Belkin & Matrox Announce Updated Thunderbolt Docking Stations

| Product News

Belkin updated the hardware and price of its upcoming Thunderbolt Express Dock, the company announced during the 2012 Computex Taipei Show Monday. The yet-to-be-released Thunderbolt dock will now feature USB 3.0 and an audio-in port, an upgrade from the USB 2.0 model Belkin displayed during CES and Macworld | iWorld.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express DockBelkin Thunderbolt Express Dock ($399)

The Thunderbolt Express Dock has now been revised three times since its initial unveiling at the 2011 Intel Developer Forum in September 2011. The initial design was revised for CES and Macworld | iWorld in January 2012 and brought a dedicated HDMI video out port along with audio out, gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, and three USB 2.0 ports. The device also featured two Thunderbolt ports, one for connecting the computer and another for attaching additional Thunderbolt devices.

The latest revision removes the HDMI port, upgrades the USB ports to USB 3.0, and adds an audio-in port. With the removal of the HDMI port, Belkin will now include a Mini DisplayPort adapter with the product, so that users can still attach a display via the second Thunderbolt port. All the other features remain the same.

While USB 3.0 will be useful to many Mac users, the new feature comes with an added cost. The originally-priced $299 Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock will now cost $399 when it is released in September.

Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt Docking StationMatrox DS1 Thunderbolt Docking Station ($249)

Video equipment maker Matrox announced its own Thunderbolt dock Monday, the DS1 Thunderbolt Docking Station. The $249 device features gigabit Ethernet, a single USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, audio in and out, and a DVI display connection. Unlike Belkin’s product, it does not include FireWire 800 or an additional Thunderbolt port.

[via techPowerUp]

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John Molloy

Ew. Green and Red Audio in and out? The 90’s called, they want their hardware design back.


Typo alert: upcomming


This looks pretty cool and is representative of how TB can best be utilized. With the push for portables to that are thinner and lighter it only makes sense to externalize all of the ports that you likely won’t need except when sitting at a desk. With TB’s bandwidth, that concept is now a reality.

The downside is that these things are still way too expensive for the kind of functionality that they provide. A port replicator - even a really nice one that requires only one cable to connect it to the computer, will need to cost half of what this does, to become a widely popular product.

<Ignore the rest of this unless you are interested in a diatribe about ThunderBolt>

It’s kind of sad to think that TB might possibly go the way of FireWire - dead from a catch 22. It’s expensive because it hasn’t attained the necessary popularity and, hence, economies of scale to make it cheap(er) to implement, and since it’s expensive to implement, it may not take off and gain that necessary popularity it needs.

Luckily, TB doesn’t face quite as tough a hike as FW did. Firewire had to go up against USB and USB 2, which were being heavily promoted by Intel. So it largely lost due to an lack of support by companies other than Apple (and, to a lesser extent, Sony) that didn’t want to commit to any ‘non-standard’ technology - especially if it had Apple’s fingerprints on it. TB offers the same advantages over USB 3 that FW had over USB 2 (a lot more bandwidth and the ability to daisy chain devices), so there’s not much difference there. USB 3 may be somewhat cheaper to implement than TB, too. The key differences are that Apple is far more popular and mainstream than it was when they were pushing FW, and that Intel is also pushing TB over USB 3.

USB 3 may lose out as being the ‘middle child’ of peripheral interconnect options. It doesn’t offer the necessary bandwidth to support these kinds of devices nearly as well as TB does, and USB 2 can easily handle all of the more basic external peripherals. There may not be many TB devices on the market, yet, but there aren’t a whole lot of devices requiring USB 3, either. So, there is a good chance that OEMs will include both USB 3 and TB ports in their products. Actually, Intel was including TB ports on their own main boards before they started adding USB 3 to them.


It?s kind of sad to think that TB might possibly go the way of FireWire

A very interesting essay. I agree with most of what you said.

USB2 won the battle not by being better but by being good enough and cheap. Soon everything had a USB plug and cables are literally a couple of bucks. As long as TB cables are $50 and devices such as this Dock are $400 the masses will stick with USB2 and soon USB3. That’s the only point where we disagree. Because USB3 is backwards compatible with USB2 components and cables I see it replacing the latter over the next year or two just as USB2 replaced USB1.1. Some devices may not need 3 but they will work with it. Others, like external drives will see a big speed boost with 3. Not as fast as TB but most consumers will compare 3 with 2 not 3 with TB.

IMO unless there is a big price drop in TB cables and peripherals, and a whole lot more devices with TB come on the market it doesn’t look good. You could very well be right about TB becoming another dead end. Also disconcerting was that leaked MacBook Pro Spec Sheet. If real it indicated that the system had USB3 on it. While I would be thrilled to find this, it would really handicap the adoption of TB to have a “good enough and cheaper” option on the MacBook Pro.


As long as TB cables are $50 and devices such as this Dock are $400 the masses will stick with USB2 and soon USB3.

Actually, I pretty much agree with you there, too. I didn’t really think to mention to cost of the cables, but $50 for a cable is even more ridiculous than $400 for a port replicator. Hopefully, other vendors will start producing cheaper cables (I thought one company had made one that was a little cheaper), and maybe something in the logjam between product popularity and increasing economy of scale will break loose, and the products will come down in price. Maybe somebody will just get the idea that if they sell these things at a smaller profit margin, they’ll still sell a lot of them and make more profits than they would by selling a few at this price. I’m not sure if that’s actually plausible, though.

Are the component costs for the TB parts really so expensive that they are the lion’s share of the costs in building something like this? Or is this a matter of someone trying to charge their own version of the ‘Apple tax’?

As for USB 3 becoming ubiquitous: Is implementing USB 3 no different in cost or complexity than USB 2? If so, why are systems shipping with two or more USB 2 ports, but typically 1 USB 3 port?

*Additional: If Apple’s absorption of PC marketshare continues to accelerate, as the PC market continuing to shrink, Apple will become an increasing influence over what is considered ‘standard’, which also largely affects what customers expect in their computers. If Apple keeps primarily supporting TB over USB 3, TB will have a much better chance to become (and remain) a well supported option with a good number of devices designed to use it.

$50 for a short, copper cable, Apple? Really? C’mon…


$50 for a short, copper cable, Apple? Really? C?mon?

Well, to be fair, it does have a chip in the cable. But it is still too expensive.

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