The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock.
If Consumer Electronic Show announcements are an indication, 2012 will be the year Thunderbolt technology picks up significant steam as this year saw a limited uptake stemming from exclusive industry support by early adopter Apple, which rolled out Thunderbolt across its MacBook Air, iMac and Mac mini range.
First up, Belkin is out with a Thunderbolt-enabled dock that allows your MacBook Air to connect to a wide range of peripherals using just one Thunderbolt cable. Akin to its IDF prototype device, the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock provides a selection of ports that mirror the new 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt display.
According to Belkin, which previewed the stylish port replicator at CES 2012 yesterday, it will feature a Gigabit Ethernet port, a FireWire 800 port, one HDMI port, 3.5mm audio port, three USB 2.0 jacks and two Thunderbolt ports —one upstream and one downstream. If it came with USB3.0, it would be a must-have. The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock will be available in September 2012 for $299.
Next up, the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, pictured below. It is first bus-powered Thunderbolt drive that does not need a separate power brick. CNET explained it is quite a feat considering that 10 volts of power of the Thunderbolt interface is shared by the interface itself plus the cable, which has active parts. Sporting a 2.5-inch 128 GB or 256GB SSD unit capped at SATA3 speeds of 6Gbps, the drive will be available in February for approximately $400 or $600, respectively.
Elgato also promised a thinner and short Thunderbolt cable that will be more suitable for this thin external drive than Apple’s standard $49 Thunderbolt cable. Go past the fold for much more Thunderbolt gear unveiled at CES 2012.
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD. Image by CNET.
OCZ, another name familiar to Apple users, has a Thunderbolt storage solution of its own. Basically a successor to the OCZ Enyo external USB 3.0 SSD, OCZ’s drive will come in 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB flavors with transfer rates up to 750 MB/s. This drive should be suitable for pro audio and video work thanks to its Thunderbolt connection that provides improved latency and accurate time synchronization.
OCZ’s upcoming Thunderbolt storage for pro audio and video work. Image courtesy of PCPerspective.com
LaCie also announced an external Thunderbolt dock dubbed the eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series. It is a handy solution for those wishing to connect external devices, such as eSATA hard drives and Thunderbolt displays, to their notebook with ease. The eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series looks like an external storage, but do not let the looks deceive you: This box has on its back two eSATA ports topping out at 6GBps each (same as your computer’s internal SSD), in addition to two Thunderbolt ports. Such a solution lets you hook up two speedy eSATA drives and still daisy chain other Thunderbolt devices like Thunderbolt displays and other hubs (but, unfortunately, not Thunderbolt storage devices). It will be available in the first quarter of 2012 for an undisclosed price.
More important than the aforementioned accessories, major PC makers announced support for Thunderbolt in Ultrabooks, Intel’s chip platform aimed at ultra portable notebooks that resemble Apple’s MacBook Air series. The basis for this is Intel’s new Ivy Bridge chip platform that features native support for Thunderbolt technology. This should help accelerate Thunderbolt adoption across the industry as a whole, which in turn should spur the creation of an even wider spectrum of Thunderbolt accessories and add-on products at lower prices.
According to The Inquirer, the 15 mm thick Aspire S5 will come with Thunderbolt, USB3.0 and HDMI ports and will feature an SSD drive for fast boot times and nimble performance. Acer is also prepping the Timeline series of Ultrabooks in 14- and 15-inch flavors. Acer’s Thunderbolt notebooks will ship in the first quarter of 2012, which is ahead of DigiTimes’ prediction.
Not the one to be outdone by Acer, Lenovo announced the addition of Thunderbolt to its ThinkPad Edge series of notebooks. The ThinkPad Edge S430, the latest addition to their lineup, was just announced at CES, rocking Thunderbolt as one of its main features, along with Nvidia Optimus graphics. The notebook will start at $749 and is due in June 2012, coinciding with the commercial roll out of Intel’s Ivy Bridge platform.