For fans of Apple products, this is a magical time, as the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) begins on Monday, June 2, and many are holding their breath as to what may be released. When the MacBook Pro with a Retina Display was first announced at Apple’s WWDC 2012, the Thunderbolt ports were shown connected to a variety of peripherals (e.g., external hard drives and flash-based cameras). Moreover, per Apple’s website, Thunderbolt's blazingly fast data transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s (as compared to 480Mb/s for USB 2) make this input/output (or I/O) the clear winner.
So, why has this port been slow to catch on with the public? Two reasons: many products have been repeatedly delayed (sometimes indefinitely) and/or their price tag has been too expensive for consumers.
Yet, both of Thunderbolt’s aforementioned limitations are overcome by the advent of Elgato’s Thunderbolt Dock ($199.95 without Thunderbolt Cable; $229.95 with cable). This author tested the dock with an included cable and would also recommend that model for an additional $30 (in comparison, Apple charges $39 for a similar Thunderbolt cable).
Like any Ultrabook, Macbook Air’s lightweight characteristic stems from the removal of the optical drive and cutting down the computer’s thickness; thus, a user loses most of the ports commonly available on other laptops. Connectivity on the Macbook Air is limited to audio out, two USB 3.0 ports, SD card slot, and a single Thunderbolt port. Previously, for this author, the latter I/O was only useful for either connecting an external monitor (with a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter) or a professional-grade RAID. But, both peripherals could not be connected concurrently, thus, leading to a daily problematic decision.
• 3 x USB 3.0 ports (5Gb/s with support for bus-powered devices)
• 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
• 1 x HDMI Output (up to 2560 x 1600 resolution)
• 1 x 3.5 mm Audio Output (analog stereo)
• 1 x 3.5mm Microphone Input (mono)
• Plus, an additional Thunderbolt port (bidirectional 10Gb/s)
This author is spectacularly amazed with Elgato’s dock. More importantly, every port flawlessly works - a quality not shared by the competition after reading user reviews. So, instead of finding, wrestling with, and then plugging in multiple cables of all of this author’s peripherals, one Thunderbolt cable connects an external monitor, Ethernet-based Internet, stereo speakers, USB hub (for a mouse, keyboard, Blu-ray drive, etc.), external RAID, additional external hard drive, and a free port on the front for quick access for USB flash drives.
In the past, managing cables was a chore and this author used to avoid using his laptop as a desktop computer at all costs. Due to the transformative nature of this product from Elgato, it is now a pleasure to connect one cable and have access to a larger screen, better sound, and more storage. Also, disconnecting is immensely easier with Elgato’s Thunderbolt Dock Utility for the Mac. This small application appears in the menu bar (in the top right corner of the screen) as an “e” and by simply clicking on its drop-down menu allows a user to eject all mounted volumes at once.
Aside from seamlessly adding ports and functionality as well as being effortless to connect/disconnect, Elgato not only designed the Thunderbolt Dock to work on a Mac (OS X 10.9 or later) but also on a PC (Windows 8.1 or later). With a consumer friendly price point, this dock is greatly recommended to any user with a Thunderbolt port. Elgato’s dock is available now and, by successfully unlocking the potential of a Thunderbolt port, this author believes the future of technology has arrived.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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