Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock to Finally Ship Next Week

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Belkin has finally announced pre-orders for its long-awaited Thunderbolt Express Dock, originally announced in September 2011. After several delays and changes to the product’s features, the company claims the dock will begin shipping next week.

Belkin was one of the first companies to announce a multi-port docking solution utilizing Apple’s then-new Thunderbolt interface. With a single Thunderbolt connection, users were promised the addition of FireWire, USB, audio, and Ethernet ports to their Mac. Although still useful on desktop Macs, the Thunderbolt Express Dock is clearly targeted at Macs with a limited number of ports, such as the MacBook Air.

After its initial introduction, Belkin changed the features of the product several times, replacing the original USB 2.0 ports with USB 3.0 ports, removing HDMI and eSATA ports, and adding dedicated audio in and out ports. The anticipated price also fluctuated, reaching $400 before settling at $299 at launch.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock

The current and final configuration includes, from left to right:

1 Gigabit Ethernet
1 FireWire 800
2 Thunderbolt (one in, one out)
1 3.5mm audio-out
1 3.5mm audio-in
3 USB 3.0 (limited to 2.5 Gbps)

Once launched, the Thunderbolt Express Dock will be one of a very few ways that 2011-era Mac owners can add USB 3.0 connectivity to their setups. Although unfortunately limited to roughly half of USB 3.0's 5 Gbps maximum speed, the USB 3.0 ports will still vastly outperform the USB 2.0 ports found on Macs prior to the 2012 models.

Matrox launched a competing product, the DS1 Thunderbolt Docking Station, in mid-December for $249. Although cheaper, the DS1 features fewer connectivity options, with a user’s choice of an HDMI or DVI port, 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, and audio-in and audio-out.

Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt Dock

The Mac Observer has a test unit of the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock on its way and we will provide you with a full review once it arrives. Until then, those interested in pre-ordering can do so at Belkin’s website.

Comments

Paul Goodwin

I’ll never understand why Apple thinks we should pay this much money for a few interface ports when they should be built in the computer…...like most other computers.

PSMacintosh

I’m VERY SAD to see that the ESATA port was eliminated from the design.

Andrew

@Paul:  SILENCE!  Other ports are not as aesthetically pleasing.

lieven

eliminating esata is no problem: it’s easy to plug in a usb3 to esata adapter and use esate if really neccesary.

Franz

Is this vaporware or what.  I signed up to be notified since there was no real option to pre-order as stated in this post.  It is now near the middle of March and no word back from Belkin when you can actually buy the device.  So in a couple of weeks I wonder if they will bother to change their website where it says coming first quarter.

Art

I too am getting very tired of waiting for this thing.  I hope it gets shipped soon, before Thunderbolt becomes obsolete!

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