Review: CalDigit’s Mac hub Thunderbolt Station 2 competes on pricing, size, and build quality

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Despite USB 3.0’s growing popularity with consumers, Thunderbolt remains a viable alternative for professional users, particularly video makers willing to pay a premium for guaranteed high speeds. Over the past year, several Thunderbolt 2 hubs have come to market — boxes with one Thunderbolt 2 connection to a computer, one for a Thunderbolt accessory, and multiple ports to connect USB, audio, video, and Ethernet accessories. The idea: keep all of your gear hooked up to the hub, then use a single cable to connect it all to your Mac.

Known for large, heavy, professional-grade Mac accessories, CalDigit has just released Thunderbolt Station 2 ($199), which squeezes the same functionality offered by Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD and Elgato’s $230 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review) into a smaller, denser-feeling enclosure, at a lower MSRP — sort of. In reality, Thunderbolt Station 2 has some very specific benefits and one limitation that place it on par with its competitors, making the choice between them a more personal decision…

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Seagate and LaCie debut fashionable/wireless hard drives for iOS and Mac ahead of 2015 CES

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Seagate and its LaCie subsidiary have announced five new hard drives just ahead of this week’s 2015 CES, including two new iOS-compatible wireless models and three new Mac-only disks. All except one will be available in January from the company’s web sites.

For iOS, the 500GB Seagate Wireless ($130) is an economical and portable, battery-powered hard disk designed to compete with G-Technology’s G-Connect and Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless. Just under 4″ on each side and less than an inch thick, Seagate’s version is designed to look fun, with your choice of green, blue, gray, red, or white matte housings, and uses integrated Wi-Fi to connect with iOS devices and Macs for media playback as well as Android/Windows/Chrome. It runs for nine hours between charges and can connect to 3 devices simultaneously.

Seagate Seven ($100) is a Mac-only alternative that promises to be the world’s thinnest portable hard drive. Made from 100% stainless steel, the enclosure is only 7mm thick and includes a USB 3.0 cable for connecting to a computer, giving up wireless in order to achieve its small size. In a break from traditionally boxy or rounded hard drives, Seven is actually slim enough to let you see the contours of the traditional hard disk mechanism inside. Three additional drives are discussed below…

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Review: Elgato’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is a faster, one-cable hub for all your Mac peripherals

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As “really good Mac accessory ideas” go, Thunderbolt docks are high on the list. It’s hard to overstate the sheer convenience of connecting a bunch of peripherals to a central hub, then running one Thunderbolt cable from the hub to your Mac — a huge time-saver if you’re frequently bringing any Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook in and out of an office full of hardware.

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Earlier this year, Elgato’s original Thunderbolt Dock brought that convenience to Macs with first-generation Thunderbolt Ports. For the same $230 price, the just-released Thunderbolt 2 Dock ramps up the speed using twin Thunderbolt 2 connectors, and also boosts the performance of integrated USB 3.0, HDMI video, and analog audio-out ports. The under-the-hood changes make it a solid pick regardless of whether you have a newer Mac with Thunderbolt 2, and even if you’re using an older Mac with Thunderbolt.

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LG announces impressive 31-inch 4K monitor with Mac compatibility for $1,399

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Click to enlarge, note Mac interface for scale

Update: The monitor doesn’t actually cost $2,499—that is the Australian price. In the U.S., the monitor will be shipping for a much more reasonable $1,399.

LG Electronics on Tuesday unveiled its new 31-inch Digital Cinema 4K monitor (4096×2160 px) for $1,399. Apple users will be pleased to hear that the monitor is compatible with both Mac and Thunderbolt. The monitor includes a Mini DisplayPort (in addition to 2 HDMI ports and 1 DisplayPort), which uses the same physical port as Thunderbolt enabling Mac users to drive the 4K display over a single Mini DisplayPort 1.2 cable.

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Opinion: What can we expect from a Retina iMac, and who will buy it?

