A couple of weeks ago I was researching Thunderbolt peripherals and noticed that Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock was due to reach stores in September this year. That would have been after several delays. Today I checked again and delivery has suddenly slipped once more. Belkin is now forecasting “first quarter, 2013.”
I cannot imagine what is causing all these delays. On the face of it, this is a relatively simple device. However, since there are no Thunderbolt hubs and very few Thunderbolt peripherals on the market, there will be a pent-up demand for the Express Dock when it does hit the shelves, almost irrespective of price.
The dock will make it much easier to use a MacBook Pro or Air as a desktop replacement. Just one Thunderbolt connection to the computer gives access to everything you need, including Ethernet, FireWire, USB 3.0 and sound, plus an onward port for Thunderbolt daisychaining. If you have a late-model Cinema Display it will be possible to plug it directly into the dock, thus keeping the computer connections down to an absolute minimum: one power cord and one Thunderbolt cable. Simple.
The current Apple Cinema Display is the nearest we have to a Thunderbolt dock. In common with the Belkin Express Dock, it offers Ethernet, Thunderbolt, FireWire and USB ports. The big snag is that the USB 2.0 ports on the Cinema Display are well behind the times. I would not recommend spending so much cash (£899, $999) on a display that will soon be out of date. After all, unlike a computer, the Cinema Display is a long-time keeper, good for at least five years. The upcoming facelift should offer USB 3.0 ports and, if I had my way, a second Thunderbolt port.
One thing is certain: If Apple does announce an upgraded Cinema Display with USB 3.0, many prospective buyers for the Belkin dock will decide that the display offers expansion enough. The repeated delays in delivery will cost Belkin dear.
by Mike Evans, 4 October 2012
UPDATE 10 October 2012: Reader Ben Haines (see comments) points out that since the above story Belkin have removed any reference to the Thunderbolt Express Dock from the web site. It looks as though the device is not just postponed, but scrapped completely. It leaves Thunderbolt fans with no hope of a hub or dock even eighteen months after the introduction of the faster port. Anyone know the reasons behind this about face?