What side of my MacBook should I connect my dock to? Does this affect the dock performance or technical abilities?

Last Update: April 15th, 2021
Article ID: 815692

For Intel based MacBook Pro models with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, some users have found connecting the dock to the left or right side to be more stable than the other. Due to some variance in MacBook designs, we've found it is best to experiment with your particular setup to find what works well for you. With that said, there are some specific situations where a particular side may be inherently better:

1) Older MacBook Pro models have had varying capabilities depending on the side used:

  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016) delivers full Thunderbolt 3 performance on all four ports.
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch,2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) supports Thunderbolt 3 at full performance using the two left-hand ports. The two right-hand ports deliver Thunderbolt 3 functionality, but have reduced PCI Express bandwidth. Always plug higher-performance devices into the left-hand ports on MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) for maximum data throughput.
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports) delivers full Thunderbolt 3 performance on both ports.

2) It has been suggested for 16" MacBook Pro owners to connect to the right side for the best performance. ExtremeTech has a great article about why this is here: http://extremetech.com/computing/309802-charging-a-macbook-on-the-wrong-side-can-significantly-lower-its-performance 

3) It is also worth mentioning that per side of Thunderbolt 3 Intel based MacBooks, a maximum of two displays are supported. If using the dock on one side of the system for two displays, another display cannot be connected to the second Thunderbolt 3 port on that same side (this means Intel based MacBook Pros with only two ports will support only two displays).

Thunderbolt 3 MacBook Pros with four ports (two on each side) can support either two or four displays maximum depending on the system configuration. Intel graphics based four port models are limited to two displays only whereas AMD based graphics four port models can support four displays.

Example: You want to connect three or four displays to your four port AMD graphics based MacBook Pro, you will need to connect the dock to one side for two displays and the third or fourth displays must be connected to the opposite side of the system.

Note: Currently, M1 based Macs (MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro) only support a single display through Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C. This is a limitation of the M1 graphics card design.

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