Sonnet announces 15-port Echo Thunderbolt dock with built-in HDD/SSD & optical drive options

Sonnet-Echo-15-Thunderbolt-dock-station

The much-anticipated Belkin Thunderbolt Dock appears to be delayed once again unfortunately, missing its planned Q1 launch, despite taking pre-orders for the device in February after missing its original September launch date. While we’ve been recommending the popular Matrox Thunderbolt Docking station in the meantime, today Sonnet announced a new competitor in the space with the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock.

The 15-port dock includes many of the ins and outs you’d expect: Two thunderbolt ports, four USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm audio in and out (front and back), FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, and two eSATA ports. However, there are two features this 15-port Thunderbolt docking station has that most others do not: extra space to install a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA HDD or SSD and your choice of a built-in DVD or Blu-Ray drive:

the Echo 15 Thunderbolt dock has you covered—it includes your choice of DVD±RW drive, or Blu-ray Disc™ player (BD-ROM/8x DVD±RW). If you are a Mac user, you’ll also find that the included Blu-ray player software for OS X® is very handy, enabling you to watch Blu-ray movies on your computer or attached monitor.

The fast 6 Gb/s SATA interface supports an HDD at its maximum speeds, and an SSD at up to 380 MB/s… Best of all, the drive sits inside the Echo dock, so you don’t have to clutter your desk space with an external hard drive and its power brick and cable clutter to add more storage. Don’t feel like adding a drive yourself? Sonnet also offers the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock equipped with a 2TB HDD, available exclusively through the Sonnet online store.

The Sonnet Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock is available to pre-order now in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico starting at $399 for a DVD drive and no built-in drive. The next model up comes with a built-in 2TB HDD for $499, while a Blu-ray drive and 2TB HDD brings it up to $549. Other options are also available through Sonnet’s website, and most models are expected to ship in Summer 2013.

LaCie updates Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Series with SATA III SSDs and speeds up to 635MB/s

LaCie issued a press release today announcing an update to its Little Big Disk Thunderbolt series that now includes a pair of 2.5-inch SATA III SSDs. The new Little Big Disk provides read speeds up to 635MB/s, according to the company, approximately a 33 percent increase from the previous generation. It is also capable of daisy chaining up to six devices via its dual Thunderbolt ports:

The product features a pair of 2.5” SATA III SSDs. A RAID array can be configured using the Mac OS Disk Utility for performance (RAID 0) or security (RAID 1). It supports daisy chaining up to six compatible devices such as displays and other peripherals.

An example of just how quick the it is: LaCie said the new Little Big Disk can transfer a 50GB project in under two minutes or edit six uncompressed 422 streams simultaneously… Read more

Avid announces new Pro Tools|HD Native, its first Thunderbolt interface and PCIe card

Avid, maker of the music industry’s leading digital audio workstation software called Pro Tools, has officially announced its first Thunderbolt interface for Pro Tools with the new Pro Tools|HD Native Thunderbolt interface and PCIe card. Thanks to Thunderbolt, Avid says the new Pro Tools|HD Native provides the “highest performance and lowest latency of any native DAW” yet. As usual, Avid bundles your choice of either the Thunderbolt interface or PCIe card with its Pro Tools HD software, and you will also get a choice of a Pro Tools HD Series audio interface including either the HD OMNI or HD I/O.

In addition to an “audiophile-grade headphone output” powerful enough to drive high impedance headphones, a few of the benefits of the new Thunderbolt interface according to Avid:

Unlike USB- or FireWire-based DAWs, which are inherently prone to latency, Pro Tools|HD Native employs either a high-speed Thunderbolt interface or PCIe core card to connect Pro Tools HD Series interfaces with your laptop or desktop computer. By eliminating distracting monitor latency while recording, increasing your I/O capabilities, and providing 64-bit floating-point processing for more headroom and a higher mix resolution, you get a professional native solution that meets the highest audio standards.

