gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

CalDigit SOHO USB Type-C Dock Reviewed

I’ve been nipping at CalDigit’s ankles for a while, since their wonderful docks had remained a glaring omission from my coverage of all-things USB Type-C. Not the only admission, mind, there are only so many hours in the day.

Recently they came through and shipped me a SOHO dock, a great little mini dock that’s more of a port-expander than a desktop docking station. It just so happens to have shaped up to be the perfect companion to the Star Lite MKIII that I’m still daily-driving (yes, as my work machine too).

What’s this… a tiny Dock from @CalDigit to go with the tiny laptop from @starlabsltd? ??

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) January 27, 2021

My review of the SOHO could be summed up with the words: “one more USB Type-A port please,” I suspect, however, that CalDigit would like a rather more in-depth appraisal of their product. So here we go: “one more USB Type-A port please, otherwise it’s real nice and you can’t make me peel the sticker off.”

CalDigit’s SOHO caught my attention for its small size, good lucks and relatively comprehensive set of ports. It includes three USB Type-C ports – one to power your laptop, one into which your laptop’s power supply plugs, and one spare USB Type-C port so you don’t lose the one you’re using for power. In addition it includes a USB Type-A port (just the one, mind), a microSD and full-sized SD card slot, an HDMI port and a full-sized DisplayPort… port. Can I just call it a DisplayPort?

All of these ports are squeezed nearly into a form-factor roughly the size of a pack of playing cards, and while it’s very light and very compact the little rubber feet on the bottom stop it from disappearing off the edge of the table and make it a really handy extension to the Star Lite’s USB Type-C charger.

Since I’ve not been juggling SD cards or using external monitors in my minimal work setup much of the SOHO functionality has gone unloved and largely untested. Its one usable USB Type-C port has played host to my Yubikey 5Ci and the USB Type-A port has found itself a handy home for the Jabra Evolve2 85 that I use for video conferencing.

The tiny @CalDigit SOHO dock has been doing me proud alongside the @starlabsltd Lite Mk3 as a temporary, minimal work setup. Though maybe it’s time I peeled off that sticker?

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) February 12, 2021

It has- by means of the supplied charger- kept the Star Lite powered up and running and has become an indispensable part of my slowly not-quite-so-minimalist desk setup while I eagerly wait for a garage-to-home-office conversion to happen.

Temporary office setup- spot the toys ? we have @CalDigit @JabraBusiness @HermanMillerEur @starlabsltd @twinkly_led and- of course- @32blit all keeping each other in very good company!

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) February 15, 2021

This is absolutely the kind of Dock I’d recommend to someone picking up a USB Type-C endowed laptop and looking for something cost-effective to add all the IO they might ever need back onto their computer. I can’t help but want another USB Type-A port, and some might find the omission of an Ethernet port an deal-breaker, but the SOHO sits nicely in the middle of a cost/size/features triangle and – crucially – isn’t an awkward pain in the backside like most pigtail (captive cable) USB Type-C “docks”.

Indeed the 50cm supplied USB Type-C cable makes the SOHO much, much easier to place sensibly on your desk- whether you’re mounting it underneath a laptop riser, or just want to keep it out of the way. By contrast most mini docks come with a frustratingly short cable that wont get you much further than dangling awkwardly out of the port. Also if you frack the cable up with dirt, schmoo or the principle of leverage you can easily swap out a new one. The thought of re-soldering the myriad connections of a captive USB Type-C cable would intimidate the most competent of solderererer.

Overall I can’t fault the SOHO for being just what I needed just when I needed it, since I’d built myself a LEGO Technic laptop riser and the short-ish Star Lite USB Type-C cable wasn’t quite bridging the wall-socket-to-dining-table gap I needed it to. I’ve since settled onto a new dining table as my temporary work setup migrates into our new home, but the SOHO is still working as a fine extension and hosting the YubiKey and Jabra dongle. It’s a great little dock and if the available ports line up with your requirements- grab it!

If you want to border on the absurd you can even swap the power cable to your laptop with the dock cable and put your dock two meters away… uh… YMMV when it comes to any particular USB/display setup actually working with this!

Why have a 50cm cable to your dock when you can use that for power and put your dock two meters away!? ?

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) February 20, 2021

Saturday, February 20th, 2021, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.