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GaN-powered Thunderbolt 4 dock wants to rid data-hungry setups of power bricks

GaN-powered Thunderbolt 4 dock wants to rid data-hungry setups of power bricks

For power users juggling a high-resolution monitor or two, large data transfers, multiple PC accessories that need power, and, perhaps, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, a Thunderbolt dock can add helpful high-speed ports while powering a supporting PC, like a MacBook. This helps streamline an office setup but also typically comes with a clunky power brick to add to the mix. Hyper’s gallium nitride (GaN)-powered HyperDrive Thunderbolt 4 Hub, which started crowdfunding on Monday, is hoping to change that.

Hyper, a 7-year-old maker of PC hubs, docks, portable chargers, and the like, is seeking to crowdfund a Thunderbolt 4 hub that it claims is the first “Thunderbolt 4 hub with an integrated GaN power source.” The dock is a small, rounded-edge square offering one Thunderbolt 4 upstream port and three Thunderbolt4 downstream ports with up 40Gbps operation and accompanied by zero clunky power bricks.

However, Hyper isn’t ready to release its dock yet; it’s currently undergoing a Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter concerns

Crowdfunding projects are a risky endeavor, as Hyper admits on the Thunderbolt 4 dock’s crowdfunding page. But it’s worth noting that Hyper has successfully crowdfunded similar projects, like the HyperDrive Duo USB-C Hub made for MacBooks, which it claims is the “most crowdfunded MacBook and USB-C accessory” and the HyperJuice 100W GaN charger, which the vendor says is the “most crowdfunded USB-C charger.” The Thunderbolt 4 Power Hub is Hyper’s 28th crowdfunding project.

The Thunderbolt 4 Hub’s Kickstarter page says development started in February 2021. The device is said to be Intel-certified and supposed to ship out to first backers this November.

Development is at least far enough along that Hyper was able to give samples to Cult of Mac, (which reported speeds in line with rival Thunderbolt products).

For those who would prefer the security of a product being official before putting money on the line, Hyper expects the Thunderbolt 4 Power Hub to retail for a hefty price, even by Thunderbolt 4 standards: $300.

GaN gains

The secret to the Thunderbolt 4 Power Hub’s portability is its use of GaN, rather than silicon, semiconductors for a smaller design. Other Thunderbolt 4 docks, like the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 Hub, may have a small, central dock but also connect to a decently sized power brick before plugging into the wall.

AC power input is 100~240 V, 50/60 Hz.

AC power input is 100~240 V, 50/60 Hz.

Hyper’s brickless hub, meanwhile, is 4.9×4.9×1.25 inches and 1.4 lbs, according to Cult of Mac (although, final specifications may vary, since the hub is still crowdfunding).

Its single upstream port supports 96 W Power Delivery, which is enough to support many smaller laptops, like the MacBook Pro, but not enough for very power-hungry machines, like a gaming laptop. Notably, the included Thunderbolt 4 cable is 2.6 feet long, while the power cable is 6 feet long.

The three downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports, meanwhile, can output 15 W of power, which is sufficient for smaller devices, like a smartphone.

Thunderbolt 4 ups Thunderbolt 3’s 16Gbps PCIe rate to 32Gbps, and Hyper’s hub claims to be able to make the most of that, which would make it fitting for external storage devices and eGPUs.

Hyper notes that its Thunderbolt 4 Hub can’t solve the Apple M1’s and M2’s multi-monitor limitations. While the hub claims to support up to one 8K monitor at a 60 Hz refresh rate (or 4K at 144 Hz), or two 6K monitors at 60 Hz, this won’t work with an M1 or M2-based Mac.

Running two monitors at over 4K and 60 Hz requires the displays and GPU to support Display Stream Compression 1.2 and DisplayPort 1.4 HBR3. That means you couldn’t use the LG UltraFine 5K in a dual-monitor setup with the hub either.

It’s also worth highlighting that this is a Thunderbolt 4 hub exclusively, meaning there’s no other connectivity available. Plugable’s aforementioned Thunderbolt hub, for comparison, has a USB-A port for improved variety.

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