Review: Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station

Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 3 Dock in the test

The manufacturer Sonnet kindly gave me the Thunderbolt 3 docking station Sonnet Echo 11 made available for a test. This is a good test object for me insofar as I am the classic user of a docking station: I work on the MacBook Pro, have a monitor and various other external devices plugged in and sometimes I leave the office and go into the garden or with my MacBook Pro into the living room.

For such “moves” you usually have to unplug a lot of cables and plug them in again later. To make this thing more convenient - and of course to have more connections available on the Mac - there are Thunderbolt 3 docking stations or Thunderbolt 3 docks.

The Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt Dock found a realistic test environment for me and was put through its paces (photos: Sir Apfelot).

The Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt Dock found a realistic test environment for me and was put through its paces (photos: Sir Apfelot).

Difference Between USB Hub and Thunderbolt Dock?

You keep reading about “hubs” and “docks” when you want to expand the slots on your MacBook Pro. The hubs are usually the less flexible variant, as they expand the number of USB slots, but do not provide power for the Mac and the expansion is limited to USB slots.

The docking stations, on the other hand, support a variety of connections, such as HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, USB-C PD, headset, USB 3, SD card reader or network ports.

The connection of an external monitor is possible in almost all cases with the docks, while the speed is limited with the hubs and a monitor connection is therefore not available or only with a limited resolution and frame rate. In practice, this is never a good choice.

How the restrictions of the hubs look like in detail, you have to read in the specifications of the respective USB hub. But you can already see from the differences in performance why docking stations often cost 200 to 300 euros, while a good hub costs 20 to 50 euros over the counter.

The MacBook Pro is connected via the Thunderbolt 3 port labeled "Computer" and can thus both transfer all data and draw power for charging (photos: Sir Apfelot).

The MacBook Pro is connected via the Thunderbolt 3 port labeled "Computer" and can thus both transfer all data and draw power for charging (photos: Sir Apfelot).

Advantages of Thunderbolt 3 docks at a glance

  • they supply the Mac with power (so that really only one cable goes from the Mac)
  • they have two or more real Thunderbolt 3 outputs (and not just USB 3 outputs)
  • they support one or more monitors with maximum resolution and frame rate
  • they offer enough power to power the connected USB devices such as hard drives
  • they are using the maximum speed of Thunderbolt 3

Technical data of the Sonnet Echo 11

In order to know whether a dock like the Sonnet Echo 11 is sufficient for your personal needs, the technical data is an important decision criterion. For this reason, I'd like to present the specifications of the Echo 11 in a little more detail here:

Connections on the dock at the front

  • SD card reader ("only" UHS I)
  • 1x USB 3 (data and charging)
  • 1x USB 3 (data)
  • Headset audio output (3,5 mm jack)

Connections on the back of the dock

  • 3x USB 3 (data)
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 (15 W)
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 (87 W)
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x DC 20 V input (power supply)
Here you can see (unfortunately badly photographed) the front and back of the Sonnet Echo 11 Dock.

Here you can see (unfortunately badly photographed) the front and back of the Sonnet Echo 11 Dock.

Important properties in bullet points

  • The dock is compatible with macOS and Windows computers.
  • One of the USB charging ports is easily accessible on the front.
  • The Thunderbolt 3 port for the computer offers 87 W USB Power Delivery and thus supplies even the 16-inch MacBook Pro models with enough power.
  • The Echo 11 Dock supports a 5K monitor (60 Hz) or two 4K monitors (60 Hz), whereby the HDMI port and a Thunderbolt port are used for the displays.
  • The Sonnet Dock is downward compatible with Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2. You can use it on older Macs the bi-directional Apple Thunderbolt 3 USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and a Thunderbolt cable use.
  • The 3,5 mm audio connection connects audio output and microphone input, so that headphones, headsets and microphones can be used equally. The connection is also conveniently located on the front.
  • The Sonnet Docking Station supports the full 40 Gbps offered by the Thunderbolt 3 port. To understand: 40 Gbps (gigabits per second) corresponding to 5.000 megabytes per second.
  • The dock only gets lukewarm even under load and when the Apple MacBook Pro is charging.
  • There is no fan installed, so the Sonnet Echo 11 Dock does not make any noise when in use.
Size comparison: My iPhone Xs (without Max) on the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt docking station.

Size comparison: My iPhone Xs (without Max) on the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt docking station.

My experiences in the last few weeks

Crashes after booting since macOS 11.2.3

As a rule, the dock was completely reliable. Only than me that Update to macOS 11.2.3 I got a crash on my Mac after a few seconds after restarting. I could repeat the game endlessly: Mac boots, I log in, after about 10 to 20 seconds the screen goes black and the Mac boots again.

That didn't stop until I unplugged the Sonnet 11 Dock and everything else from the Mac and rebooted the Mac. Then I plugged in the Sonnet Echo 11 again and the Mac runs without crashing. This means that the Echo 11 should not be connected when booting - at least with my MacBook Pro. Only when I've logged in do I plug in the dock.

