Filed in: ThunderBolt Accessories
The number of shipping ThunderBolt docking stations and device expansion hubs has grown rapidly recently. If you remember two or so years back, the world waited, waited, and waited for Belkin to actually ship it's announced, delayed, then revised the specs on it's multi-port ThunderBolt dock. Eventually Matrox beat them to the punch with the first devices that reached the market. Fast forward another year and we now have a half-dozen or more ThunderBolt expansion hubs from six manufacturers vying for consumer's wallets.
The current players now include Belkin, Matrox, Akitio, StarTech, CalDigit - and now ElGato. It should be noted that StarTech, CalDigit, Matrox and ElGato's products appear very similar; with Analog Audio In and Out jacks and a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port on the front -- with varying USB / FireWire / Ethernet / Video / ThunderBolt output interface configurations on the back.
It seems some are licensing a reference OEM design of some sort, and custom tweaking their port configuration choices somewhat. Check specs closely since some only have a single ThunderBolt port which doesn't allow easy pass-through daisy-chaining, others may have only a single USB 3.0 port but additional, slower USB 2.0 ports on the back. Some don't feature a FireWire port at all, but hubs featuring dual ThunderBolt ports might allow you to use one of them with a ThunderBolt to FireWire 800 adapter. Video support for DVI or HDMI might vary as well.
Of note, some of the newer models of these ThunderBolt hubs can properly support high-current device charging for iPads and/or additionally support devices like Apple USB keyboards or external USB-powered SuperDrive disc drives. ElGato and CalDigit offer such support for their ThunderBolt multi-port devices with an OSX 10.9+ software download available at their respective websites.
Filed in: ThunderBolt Accessories
Intel and Apple's ThunderBolt interface had a rocky debut year in 2011. Although Apple managed to ship millions upon millions of ThunderBolt enabled MacBooks and desktop Macintosh systems through the year, products to plug into this new high-speed interface were in desperately short supply.
This year's Las Vega Consumer Electronics Show gave hope that A LOT more ThunderBolt accessories are on their way. CES 2012 had a diverse range of ThunderBolt product announcements from several high-profile companies that spell good things for the TBolt market in the year ahead.
Proof that ThunderBolt isn't just a market for Macintosh -- The Acer Aspire S5 Windows notebook was featured as one of the first PC laptops that will incorporate a built-in ThunderBolt port.
A surprising twist for a company known for their awesome Mac TV Tuner products, ElGato announced a ThunderBolt SSD drive in a compact, laptop size format for release later this year.
OCZ Technologies - the clear leader in the Solid-State PC and Mac SSD drive market also announced a laptop-sized SSD drive with ThunderBolt port, the LightFoot series.
Peripheral maker Belkin trotted out a multi-port ThunderBolt Hub and docking station that offers HDMI, USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Analog audio and Gigabit Ethernet ports in a sleek case - that's sadly slated to ship near the END of 2012.
Promised to ship MUCH sooner - Seagate showed off it's GoFlex ThunderBolt drive adapter to reach the market by the end of Q1 2012. The GoFlex desktop and portable drive series is already a great line of hard drive storage products with interchangeable USB2, USB 3.0, FireWire and eSATA adapters currently available. ThunderBolt adapters will help preserve and extend the value of GoFlex drive owners.
LaCie - one of the few companies besides Promise Technologies to actually ship ThunderBolt hard drive and SSD storage products in 2011- announced an interesting ThunderBolt eSATA hub/ converter that features dual ThunderBolt ports and twin eSATA ports to offer very direct drive transfers at maximum speeds.
Currently shipping, Sonnet Technology showed off it's Sonnet Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter - a great intermediary solution for those with eSATA, FireWire or USB 3.0 Express cards and drives to convert to ThunderBolt at a reasonably affordable price point.
While still proving to be a slow-road to the fast lane of truly high-speed Mac computer peripherals, ThunderBolt *IS* gaining momentum and traction - if you can wait it out and afford these products when they arrive. However, I still think the not-so dark horse in this race is USB 3.0 which is MUCH further ahead in the market and will deliver a far wider range of computer peripherals - more affordably and sooner - to the Mac (and PC) consumer marketplace.