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Desktop fans have waited a long time for a Retina iMac, but it now seems pretty clear the wait won’t last too much longer. Our sources told us last month that the machines are “in the late testing phases,” and the rumor is that the machine will have a 5K display, with a resolution of 5120×2880 – exactly double that of the current 27-inch iMac.

We may even have identified the specific display Apple intends to use: a 27-inch 5K panel announced by Dell is looking like a very plausible candidate. This panel would provide a pixel density of 218 PPI, about the same as that of the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro …

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DisplayPort 1.3 announced w/ support for upcoming 5K displays, enhanced 4K performance

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) announced today that it’s introducing the latest DisplayPort technology that brings support for upcoming 5K monitors and more. DisplayPort 1.3 for audio and video increases the standard to a maximum link bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps and as a result supports 5K displays with resolutions of 5120 x 2880 on a single cable without compression methods. In addition, users will notice enhanced performance for 4K displays in multi-monitor setups over a single DisplayPort connection: Read more

LaCie announces d2 Thunderbolt 2 drive w/ new design & optional SSD upgrade

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LaCie is out today with the new d2 Thunderbolt 2 drive featuring a new design with a smaller footprint and an optional SSD upgrade for adding faster storage to the mix. The new LaCie d2 is an up-to-6TB hard drive spec’d at 7200 RPM with speeds up to 220 MB/s and two Thunderbolt 2 ports alongside a USB 3 port. Aside from the new design, part of the LaCie d2’s story is the option to add a solid state drive to the package with a user-upgradable solid state drive panel from LaCie to make the d2 even faster and more capable. LaCie says the optional SSD upgrade offers a theoretical speed boost from 220 MB/s to 1150 MB/s for data transfer: Read more

Review: Samsung’s U28D590D 28-inch 4k monitor finally brings quality 4k at an affordable price

Ever since the Mac Pro was released in December, we’ve faced an onslaught of 4k displays. We reviewed Seiki’s budget offering last year, and while we liked it overall, it did have more than its fair share of set backs. For instance, you could only use the full 4k resolution at 30Hz, which meant that there would be noticeable lag when using the display as a monitor. Despite the low refresh rate, the display was still a great deal at its then $450 price point (now down to $390) and truly got us excited for the potential of 4k. At CES this year, we also saw a variety of 4k displays, some of which were priced for budget-minded customers, and some of which were high-end. Noticeably missing from CES, however, was Apple’s frenemy supplier/competitor Samsung.

Samsung, at the end of May, unveiled its take on an affordable 4k display. Samsung’s U28D590D is a 28-inch 4k monitor that supports full 4k resolution at 60Hz via a DisplayPort 1.2 connection. There are also two HDMI ports, but they’ll only do 4k at 30Hz, like the Seiki. The big selling point of the Samsung monitor, aside from doing 4k at 60Hz, is that it costs just $646 on Amazon. This puts it far below any currently available 4k monitor with 60Hz capabilities. I purchased the Samsung U28D590D on Amazon while it was priced at $666 and have been using it as my primary display for the past week. How does it compare to the Seiki? Is 4k all it’s hyped up to be? Let’s discuss.

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Leaked technical data indicates 40 Gbps transfer rates coming with Thunderbolt 3.0

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A new set of leaked tech specs for the third-generation version of Intel’s Thunderbolt technology appearing on VRZone today indicate that “Alpine Ridge” controller will allow double the bandwidth (up to 40 Gbps, versus the current 20), cut the system’s power consumption in half, and even feature a new type of connector that would enable the charging the host computer through the Thunderbolt port at up to 100 watts—enough to easily handle the 85W required for the 15″ MacBook Pro (via MacRumors).

Of course, as we saw with Apple’s switch to the Lightning plug on iOS devices, changing the connector that operates a large number of accessories isn’t exactly a popular idea with the general public, despite the benefits of doing so. As with any such change, adapters will allow  existing products to maintain compatibilty with the new connection.

See the leaked specs and read more below…