Thunderbolt 2 October 29

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Other World Computing doesn’t just dabble in Mac accessories — it’s one of the most popular third-party Apple RAM and SSD vendors, and sells some of the only Blu-Ray drives marketed at Mac users. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that OWC had developed its own Thunderbolt 2 Dock ($228), entering an accessory category that was simultaneously worthwhile and fairly stagnant. Almost all of the best Thunderbolt 2 docks have the same core features and design elements, mixing silver aluminum, black plastic, an external power supply and a bunch of ports together to make one-point connectivity hubs for Macs. OWC’s design is similar, but it’s functionally unique.

Measuring 9″ wide by 3.5″ deep by 1.1″ tall, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is the largest such accessory I’ve seen, looking like an elongated Mac mini with a glossy black top. The right side has two always-powered USB ports, while the back includes a collection of 10 additional audio, video, and data ports, plus wall power. That means OWC’s design is both the biggest and most capable Thunderbolt 2 dock out there, but does that also make it the best? From my perspective, that depends on your Mac’s needs…

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Thunderbolt 2 October 27

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Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 standard has given Mac users — particularly professional Mac users — a premium, high-speed connector option for situations where bandwidth and speed are necessary: hooking up big, fast hard drives, high-resolution monitors, or even external graphics cards. The latest iMacs, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs all feature at least one Thunderbolt 2 port, a boon for expandability.

This year, Thunderbolt 2 docks have really taken off. Long-time Mac accessory makers have come up with a few different riffs on the same basic idea, leveraging a single cable to connect a bunch of Thunderbolt, USB, and audio/video accessories all at once to a Mac. This enables MacBook users to return home and make one connection to everything from an external monitor and speakers to external hard drives and card readers; it can also allow iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini users to connect devices built with connectors not found on their machines.

Here are the best Thunderbolt 2 dock options out there — and my suggestions as to which of them are best-suited to various usage scenarios…

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Thunderbolt 2 June 27

Up until recently, Thunderbolt 2 docks could mostly be described as “seen one, seen them all.” I’ve continued to like the idea of docks that fuse Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0, and other peripherals together in a single Thunderbolt-to-Mac connection, but the docks I’ve seen from Belkin, Elgato, and Kanex are so similar in looks and features that they’d be hard to tell apart in a lineup. CalDigit’s dock looked very different from the rest, but functioned almost exactly the same. No Thunderbolt 2 dock has been small enough to consider “portable,” and CalDigit’s design is downright bag-defiant in shape.

That’s why it’s great to see Akitio take a different path with the $279 Thunder2 Dock (available through Amazon for $230), a Thunderbolt 2 dock with a smaller form factor and focus. Roughly as thin as a MacBook Pro and made from a nearly-matching aluminum, Thunder2 Dock manages to include seven high-speed data ports even though it’s roughly the size of a portable hard drive. Since it requires wall power, it’s not completely portable, and just like its rivals, you give up certain features to gain others. But it’s definitely the first Thunderbolt dock I’d carry around if I needed multi-device support in the field…

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Thunderbolt 2 June 2

The USB-C port first introduced by Apple in the new 12-inch MacBook looks likely to be used across the MacBook range as Intel has adopted the standard for Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt was developed to simultaneously support the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, while also supplying power. Then recently the USB group introduced the USB-C connector, which is small, reversible, fast, supplies power, and allows other I/O in addition to USB to run on it, maximizing its potential. So in the biggest advancement since its inception, Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at 40Gbps, fulfilling its promise, creating one compact port that does it all. 

Apple was an early adopter of the Thunderbolt standard, which allowed a single port to be used for both high-speed data transfer and DisplayPort monitor connections. Intel’s integration of the two standards would allow Apple to replace the Thunderbolt port in the MacBook Pro range while still maintaining full compatibility with existing peripherals …  expand full story

Thunderbolt 2 April 13

USB-C is the sole port on Apple’s new 12-inch MacBook, and CalDigit today announced a version of its durable external drive that takes advantage of the new reversible USB 3.1 port. CalDigit Tuff features a USB-C port and cable for connecting the portable drive to the Apple’s ultra-thin notebook, and an included adapter cable ensures compatibility with the USB port that you’re used to seeing on your hardware as well. Since the new MacBook’s thin and light profile intends for it to venture out of your office and into the wild, CalDigit Tuff is ruggedized to endure drops, splashes, dust and other extreme environments.

CalDigit Tuff starts at $139.99 for 1TB HDD with availability starting in July (new MacBook orders currently deliver in 4-6 weeks). A solid state drive version with up to 1TB of storage will also be available while a higher capacity 2TB HDD option will be offered. expand full story

Thunderbolt 2 April 1

As I’ve said before, Thunderbolt 2 docks are a really great idea for MacBook users. Before now, there were three major options: Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express HD DockElgato’s $220 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review), and CalDigit’s $226 Thunderbolt Station 2 (review). All three are designed for the same purpose — to connect a bunch of peripherals (including hard drives, a monitor, and audio cables) to your Mac with one Thunderbolt 2 cable — and they all have the same core peripheral ports, with small differences to set them apart from one another.

This month, Kanex is entering the fray with the Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock ($250), which looks a lot like Belkin’s dock but is closer in price to Elgato’s and CalDigit’s. Aluminum on the top and bottom with a black plastic core, it has a front-mounted USB 3.0 port with two more on the back, and comes bundled with a power adapter and 3.3-foot Thunderbolt cable. While it doesn’t stand out in any major way from its earlier rivals, it’s competently executed and attractively designed, with some modest feature tweaks that prospective buyers should know about…

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