Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Expensive, doesn’t include Thunderbolt cable
Belkin’s Thunderbolt dock acts as the high-speed middleman between your Mac (or more likely MacBook) and all your desktop accessories. Unfortunately Belkin doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable, so you’ll need to allow $35 for a 0.5-metre cable or $45 for a 2-metre cable.
The dock features slick silver styling which will look at home amongst the other Apple gear on your desk. On the back you’ll find two Thunderbolt ports, three USB3.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone jack and microphone jack. There’s also an AC jack, as it’s a powered dock which needs to be plugged into a power point. A cable groove runs underneath the dock, from back to front, letting you run a Thunderbolt cable under the dock and out the front to your Mac.
Unfortunately Belkin’s dock doesn’t feature any other video connectors, so the first Thunderbolt port is reserved for connecting to your Mac and the second Thunderbolt port will probably serve your desktop monitor. If you won’t be hooking up a monitor, you really need to question whether a cheaper USB2/3 dock would be more practical.
If you own Apple’s 27in Thunderbolt monitor then this dock is pretty much redundant, because it has all those connectors built-in. If you don’t own a Thunderbolt-capable monitor then you’ll need a Mini DisplayPort cable or adaptor to connect the Belkin dock’s second Thunderbolt port to your desktop monitor.
Load up the dock with devices, plug it into the Thunderbolt port on your Mac and everything just works automagically. All your desktop peripherals pop up as if they were connected directly to your Mac, and the speed of Thunderbolt ensures everything runs smoothly. Mountain Lion‘s multiple monitor options kick in, so you can spread your desktop across your MacBook and desktop monitor, or close the lid on the MacBook and work in “clamshell” mode with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse or trackpad.
Belkin’s Thunderbolt dock does pose some questions if you already own a Thunderbolt-enabled external hard drive. There’s no third Thunderbolt port on the dock for connecting up a Thunderbolt external drive. If your Mac only features one Thunderbolt port, reserved for the Belkin dock, then you might be forced to connect your Thunderbolt external drive via USB or Firewire (assuming it has such connectors). Some external Thunderbolt drives feature two Thunderbolt ports, so you could daisy chain the external drive between your Mac and the dock. Other external drives only feature one Thunderbolt port and thus must be last in the daisy chain. If this is the case, you’ll need to make some compromises.
There are more cost-effective Mac docking options on the shelves, but if your budget will stretch and you’ve got a hankering for Thunderbolt then Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock won’t disappoint. Just spare a thought as to how you might connect up other Thunderbolt accessories.