Belkin has announced an update to its Thunderbolt Express Dock for Mac, which takes advantage of the common Thunderbolt interface found on most Mac systems to offer a number of additional USB and audio inputs, as well as LAN and HDMI output for various connectivity options; however, if you own the original Thunderbolt Dock, then this new iteration offers nothing special.
The only enhancement Belkin has added to the new version of its dock is support for Thunderbolt 2, which allows for up to double the throughput from the prior version; however, unless you are constantly moving data that regularly saturate the 10Gb/s data rate of the initial version of Thunderbolt, and unless you have a system capable of Thunderbolt 2, then you will not see much difference (if any) by replacing current docking systems you use with this one.
The Belkin dock is available to order for $299 from Belkin’s site, but if you have a system running the first generation of Thunderbolt, then the initial Express Dock has been discounted by $100 to now be available for $199, or even less from vendors like Amazon. Other docks of similar capability are also available, including the Matrox DS1, and the Sonnet Echo 15.
Have you read the customer reviews on Amazon of the original version of this dock? From 190 reviews It rates only 3.5 stars out of a possible 5, and the negative reviews are scathing. When I was planning for a new 27″ iMac I had high hopes for the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock which, on paper (or pixels if you want to be precise), looked to be best of breed. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Not that the others are necessarily superior – depending on your budget and your needs – but that this one turned out to be so much less than one would expect from Belkin, which is usually a reliable provider of Apple accessories. If you get one, save the packaging because, like others, you may have to return it. If not, then you lucked out. When it works properly, the Thunderbolt Express Dock is ideal for users of Apple’s current line of laptop computers, which have very few connection options.
In any case, for my iMac – because I was migrating from an old Mac Pro and had a lot of hard drives to house – I decided on a ThunderBay IV drive case from Otherworld Computing, which has two TB ports, and works as a reliable hub for an additional Thunderbolt connection – besides the one you plug into the computer.
Unlike Mac laptops, the iMac has a decent number of ports and doesn’t need to use the TB port for an external monitor, so all I needed in the end was a reliable USB 3 hub. By the way, don’t cheap out on a USB hub; I wasted my money on an Amazon Essentials USB 3 hub which, despite being a powered hub, was unreliable and easily over-taxed. With a smaller power adaptor that generates fewer volts and watts, the 7 port Plugable hub I ordered subsequently works just fine.
At one time Apple computers ranked well on cost of ownership. But since Apple has discontinued FireWire support (except on the Mac mini), and gone for light-weight laptops with a minimum number of ports – not even Ethernet – external support for connectivity is all but essential. If you use your laptop mostly at work and/or at home, a dock of some kind may fill the bill. If you travel, you will need to stock up on Thunderbolt adaptors. In my business I regularly use TB to USB, TB to Ethernet and TB to FireWire adaptors, made by Apple and costing $29 each, plus tax and shipping.
So, depending on how you use your Mac, a new one may require significant additional expense to work efficiently and effectively. Which is why Thunderbolt Docks are a hot item.
$299 for a hub with only a handful of ports? Are you kidding me? That price is insulting.
I agree with Vic. Completely outrageous pricing. Not to mention it is NOT a dock, in that you don’t connect your device directly to it. Rather, it is a port expander, and not a very good one, given the number of ports it provides.
I’d just be happy if someone offered a 2TB Thunderbolt external hard drive for Time Machine backups. I’d like to get back one of my USB ports.
Sorry.. meant to include $100 price tag…