Pricing for the two packages ranges from $4,999 to $5,999, but Avid is also offering Digi 002, Digi 003, and Mbox Pro owners a hardware trade-in worth $1000:
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Retina MacBook Pros run three external displays, refreshed Airs get dual external display support

Picture by Gabor Cselle

While Apple already recognized in its support documents for Thunderbolt that the new Retina MacBook Pro supports up to three external displays (as pictured above from Other World Computing’s recent tests of the setup), it has yet to confirm official support for the refreshed Ivy Bridge MacBook Airs. Today, we get word that the new MacBook Airs indeed support two external Thunderbolt displays thanks to the recent “Mac OS X Lion Update (Mid-2012 MacBook Air)” update that “improves external display support.” Apple has not updated the device’s specs page to reflect support for dual external Thunderbolt monitors.

The image below from OWC shows two iMacs running at 2,560-by-1,440 as Thunderbolt displays, and it shows an LG monitor at 1,920-by-1,200 via HDMI. The post noted “moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously.” This makes the new MacBooks the first to support up to four displays at their native resolution. Note: You could theoretically add even more space with AOC DisplayLink displays.

The refreshed MacBook Air with dual external Thunderbolt displays is pictured above, while the MacBook Pro with three displays is below:
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Matrox goes back to the future with DS-1 Thunderbolt Dock—USB 3.0, DVI, GigE for $249

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Do you remember all of those ports you used to see on Macs? DVI, Gig Ethernet (har), and separate analog stereo for in and out? Matrox, a company that used to make mad graphics cards and other video devices, is coming to DubDub with a new $249 piece of kit called the “DS-1.” This box brings you all of those old school ports and even throws in a “superspeed” USB 3.0 port, so you can match the speed of the new MacBooks.

Matrox makes a bunch of other highly rated, high-end Thunderbolt breakout boxes that retail for much more. If you are looking for a (relatively) cheap Thunderbolt dock to hide away from sight and hook up to an old DVI monitor, this may be a good pick up. We should have a review unit to play with next week.

The press release follows: Read more

G-Technology releases its G-RAID Thunderbolt drive, starting at $700

We already took a look at Hitachi’s G-Technology’s Thunderbolt solutions at CES in January but today they are finally available to the public. The Thunderbolt version features two Thunderbolt ports, rather than the eSATA, FireWire, and USB ports found on the regular version of the G-RAID. As for the hard drives inside, there are two SATA 3Gb/s Hitachi Deskstar hard drives, which can be configured in a 4TB, 6TB, or 8TB setup, each running at 7200RPM. All three versions of the drive are priced at $700, $850, and $1,000 respectively. You can see more technical specs below, as laid out by AnandTech.

With two Thunderbolt ports, these drives can be daisy-chained together to build-out the ultimate storage solution. Currently, the G-Technology competes against four other companies in the space: LaCie, Promise, Western Digital, and Seagate. The G-Raid is the only drive that features 8TB of storage, however.

We compared the drive during this year’s CES with a few others:

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Ivy Bridge launching April 23 as next-gen Thunderbolt ships, likely to land in next Macs

Today, we have two pieces of Intel-related news with reports claiming a solid April 23 launch date for the Ivy Bridge introduction, while others report Intel has begun shipping its next-generation Thunderbolt technology.

Late last month, we heard reports from CPU World, which claimed Ivy Bridge CPUs most-likely to land in future Macs would launch between April 22 and April 28 with availability by April 29. Today, we get a solid launch date with Cnet and various other sources reporting Intel will start its initial rollout April 23. As we detailed previously, many of the Ivy Bridge models included in the initial launch would be suitable for MacBook Pro-like devices and desktop offerings. However, Intel’s Ultra low-voltage U-Series Ivy Bridge processors most likely headed for MacBook Air-like designs are expected to launch in June.

Intel today said there would be over 100 Thunderbolt devices by year-end and another report coming from VR-Zone today claimed Intel started shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers codenamed “Cactus Ridge,” which would align nicely if both these updates are headed to future Macs…
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LaCie announces availability of $199 Thunderbolt to eSATA Hub: Connect up to 12 eSATA drives

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At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in January, LaCie announced a new product for Thunderbolt users. The eSATA Hub Thunderbolt™ Series is a $199 Thunderbolt pass-through that allows you to connect 2 eSATA drives to your Mac via the speedy Thunderbolt port.  By Daisy chaining six of the devices, you could add 12 eSATA drives to your Mac setup.

