Latest MacBook hub on Kickstarter is the neatest yet, with form-fitting design

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Ever since Apple launched the single-port 12-inch MacBook, we’ve seen a flurry of companies offering to add the missing ports back in through various adapters, hubsdocks and more. Latest to the party is Branch, a Kickstarter project whose USP is its ‘form-fitted’ shape, which is naturally available in each of the three MacBook colors.

The emphasis here is on packing the essentials into an extremely portable unit, providing USB-C pass-through, two USB 3.0 ports and one Mini Display port capable of driving a 4K monitor. The company had originally pitched with HDMI (shown above), but said that it has switched to Mini DisplayPort following feedback from Kickstarter users …  Read more

Review: Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock fits a 7-port Thunderbolt 2 hub in your favorite MacBook bag

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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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Review: Mobee’s Magic Hub hijacks your iMac’s stand to add 3 hidden USB 3.0 ports, 2.1-Amp charging

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USB hubs are often hard to tell apart from one another: the Moshi iLynx 3 I reviewed here in February was the rare hub that actually matched the silver metal and black plastic look of the Macs it was designed to be used with. After an extended post-announcement delay, long-time Mac accessory maker Mobee Technology has finally released an alternative that uses two cool tricks to stand apart from all of its rivals: the Magic Hub ($50).

Five inches tall, 2.6″ wide and around 2″ thick, the Magic Hub is the first USB hub designed such that its physical characteristics are all but irrelevant. Mobee’s concept is to completely hide the Hub behind your iMac, filling the hole Apple left in the iMac’s stand using a screw-on clamp and a pass-through wall power port. Rather than requiring its own wall outlet for power, it hijacks the iMac’s power cable and passes power through both itself and your computer, powering four USB 3.0 ports in the process. If that sounds cool, read on…
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Review: OWC’s Envoy Pro mini hides a MacBook-like SSD inside a USB 3.0 flash drive

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Across the How-To guides I’ve written for adding solid state drives (SSDs) to iMacs, Mac Pros, Mac minis and MacBooks, there was one option I left out: thumb drives. While external SSDs such as Elgato’s Thunderbolt Drives and Samsung’s T1 can do two things — dramatically speed up Macs and add storage space — thumb drives tend to be much slower, lower in capacity, and made from inexpensive materials to achieve smaller sizes and price points.

Other World Computing’s new Envoy Pro mini (120GB/$119, 240GB/$199) sits directly between thumb drives and SSDs in both features and performance. “It’s nearly twice as fast as the average thumb drive,” OWC says, and roughly the size of an actual adult thumb — larger than most USB flash drives, but a lot smaller than traditional external hard drives, while promising “desktop-class” SSD speeds, capacities, and build quality. Unlike common plastic thumb drives, it’s made from aluminum and uses a USB 3.0 connector, yet matches desktop SSD 120GB or 240GB storage capacities. It’s affordable, but clearly designed to be a professional option.

How does it actually stack up? Read on…

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How-To: Choose the best external hard drive for your Mac (or iOS device!)

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I feel old saying this, but having used computers since before external hard drives existed, I can say with certainty that buying a hard drive is easier today than it’s ever been before. For traditional drives, prices are low, options are numerous, and capacities are so high that your only choices are “enough space,” “more than enough space,” and “way more than enough space.” I could point you towards a gigantic 5-Terabyte $139 Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive right now and end this article without another paragraph. Since Apple doesn’t even sell a Mac with that much disk space, you could back up five (or more) computers to that drive without running out of room. Or you could store a decade worth of digital photos alongside a giant media library. For $139!

But buying an external hard drive isn’t necessarily that simple. There are a bunch of factors worth considering before making a purchase, including everything from reliability to portability, design, capacity, speed, and connectivity. Some hard drives are really cheap but have a higher chance of failing after a year or two of heavy use. So in this How-To, I’m going to discuss the big issues you need to consider, and guide you towards the best external hard drive for your needs…

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LaCie’s new Porsche Design Mobile Drive USB-C will support 12″ Retina MacBook

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LaCie today announced that its upcoming Porsche Design Mobile Drive USB-C (USB 3.0) will be its first design with a “user-friendly USB-C connector,” compatible with Apple’s just-announced 12″ MacBook laptop. The USB-C connector will be built into the plastic edge of the distinctively boxy solid aluminum housing, with an included adapter cable for traditional USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 connector compatibility. Using USB-C or USB 3.0, the drive promises transfer speeds up to 100MB/second, with a speed reduction when using USB 2.0.

The drive will come in three capacities: a slim 500GB model (shown below) and regular-sized 1TB and 2TB units (shown above). LaCie has not yet announced pricing for the drives, but plans to release them in the second quarter of 2015. We would expect to see quite a few USB-C drives by then, as both Apple and its customers continue a transition away from Thunderbolt that seemed inevitable back in 2013.

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Seagate zaps Thunderbolt drives, LaCie to continue lineup

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Seagate will discontinue its lineup of Thunderbolt storage products in favor of pushing Thunderbolt under its premium LaCie brand, 9to5Mac has learned.

A company spokesperson confirmed the move noting that the product life cycles for the company’s USM technology, which allowed integration of interfaces like Thunderbolt through adapters, is “coming to a conclusion.” Read more

Review: Transcend’s JetDrives add whopping 240-960GB SSD to MacBook Air at a great price

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See that little $190 daughter card up there^? It houses 240GB of Transcend SSD and it could replace the 64GB or 128GB SSD that came in your MacBook Air in as little as 5 minutes. Even better, Transcend just released larger versions in 480GB and 960GB sizes to blow your SATA III MacBook Air or Pro into new worlds of space. Keep in mind these are SATA-based SSDs and Apple’s latest round of MacBook Pro/Airs came with speedier PCIe SSDs so you can’t use these on Apple’s late 2013/2014 models (see bottom of the article for compatibility list).

I got my hands on a demo unit and took it for a test drive…

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Review: OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini dual-drive external enclosure with RAID

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One of the reasons I like Macs is that their useful life tends to be significantly longer than that of a typical Windows machine. This is especially true of the pre-Retina MacBook Pro models, where it’s trivial to upgrade both the RAM and the drive.

I’d previously swapped out the 750GB hard drive and optical drive that came with my late-2011 MacBook Pro 17 for two 1TB hard drives. Along with a RAM upgrade, that gave me a 16GB RAM, 2TB hard drive machine. The plan was to use the machine in that form for a year or two, then do a further upgrade to SSDs once 1TB models arrived and fell to a halfway sensible price.

When that finally happened, and I did the upgrade, that gave me two 1TB hard drives surplus to requirements. I could have placed each into its own external drive caddy, but one 2TB drive is more useful than two 1TB ones, so I decided instead to try out OWC’s Mercury Elite Pro mini. This is an external enclosure for two 2.5-inch drives, which supports both USB 3 and Firewire 800, drawing power from either source – making it a portable drive without the need for external power …  Read more

Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock

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There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

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Review: Satechi’s 4, 7, & 10 port USB hubs compared

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Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of Satechi’s USB hubs in my effort to combat my growing need to wire in more stuff to my Mac’s 4 USB ports. While wireless is often more convenient and downright necessary on laptops to have a good experience, I still enjoy the speed and reliability of a wired connection on my desktop setup. To have a completely ergonomic experience and avoid plugging and unplugging things, a USB hub of some sort is definitely needed. The challenge to buying the right hub for your needs is deciphering how each hub differs; it’s not just limited to the number of ports available…

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