Expensive if you need it: Belkin's Thunderbolt Express Dock reviewed
3.5Overall Score
Price (RRP): $349.95 Manufacturer: Belkin

Need more ports on your Mac? Your wish is Belkin’s command, as the company releases a solution that offers lots of expansion ports for your shiny aluminium computer, although it comes with a catch or two.

Features

Designed to blend in with an Apple computer of pretty much any kind (provided it’s covered or built in the Apple hallmark aluminium), Belkin’s Thunderbolt Dock is a port replicator encased in aluminium.

The ports it’s been designed to replicate include Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, three USB 3.0 ports, headphone and audio input, and then one Thunderbolt port.

There are actually two Thunderbolt ports, but one has to be used to connect the dock to the computer. Without it, the dock won’t work, as you can’t run it from USB; it has to work from Thunderbolt, meaning you need a Mac with Thunderbolt to make it work.

A power brick is also supplied to provide a 500mAh charge to the USB ports, though a Thunderbolt cable is not provided in the box, even though it is very much a requirement of the product.

Performance

As Apple reduces its reliance on connectivity options many of us love to use and require in our day jobs, it can be tough to adapt and get used to the restrictions that “thinner” and “lighter” bring to the table.

For instance, the new MacBook Pro with its Retina screen ditches an Ethernet port, forcing you to rely on wireless connectivity, or buy Apple’s Thunderbolt to Gigabit accessory. Firewire isn’t there either, as Apple gave up on its high-speed USB competitor a while ago.

If you rely on either of those formats, you’re essentially stuck, that is until you see what Belkin has cooked up.

Designed to fit into the space of an Apple aficionado, the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock sports these missing ports and more, and relies specifically on being plugged into a Mac over a Thunderbolt port.

This means you need a relatively recent Mac to make use of it, as you must have Thunderbolt to work the dock.

No drivers are needed, and it’s one of those truly plug and play solutions. Plug a Thunderbolt cable in, plug the power brick in, and you’re ready to go, as Mac OS X 10.8 (a requirement) will pick it up immediately.