4
Max Resolution 5120 x 2880 @ 60Hz
USB Ports USB 2.0 – (2), USB 3.0 – (3)
Thunderbolt 3 Port USB Type-C
Audio/Headphone 3.5 mm Combo – (1), 3.5 mm Speaker Out (1)
Network RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet
LED Indicators Power Adapter LED
Docking Cable Connector LED
RJ-45 LEDs
Dock Connector Proprietary Docking Connector to USB Type-C
AC Adapter 180W/240W
Dimensions 145 x 145 x 52 mm
5.7 x 5.7 x 2.05 inches
Weight 1.63 lbs
740 g
System Requirements PC equipped with DisplayPort over USB-C or Thunderbolt
Operating Systems Windows 7/8/8.1/10
Systems Management 2 Wireless vPro supported by the notebook, tablet, or workstation
Docking Cable Type USB Type-C Thunderbolt (0.5m)
MAC Address 3 Pass Thru MAC Address (Dell Systems ONLY)
Warranty If purchased as a tied laptop accessory the dock shares the system warranty
If purchased APOS, 1 yr warranty. Advanced Exchange (DAO/APJ), Next business day exchange EMEA
1 USB-Type C Non-Thunderbolt™ or USB Type-C Universal cable required. The host device must support Thunderbolt™ 3 for Thunderbolt speeds to be supported on the Dell Thunderbolt™ Dock.
2 Dell Dock and Dell TBT Dock do not support wired vPro. If vPro is needed, the host Ethernet port can be used, or WiFi vPro within the host.
3 The dock will pass through the NB/Tablet MAC address
4 With Intel HD Integrated graphics. Some systems with Discrete Graphics (NVidia/AMD) may be able to display additional displays, but due to bandwidth limitations of the Thunderbolt bus, the refresh rate may have to be reduced to 30 Hz.

 

Thanks

A special thank you goes out to @DellProSupport and @DellCaresPro on Twitter for picking up on this case and putting me in touch with the right customer care agents. A special think you goes to John Cordiner in Dell Social Outreach Services for taking ownership of my case and ensuring I received the TB16 shortly after it became available to ship.

 

 

Maurice Daly
Maurice has been working in the IT industry since 1999. Technology focus includes Active Directory, Group Policy, Hyper-V, Windows Deployment (SCCM & MDT) and Office 365.

Maurice is a Microsoft MVP since 2017 in the area of Enterprise Mobility

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comments
  • LT.Son
    Posted at 15:20 January 26, 2017
    LT.Son
    Reply
    Author

    Can you post an update after a few days?
    I am seeing reports that there are still problems with the TB16 dropping the displays.

    • Maurice Daly
      Posted at 17:10 January 26, 2017
      Maurice Daly
      Reply
      Author

      Sure. I haven’t had any issues so far, thankfully.

  • Thomas Whitecotton
    Posted at 06:27 January 28, 2017
    Thomas Whitecotton
    Reply
    Author

    Can you use the mini DisplayPort to daisy chain 3 additional monitors? On my current laptop, an EulktroPro, I plug one cable from the miniDisplayPort to my first monitor, then daisy chain to monitor 2, then daisy chain to monitor 3. In total I have 4 displays (3 monitors+1 laptop screen). I am looking at getting the new Dell XPS 15 9560, and this dock – but I can’t find anything online that says daisy chaining from the mini DisplayPort on the dock will work. Will I have to run 3 separate cords from monitors to the dock? It’s just a hassle if so – is there any way you can check this or find out?

    • Maurice Daly
      Posted at 15:17 January 30, 2017
      Maurice Daly
      Reply
      Author

      Hi Thomas,

      On Dell’s spec for the dock though it does mention a DisplayPort 1.2 adapter (1 5120 x 2880 (5K) @ 60Hz only supported if 1) A USB Type C to Dual DisplayPort 1.2 adapter) which would be required for MST/daisy-chain so that might be worth looking into.

      Maurice

  • Corey T.
    Posted at 12:39 January 30, 2017
    Corey T.
    Reply
    Author

    I’m curious if you had any issues with the ethernet port. My company uses the Precision 5510 for our software team, and we dealt with the disastrous TB15 last year. We have our TB16s now, and I get no ethernet.

  • Christoph
    Posted at 16:26 January 31, 2017
    Christoph
    Reply
    Author

    Hi, I currently use a 4 monitor setup on my desktop. As far as I understood, I can connect two of them (both 4K) to the TB16.
    Can you comment if it is possible to use the internal laptop display in addition? Can I use the HDMI port on the Laptop in addition to the TB16? If both are “yes”: would that allow me a total of 4 displays? (I know the HDMI on the Laptop is only 1.4 and therefore not really suited for 4K – accepted)

    Tnaks, CHR

  • Martin
    Posted at 18:35 February 1, 2017
    Martin
    Reply
    Author

    Nice review! Our shop will be trying out Dell laptops this spring against Lenovo and the dock will be crucial in this decision.

    Do you know if Wake-on-LAN works when shutdown and connected to the dock? The specs mention MAC address pass-thru, so I assume it should be possible.

    Martin

  • SH
    Posted at 12:14 April 12, 2017
    SH
    Reply
    Author

    Is it possible to daisy chain multiple docks and thereby use the max 4k displays configuration through multiple docks? Would like to use my four monitors + the laptop monitor.

    Just got a new laptop and need to figure out how to make my old setup work: currently I daisy chain two USB 3.0 port replicators which allows me to use four monitors + my (old) laptop screen.

    Thanks.
    SH

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