Today, those devices are now available.

eSATA speeds are up to 3Gb/s or equivalent to SATA II, so you will not be making full use of the Thunderbolt bus speed. However, you will still be much faster than either USB2 (480Mbps) or Firewire 800 (800Mbps). Apple’s Thunderbolt cables are sold separately at $50 a pop.

eSATA docking stations start at around $30, so if you have some eSATA or SATA drives laying around and want to get them on Thunderbolt, this might be a good—though slightly expensive–solution.

Seagate makes a $99 Thunderbolt to SATA drive adapter, but it is having trouble keeping stock (and it lacks a Thunderbolt pass-through) and reviewers note erratic results.

The full specs and press release follows:

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Thunderbolt display: $900 + free shipping

From 9to5Toys.com:

Today only, MacConnection has Apple’s Thunderbolt Display for $899.99+ free shipping.  That’s $100 off list and the lowest price we’ve ever seen by almost $50.  It features a native resolution of 2560×1440, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, 12ms grey-to-grey response time, 375 cd/m² brightness, built-in iSight camera, 3-port USB 2.0 hub, Thunderbolt port, and Mini DisplayPort connectivity. Read more

Apple releases Thunderbolt, printer drivers and Aperture updates

Apple has today updated Thunderbolt (again), printer drivers, and Aperture.

Today’s updates come after yesterday’s MacBook Pro EFI update firmware 2.3.

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Intel: Existing Thunderbolt Macs will support optical cables


Pictured above: Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt cable (copper).

A representative for Intel, Dave Salvator, told Macworld that the current range of Macs with Thunderbolt I/O will support fiber optic cables which are due next year. This will ensure backwards compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports which work with copper cables.

Circuitry will ensure compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports, Salvator said. Copper cables provide adequate data transfer for use over short distances of up to six meters (about 20 feet), but optical cables will be good for data transfers over longer distances of tens of meters, Salvator said.

Salvator wouldn’t divulge any pricing and availability information, yet to be determined. This confirmation is in line with the promise on the official Thunderbolt web site that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. This bit is also interesting:

Intel is already thinking ahead, and researchers at the company are developing technology based on silicon photonics that will be able to move data up to five times faster than current Thunderbolt implementations. The technology is slated to hit the market by 2015.

Among the PC vendors, Asustek and Acer will bring Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks to market in the first half of next year. More vendors will follow suit once Intel releases its Ivy Bridge chipsets. Of course, we’re expecting Ivy Bridge MacBooks as well. The Ivy Bridge chipset is said to enable interesting goodies such as OpenCL computing, a 60 percent speed gain over the current Sandy Bridge silicon and display resolutions up to 4096-by-4096 pixels. It will also include built-in support for USB 3.0, but not Thunderbolt.

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AnandTech reviews the Thunderbolt Display

Anand, as per usual, does one of the more in-depth reviews we’ve seen of the Thunderbolt Displays. Some interesting notes:

  • The Thunderbolt Display uses less power than the previous Cinema Display at its dimmest setting (likely just panel efficiency variance) and draws a bit more at max brightness.
  • Pegasus hardware seems to cause serious audio issues which corrupts sound while large file transfers are happening. Expect a fix.
  • There are some nuances with display daisy chaining. For instance, in one configuration Anand had to put a Promise RAID array between the two displays in a daisy chain to get them to work.
  • Next year’s Ivy Bridge will bring more Display options to Macs (and likely USB 3 since the controller is built into the Intel chipset). The future may also hold displays with GPUs built in.
  • For a $1000 display, the speakers “were OK, but not great”. The Camera and Mic were both good.

If you are considering getting one of these displays, check out the full review which was very favorable overall. MacConnection also has the lowest price we could find on the new Thunderbolt display at $979.

Update: Macworld put up a review this morning as well. 4/5 Stars.

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