Over the years, we have had several products come through from CalDigit. It's been awhile since we had any real storage solutions as lately they have been ironing out their Thunderbolt 3 solutions, namely the TS3 and TS3 Lite.
For those that didn't need all the features packed into the Thunderbolt Station 3, CalDigit has released a more cutback version called the TS3 Lite. This solution still uses the Thunderbolt 3 platform with 40Gb/s throughput but splits that out to Gigabit Ethernet, Audio in and out, DisplayPort and USB 3.1 in both the Type-C and Type-C form factors.
What you will be missing coming from the standard TS3 to the Lite version is USB-C charging and eSATA ports. The entire unit is housed in a different form factor, so it's quite easy to tell the standard and lite models apart.
Compatibility includes Windows and MacOS operating systems, and the MSRP of the CalDigit TS3 Lite comes in at $199.99 with a one-year warranty.
A more accurate or direct comparison can be made between the two Thunderbolt station models from this table found on the CalDigit website.
Packaging for the TS3 Lite shares an image of the device on the right side with features listed along the left.
The side of the box has a full spec sheet for the device along with a diagram callout above.
The scope of delivery includes the 72-watt power adapter and Thunderbolt 3 cable.
Taking our first look at the TS3 Lite, we have Type-C and Type-C on the front.
On the backside, things get interesting with gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and the Audio I/O on the left side while the right side houses the Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort connections.
Peeking at the PCB, we find it's a modular design. This should let CalDigit swap in new modules without redesigning the entire solution. The right side houses the Intel JHL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller along with two Texas Instruments TPS65983 USB- PD controllers.
Down below, you will find a Parade PS181 DisplayPort to dual-mode DP switch. On the left side, we have USB 3.0 controlled by a Fresco Logic FL1100 and Audio by Texas Instruments PCM 2912A. The front mounted Type-C and C ports are then switched by another TI chip and the gigabit Ethernet via a GST5009 chip.
In checking the USB 3.0 performance of this solution, we first went after the front mounted USB-C. As you can see, we reached 329 MB/s read and 323 MB/s write on our Intel 730 SSD.
Next, I decided to test both the front and back USB 3.0 ports at the same time to see if they are sharing bandwidth. As you can see in this test, both drives slowed down the Plextor topping out at 250 MB/s and the Intel at 187 MB/s.
This last test was to see if the onboard gigabit NIC had available throughput to operate at full speed. As you can see from the start of the test, this NIC was steadfast at 952 Mbps, which is the tops of what our test system reaches.
Like many CalDigit solutions in the past, this TS3 Lite is well built. Starting with the aluminum enclosure that adds both favorable aesthetics to the unit as a whole while also adding to the durability for the long-term user. The functionality of this device does offer a solid amount of options including USB-C and dual Type-C ports. Also, you get 5K resolution support over the DisplayPort connection and gigabit Ethernet as well.
One of the only drawbacks I could find with this solution was the USB ports do share bandwidth and the front mounted USB-C and Type -A ports are an either-or setup, meaning you can only use one at a time.
Performance via the Gbe NIC was solid reaching the full potential of our test system while USB 3.0 performance wasn't terrible but could have been better. In my testing, I reached 329 MB/s read and 323 MB/s write on our Intel 730 SSD that when directly connected to our test system was pushing 530 MB/s read and 500 MB/s write.
With the TS3 Lite being a Thunderbolt 3 solution and all the available bandwidth given, it's hard for me to justify the USB 3.0 configuration of this device. The front mounted ports should be usable at the same time and it's hard to see why they used an FL1100-100 single port host controller on a device that has three ports.
In my opinion, this solution is just too dumbed down for the $199.99 MSRP, and you would be better off going for the full Thunderbolt Station 3 and have the full Monty of features.
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IX Hero (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Memory: G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3200 (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Hybrid (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Intel 730 480GB SSD (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Secondary Storage: MyDigitalSSD BP5 512GB SSD (buy from Amazon)
- Case: EVGA DG-86 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 750 P2 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS PCE-AC88 AC3100 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS ROG 10G Express
- Networking: ASUS Thunderbolt EX3 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
The Bottom Line: At the given price point, the TS3 Lite has too many features removed and corners cut to be a viable solution in today's market.
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