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Thunderbolt 2 docks roundup: The easy way to connect to your Mac laptop

Roman Loyola | May 26, 2015
The major change since I last did a roundup of Thunderbolt docks is that the latest docks use Thunderbolt 2, which makes them aligned with Apple's Thunderbolt 2 implementation in its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

StarTech includes not one, not two, but three different power cords, one each for the U.S., U.K., and E.U. The company also includes a Thunderbolt cable.

Rest of the pack

Akitio Thunder2 Dock

Most of the docks in this roundup resemble nicer-looking KVM switches, but the $279 Thunder2 Dock () takes a different approach: from a distance, the device looks like a portable hard drive. And instead of lining up the ports on the rear (with a few ports on the front for quick access), the Akitio dock has ports on three of its four sides. That means that instead of your cables being hidden from view (for the most part) in the rear, the cables are in plain sight. The Akitio's design could be more functional for you, especially if you are connecting and disconnecting devices frequently — but if you aren't, the Akitio design leads to a potentially messy cable layout.

With two eSATA ports, a FireWire 800 port and two USB 3 ports (that can charge your iOS device), the Akitio Thunder2 Dock is geared for someone who needs flexibility with attaching storage devices to your Mac. The dock does have two Thunderbolt 2 connectors and you can connect a Thunderbolt or mini DisplayPort display. There's no gigabit Ethernet, audio connectors, or HDMI. When you consider the $279 price (Thunderbolt cable included) and the ports, the Akitio dock fills a niche that's different than the other docks.

Apple Thunderbolt Display

The $999 Thunderbolt Display can be used as a dock. The problem is that the product hasn't been updated since it was released in 2011, before USB 3 and Thunderbolt 2 were available on the Mac. It has USB 2.0 ports and it has the first-generation Thunderbolt implementation instead of Thunderbolt 2.

If you don't care about performance, the Thunderbolt Display will work well and you won't have another device taking up space on your desk. The display has three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, gigabit ethernet, and a security slot. There's also a built-in Thunderbolt cable that you plug into your laptop, as well as a Thunderbolt port.

If you do care about performance, then you should know that in the Aja System Test, the Thunderbolt Display posted USB drive read speeds of 25.2 MBps and write speeds of 9.9 MBps. Slow when compared to USB 3.

Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD

The $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD () is almost identical in design to its predecessor, the Thunderbolt Express Dock. Besides upgrading to Thunderbolt 2, Belkin changed the port configuration. This dock has a front USB 3 port and a headset jack, a design change from before. The back of the dock has two USB 3 ports (all of the USB 3 ports can charge a device), gigabit ethernet, a headphone jack, HDMI, and two Thunderbolt 2 ports.


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