I would guess that something is screwed up in macOS, because this update has brought a function that deactivates “harmful” third-party hubs and docks. From my point of view, the function in macOS does not seem to work completely stable, because otherwise I cannot explain the crashes after the update. Since I've always left the Echo 11 unplugged when booting and only plugged it in after logging in, the interaction between the Sonnet Echo 11 and MacBook Pro (M1) has also been reliable.

Finally a hub that can handle all my peripheral devices and still has a few ports free - the Orico A3H13P2 (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Finally a hub that can handle all my peripheral devices and still has a few ports free - the Orico A3H13P2 (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

USB hub as an additional extension of the Echo 11

Since I have many external USB devices such as a label printer, a document scanner, a laser printer and various 2,5-inch hard drives on my Mac, the 5 USB slots are not enough for me. I have mine for this reason Orico Hub plugged into the dock and gained another 10 USB-3 ports.

I could not notice any loss of speed due to the connection of the hard drives via the hub and not directly via the dock. I checked this with the Black Magic Disk Speed ​​Test, but it only shows a small difference when you write to the disk on the hub. I didn't notice this in everyday life.

In terms of hard drive speed, you can hardly notice any difference between the direct connection to the MacBook Pro (left) and the long detour via the Echo 11 and the USB hub (right).

In terms of hard drive speed, you can hardly notice any difference between the direct connection to the MacBook Pro (left) and the long detour via the Echo 11 and the USB hub (right).

Measurement results in detail:

  • Seagate HDD to MBP: 125 MB / s read and 121 MB / s write
  • Seagate HDD on the Echo 11: 129 MB / s read and 122 MB / s write
  • Seagate HDD to Hub (via Echo 11): 125 MB / s read and 105 MB / s write

The fluctuations in the measurements are so strong, even during operation, that you quickly have 10 MB / s more or less. I would say that you won't notice any differences here in practice.

Rubber feet are attached to the underside of the dock, which successfully prevent slipping on smooth surfaces (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Rubber feet are attached to the underside of the dock, which successfully prevent slipping on smooth surfaces (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

SD card reader only with UHS-I support

The built-in SD card reader is a UHS-I card reader. That's not tragic, but considering the price of the Echo 11, it would have been nice if a card reader had been built in that supports the fast UHS-II standard. For example, anyone who uses the SanDisk Extreme SD cards will be slowed down when transferring data to the Mac.

But you can quickly remedy this by using the SanDisk Extreme Pro card reader (here with USB 3.0 or here with USB C) or the Satechi card reader with USB-C connector catches - both support the fast UHS-II standard.

Charging port and headphone jack on the front

In everyday life, it turns out to be very helpful that the audio output, the card reader slot and the USB charging port are located on the front of the Echo 11. This means that all three interfaces can be accessed very quickly and you don't have to walk around the desk to get to the rear.

On the front there is a USB charging port, a connection option for another USB 3 device and a connection for a headset.

On the front there is a USB charging port, a connection option for another USB 3 device and a connection for a headset.

Criticism of the Sonnet Echo 11 in Amazon reviews

I always like to read the customer reviews on Amazon for products. In addition to a lot of hymns of praise, there are also two bad reviews.

One user writes that since Catalina he “has to reconnect every day”. I don't know exactly what that means, but I can say that this must be a specific problem with the customer's system. For me, the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 3 Dock runs under macOS Big Sur without complications or dropouts.

A second user from the USA writes that he has the problem with his LG monitor that the monitor goes black and flickers after 5 minutes.

I'm on a Macbook Pro 2017 - 15 in. The Sonnet dock works fine EXCEPT for the fact it causes intermittent blackouts on an LG monitor plugged in via the dock's HDMI port. LG monitor goes black / flickers about every 5 min. When the monitor is connected directly via the Macbook Pro (using a USB-C to HDMI adapter) the issue does not occur. Only when routing the monitor through the dock does the issue happen.

Here, too, an unfortunate constellation seems to be the reason for the dropouts. For me, the Echo 11 Dock runs with an LG 34 inch monitor that is connected via HDMI - without any problems with no flickering and no dropouts.

The power supply with about 100 watts of power is not the smallest and takes up about as much space as the dock itself. But it also offers enough power for charging the largest MacBook Pro models.

The power supply with about 100 watts of power is not the smallest and takes up about as much space as the dock itself. But it also offers enough power for charging the largest MacBook Pro models.

My conclusion on the Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Do you know the enlightenment when you buy a device after months or years of hesitation and then after a few days you think: "Why didn't I get it earlier ???" This is how I felt with the Echo 11 from Sonnet ...

I've been toying with the idea of ​​getting a Thunderbolt dock for a long time, but kept getting lost because I couldn't decide between the different offers. And I always gave one or the other bad rating to the devices, which further slowed my purchase decision.

Ultimately, Sonnet gave me the Echo 11 Dock for free and I didn't have to buy it, but if it had been a temporary loan, I would certainly have bought the device. The almost 220 euros that the Thunderbolt 3 Dock costs is a good investment considering the gain in convenience.

