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I want to finally switch back to a Macbook Pro after some years of using a PC. However, I do not want to give up on my setup using 3 to 4 screens.

My plan is on using the MacBook Pro 16 Inch i9 model. My screens support HDMI and Displayport 1.2 with MST/Daisy Chain. I also need Gigabit Ethernet, a USB-C Connection for an external SSD and some USB Ports for my Soundcard, Midi Piano and so on and also want to charge the laptop. I want to use for this a maximum of 2 Thunderbolt or USB-C Connectors (Which I can glue together so that I only need to plug one thing to connect or disconnect)

TL:DR -- my goal is (in short):

  • Connect min. 3 external HDMI or Displayport Monitors (Which Support Daisy Chaining)
  • Charge the Macbook Pro
  • Have Gigabit Ethernet and USB A Ports
  • Maximum of 2 Connectors
  • Should have good performance (so no airplay)

Idea 1: The usualy way - DisplayPort Daisy Chain/MST

Macbook => Dock => Display => Display => Display
                => USB Devices + Ethernet
        => Charger

Usually I would "just" daisy chain my DP Screens, however I've read that MacOS does not support DisplayPort MST? So it probably will not work.

Idea 2: Using 2 Thunderbolt Docks on 2 Ports

Macbook => Thunderbolt Dock => Display (via DP)
                            => Display (via Thunderbolt Adapter)
                            => USB Devices + Ethernet
        => Thunderbolt Dock => Display (via DP)
                            => Display (via Thunderbolt Adapter)
                            => Charger

the next Idea would be to use 2 Thunderbolt Docks on 2 different Ports and to connect 2 displays on each (Per dock one via DP and one via Thunderbolt adapter). However, as I want to also charge the Macbook, one of these docks must support power delivery - I havn't yet found one that supports the 100W that the new macbook pro needs. I also don't know if that would work.

Idea 3: Using 2 Thunderbolt Docks Daisy Chained

Macbook => Thunderbolt Dock => Thunderbolt Dock => Display (via tb adapter)
                                                => Display (via DP/HDMI)
                            => Display (via DP/HDMI)
                            => USB-Devices/ Ethernet
        => Charging

The most elegant solution seems to be using two thunderbolt docks in series. and then connect one display via DP on the first dock and one via DP + one via Thunderbolt on the second dock. So I can use the other Thunderbolt connector on the mac for charging.

The devices would be e.g. Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock and WAVLINK USB C Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort

Will one of the above work? Any other Ideas (e.g. a dock with 3 Displayport outputs that actually work with OSX)?

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Caldigit TS3+ can do 87Watt charge with a firmware upgrade, my mac even at full load have not started discharging the battery with this.

Please be aware, that there are many users (including me), that has issues with external displays connected to the Macbook Pro 16" specifically. It will pin the Radeon GPU at 18watt+ and keep the laptop fans spinning around 3k rpm and 60 degrees C at idle. Apple have not responded to the issue even calling support puts your trough random loops of tests that does nothing.

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  • my mac did start discharging with the TS3+. After a night of video-encoding, I woke up to a "battery empty" symbol on the screen, with super hot Thunderbolt dock. Switched to an ultrawide (2.5x 16:10 Full HD width, a 5k2k screen). and in combination with the HyperDrive Gen2, I will be down to a single side of USB-C connectors.
    – Tobi
    May 5 '20 at 9:50
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Perhaps the original poster, @Tobi, is not still looking for an answer but I'll make a suggestion as I'm not seeing a green checkmark.

Would an eGPU dock be an answer? One like those advertised on this link? https://www.sonnettech.com/product/egpu-breakaway-puck/overview.html

There's likely other eGPUs and PCIe breakout boxes that could suffice and offer what you desire with a single Thunderbolt connection. It would appear that if two Thunderbolt docks is being considered that the cost of an eGPU isn't a deal breaker. The "pucks" offered by Sonnet Tech offer only 60 watts of power to the host computer. This may be sufficient to keep the MBP charged since they take up the GPU load. If not there's the option to still keep the number of occupied Thunderbolt ports to two by using the other port for the power supply that came with the computer.

The "puck" supports four displays with one on the DisplayPort port, one on HDMI, and two on the downstream Thunderbolt port. There's no Ethernet on the puck but that can be rectified with a USB or Thunderbolt adapter. A Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter can be plugged directly into the MBP, assuming the puck supplies sufficient power to not need that port for a power supply. An adapter can be plugged into the downstream Thunderbolt port if only two displays are required. An Ethernet adapter can potentially use a downstream Thunderbolt port on a display if it has one. A USB-A Ethernet adapter can be used, but that leaves only one port open for other devices.

If this one "puck" is leaving someone still searching for ports then a far less expensive USB-C dock can be used on the other MBP port to provide power pass through, additional USB-A ports, and Ethernet. Many such mini-docks are available to choose from. One example is Apple's USB-C AV adapter that can provide power pass through, a USB-A port for an Ethernet adapter or other device, and HDMI if the Sonnet puck isn't giving enough video ports. https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MUF82AM/A/usb-c-digital-av-multiport-adapter

Another option, this one with more USB-A ports, Ethernet, and video. https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TCDK10PMHSGD/

Be aware that having two power supplies to your MBP will not harm it. The MBP will simply take power from the more powerful power supply, it cannot take power from two at the same time. Two 60 watt power supplies gives your MBP 60 watts, not 120 watts.

I mention the eGPU option as it sounds like you are pushing the MBP pretty hard and with an eGPU this takes off some of the load as well as providing all your requirements, or perhaps 80% to 90%, with a single Thunderbolt port. Any place the eGPU might be lacking is easily rectified by use of the other Thunderbolt port, possibly without needing another dock.

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