Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
Excellent, despite the limited market
on 25 November 2013
When Apple first announced 'Thunderbolt', you could when forgiven for questioning just how relevant this interface will be in the next decade. Afterall, if USB 3.0 already offers a speed upgrade from 2.0 and uses the same plug-socket, what incentives are there to make the transition?
Well, Thunderbolt has a few tricks up its fibre-optic sleeves, but you should also expect some compromises too.
Referring to the latter, I need not mention that a Thunderbolt cable isn't included with this Belkin Express Dock, meaning that if you want to get up and running out of the box, you will need to invest in the (pricey) cable just to connect the dock to your Mac. Although this is well advertised, it comes as something as a disappointment when you've already paid so much for this product; but there are genuine reasons with regards to licensing.
The dock itself is a beautiful piece of hardware, and is designed to look sleek next to any of the current generation Apple Mac's. Belkin are also self-congratulatory, reminding us that the dock was 'Designed in California... Assembled in China', a lá Apple's own backslapping. The aluminium casing is cool to touch and provides incredible durability to the device. It's also a lot smaller than the pictures suggest, so footspace is not a problem.
What you may be asking then is why you would purchase a dock, given that the Mac Mini, iMac and the upcoming Mac Pro all have a great selection of I/O built in. This is where Thunderbolt comes into its own, as you can 'daisy chain' devices onto each other all from the same specification. This allows the user to plug a wide range of peripherals into one seamless chain of Thunderbolt devices. Think of a line of people, all linking hands.
But this also draws attention to exactly the kind of computer you would want to lessen cable mess... the MacBook. Since the Thunderbolt Express connects to your computer via a single cable, you are essentially freeing yourself of having to plug multiple devices into the MacBook itself, making it easier to just connect/disconnect and put the computer away. And it works too - with a Time Machine HDD, external storage and ethernet adapter all plugged into the the Dock, you don't need to worry about tidying away cables.
Obviously you will still need to 'Eject' any mass storage devices on OS X, but the Dock itself requires no installation.
The rear of the dock has two Thunderbolt ports; one that is used to connect to your Mac (The cable can be tucked underneath the dock so that it trails from the front, which is nice) and the other that is used for daisy-chaining peripherals. Three USB 3.0 ports are also very welcome, along with the important FireWire port (Still serving its purpose for sound cards), Eithernet, Audio In, Out, and an AC adapter, which is included in the box.
If you are the owner of a MacBook, then you may wish to carefully consider your needs before purchasing this product. Whilst I can't recommend it enough based on the quality of the finish and the ease of use, it is a significant investment for something that will only free those users who depend on peripherals for their work. And how many peripherals are using Thunderbolt? At the moment, it's a minority.
But in short, this is a fine product from Belkin that although is being sold at a less-than-fine profit margin, has the potential to tidy up your workspace. The only thing missing is a MagSafe adapter, since the dock itself uses an AC power supply.