The Sonnet Echo 11 has found a permanent job under my monitor riser and works quietly and quietly - just as you would like it to.

The Sonnet Echo 11 has found a permanent job under my monitor riser and works quietly and quietly - just as you would like it to.

Sonnet Echo 11 expands the MacBook Pro

But in addition to convenience, for me it is also the best way to significantly multiply the slots on the MacBook Pro. My M1 MacBook Pro 13 inch only has two Thunderbolt 3 outputs ex works, which of course are never sufficient if you have to connect the Mac to hard drives, scanners and printers in the office.

Whether you need a Thunderbolt dock or a USB hub, everyone has to decide for themselves. To advise you, you are welcome to describe your constellation in the comments and I will try to give you a suitable recommendation.

In the end, the combination of Thunderbolt docking station and USB hub was the right choice for me, but certainly not all people need that many slots.

In short: I can recommend the Sonnet Echo 11 Dock with a clear conscience. It is impressive in terms of workmanship, optics and performance and a quiet workhorse that will be busy working on your desk.

You find it here at Amazon.

64,01 EUR
Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 3 Dock, Silver / Black, ECHO-DK11-T3
  • External connections: 2x Thunderbolt 3, 5x USB 3.0, 1x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet), 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x 3, 5 mm ...
  • Power supply: supports all notebooks to be charged via Thunderbolt with maximum power (30W, 45W, 60W or 87W)
  • Looped Thunderbolt 3 bus / Gbit Ethernet / 5 USB 3.0 ports

 

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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

17 comments

  1. Froyo52 says:

    TB 3 is outdated. I have an OWC Thunderbolt 4 Dock on the Macbook Pro 16 ″.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      It's great that your Dock can TB4, but unfortunately your Mac can't. It's like putting Formula 1 tires on the Audi Quattro: nothing. : D
      By the way, not even the new M1 Macs can Thunderbolt 4 ... so I can live with the Thunderbolt 3 Dock quite well.

  2. Raffael says:

    Hi,
    do you have the opportunity to test the maximum Hz at 2560 × 1440?
    Thanks and regards,
    Raffael

  3. Bernie says:

    Hi Jens,
    Thank you for your information ... e.g. the Sonnet Echo 11
    I'm a bit at a loss at the moment .. maybe you can give me a tip
    I compose music, work with a Mac 27 Retina 2017 i5 1TB Fusiondrive with 64 Ram
    one Thunderbolt connection is occupied by my Firewire devices .. I connected an old VGA to the other via an adapter (exactly suitable for my workplace) ..
    Now I have bought a very large sound library and parked it on my Lacie portable 2TB 3.0 ... it takes a long time to load into the main memory and now I am considering getting another Thunderbolt access so that I can load the sounds faster from perhaps a faster hard drive ... ???
    Best regards,
    Bernie

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Bernie! Yes, the consideration is good. But I think you would have to use an SSD, otherwise a simple USB 3 would be enough. Only with an SSD and a Thunderbold Hub will you get the maximum speed out of it. There are those from SanDisk Portable Extreme Pro, which creates up to 2GB / s. In addition that Sonnet Echo 11 Thunderbolt 4 Dock (I presented the TB3 here) and you should have got the most out of it. LG, Jens

  4. Bernie says:

    was the wrong email ....

  5. Bernie says:

    the only concerns I have ... whether the Sonnet Echo Thunderbolt 4 will work for Catalina too
    I don't want to switch to Big Sur yet ... a lot of older plugins in the middle of production ..
    Best regards,
    Bernie

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Bernie! I like to ask my Sonnet contact. But I think that shouldn't be a problem. A Thunderbolt Dock does not need any drivers and TB4 is downward compatible, so that TB 3 devices can also run with it. But I ask them ...

  6. Raffael says:

    Hi,
    the new Thunderbolt 4 is cooler. What I don't understand:
    Why only USB 2 at the front, USB 3.2 would be more practical.

    What they unfortunately do not write with the 3 or 4 series: Which resolutions are supported with how much Hz. 2560 × 1440 at 144Hz (Windows + Mac) would be ideal. This works with my USB-C to HDMI.
    Regards

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Yes, I think the USB 2 socket is mainly intended for charging. But always stupid when they are so slow and you accidentally plug in a hard drive. : D
      You don't need to worry about the resolution. My TB3 model can already do 3440 x 1440 without any problems. But of course I don't know if they can handle 144Hz at 2560 × 1440. You'd have to ask for that too.

  7. Bernie says:

    Hi Jens,
    have you heard of Sonnet?
    Best regards,
    Bernie

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Unfortunately no feedback yet. But I also have 80 unread emails. 😂

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Bernie! Here is the feedback from Sonnet: To use the Sonnet TB4 Dock, the Mac must have macOS BigSur installed. Here is a link to the Compatibility PDF. Basically:
      - Mac (M1) [supports only one monitor]
      - Mac (Intel) with Thunderbolt 3 ports
      - macOS 11 (Big Sur) required
      With the TB3 Dock from Sonnet that I tested, this is not the case with macOS. This also works with older macOS versions.

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