Feeds
Belkin Express Dock Thunderbolt adaptor

Review: Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock

Missing Mac ports reunited, for a price

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Apple WWDC If the word from the Apple WWDC is to be believed, we’re just months away from hooking up all our peripherals using Thunderbolt 2 cables. Funny that, as I thought this was supposed to happen when the original Thunderbolt ports appeared on Macs back in 2011.

Even though this Apple-Intel interface love-in can be found on PCs too, albeit a rare sight, the range of peripherals supporting Thunderbolt is shockingly low for this two-year-old high-speed interface, which is capable of 10Gbps transfer rates, a figure that's set to double later this year.

Belkin Express Dock Thunderbolt adaptor

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock brings the interfacing you've been missing

In essence, Thunderbolt is an interesting mix of PCI Express bus data and DisplayPort (DP) signals wrapped up in a mini DP connector. It's unsurprising that Apple’s own 27in Thunderbolt display appeared as one of the earliest hardware examples to demonstrate the interface’s flexibility, besides the fast and furious Pegasus RAID storage from Promise. Not only did a single cable deliver the picture on the screen but round the back was an array of different ports amounting to an extremely versatile hub: USB, FireWire, Ethernet and another Thunderbolt port for daisy-chaining.

Forget the monitor, this is what we want and, indeed, this is what we’ve got and more with the Belkin Express Dock.

For those MacBook users bemoaning the loss of FireWire and Ethernet, who could do with some extra USB 3.0 ports, the Belkin Express Dock seems like an answer to a prayer, but it has been a long time coming. Belkin announced the Express Dock at the Intel Developer Forum in 2011. A redesign was unveiled at Computex in June 2012 with worldwide availability set for September 2012, which at CES this year shifted to Q1 2013. It’s only just started shipping in Europe which seems to be the way with Thunderbolt products. External hard drives only really came on stream from the likes of G-RAID, WD and LaCie last year, again after a long wait too.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock

In the centre at the bottom is a channel to feed cables through to the front, if that suits you

Given what the Express Dock promises, it’s likely to have caused a few headaches for Belkin as it has three USB 3.0 ports, unlike Apple’s Thunderbolt Display which has three USB 2.0 ports. Incidentally, the Apple monitor also features a high-definition webcam, mic and speakers. As far as AV goes, Belkin includes separate mic and headphone sockets for 3.5mm jacks. A webcam is absent, of course. After all, the Express Dock is aimed at MacBook users, many of whom will welcome the gigabit Ethernet and the FireWire 800 port for legacy gear.

There are two Thunderbolt ports, one to hook up to the host device and the other to link up to other Thunderbolt peripherals - you can daisy-chain up to five more devices. It’s like SCSI FireWire all over again, sort of. The unit needs quite a sizeable power supply that delivers a hefty 6A output at 12V; that’s more than enough to keep those USB ports happy. Somewhat predictably, a Thunderbolt cable is not included in the box.

Thunderbolt cables from Belkin, Apple and StarTech

Thunderbolt cables from Belkin, Apple and StarTech: total cost £100. Perhaps another reason perhaps for the dearth of peripherals?

At £35 a throw, Belkin, just like every other Thunderbolt device manufacturer, does not want to hike the price of the product for the sake of improving the out-of-the-box customer experience by including a cable. Those unfamiliar with Thunderbolt’s cable costs are in for a nasty surprise: not only when they open the box but when they discover there’s no such thing as a cheap Thunderbolt cable. Shop around and you’ll find Startech's offering is probably your best bet at the moment at £30 on Amazon.

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: Data distribution

More from The Register

next story
Reg man looks through a Glass, darkly: Google's toy ploy or killer tech specs?
Tip: Put the shades on and you'll look less of a spanner
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
One step closer to ROBOT BUTLERS: Dyson flashes vid of VACUUM SUCKER bot
Latest cleaner available for world+dog in September
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
Tim Cook in Applerexia fears: New MacBook THINNER THAN EVER
'Supply chain sources' give up the goss on new iLappy
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.