Three Cool Mac and iPad Holiday Toys for Your Inner Geek

| John Martellaro's Blog

Several really nifty items have come across my desk recently that are just in time for the inner geek in you. In this non-review quick look review I describe the Macally USB-C/A four port USB 3 dock for the MacBook, the BrydgeMini keyboard for iPad mini 1,2 or 3 and the Other World Computing Thunderbolt 2 Dock.


Here's my brief description of each item that includes the developer's glamor shot and my own notes which include a personal photo. Is your inner geek fired up?

Macally USB-C/A Aluminum hub

1. USB Type C to 4 Port USB-A Aluminum Hub for the 12-inch MacBook. That's quite a name, but the device is simplicity itself, looks good and has hot-swappable ease of use Just plug the USB-C port into the MacBook, and presto, you have four USB-A ports with USB 3.1 Gen 1 ( which is USB 3.0 at 5 Gbps). (Backwards compatibile with USB 2 & 1.) It's direct and minimalist.

Minor negatives: One can't simultaneously charge the MacBook, and there are no other kinds of ports such as HDMI. But for US$29.99, it's a great addition to your gadget bag. Also, it works with any computer with USB-C, for example, the Chromebook Pixel. It says USB-C, but I see "stocking stuffer" written all over it.


2. BrydgeMini. In the style and tradition of the Brydge Air keyboard for the iPad Air/Air 2, this is the little brother for the iPad mini 1,2 or 3. An impressive feature list is in order:

  • All aluminum construction with three colors that match iPad mini colors.
  • Matches design of iPad and has an easy-open groove in front.
  • Backlit keyboard with caps lock LED.
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Weight is just 300 grams (0.66 pounds).
  • Three month battery life.

Prospective buyers should know that this keyboard, while it's very good and has a great feel, is designed to be small and portable. That introduces minor compromises. The keys are 13 mm wide and the key center-center spacing is 16 mm, somewhat smaller than a MacBook. Also, the return key isn't oversize. But for use on a plane or hotel room doing anything short of a novel, it's just fine. The craftsmanship and ease of use and will delight anyone. It's another great stocking stuffer, on sale this holiday season for US$99.99.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

3. Other World Computing Thunderbolt 2 Dock. I have a 2013 Mac Pro which has just four USB 3 ports. I used a Tripp Lite powered USB 3 hub for over a year, and it was great. However, for reasons relating to the need for several direct/hubless connections, I ran out of USB ports on the Mac Pro. The solution: a Thunderbolt dock that adds five USB 3 ports without using up any on the Mac Pro.

I selected the OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock because I know OWC makes great gear, but my schedule didn't allow for a formal review. So I paid for it myself. (It's priced at US$219.00). The list of the 12 ports tells the story.

  • 1 FireWire 800
  • 2 Thunderbolt 2
  • 5 USB 3.0  (2 on side provide 1.5 amps)
  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 HDMI (1.4b w/ 4K video support)
  • 1 3.5 mm audio out
  • 1 3.5 mm audio in

Gorgeous under my HP Z27i display. Front: leftmost USB port is a mouse dongle. 
On its right, my keyboard. Left side: used for a USB drive and a microUSB cable.

I especially like the brushed aluminum sides and mirror finish on the top. My only gripe is that the included Thunderbolt cable is too short at 19 inches (50 cm). I needed a much longer one on my desk to reach the Mac Pro. [UPDATE: OWC  has clarified that no Thunderbolt cable is included. The customer needs to also purchase the desired size and color, if needed. That provides for better flexibility. The 0.5 meter cable I received was added as an extra by OWC in the event I had time for a review.]

Also, I wish the power port were on the back, leaving the rest of the ports on the front as they are now. But that's a nit. All, in all, this TB dock exudes quality and has worked flawlessly for many months. It's on the geeky side... until you realize you need one. Then it's essential.

I feel so nerdy.

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Has anyone come across something like the BrydgeMini for the iPad Mini 4 ?

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