Belkin has announced its Thunderbolt Express Dock, a small unit that will allow owners of Thunderbolt-capable Macs to plug multiple peripherals into their Macs via a single cable. As reported by AppleInsider, Belkin's Thunderbolt Express Dock includes the following built-in ports:
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 Firewire 800 port
- 1 HDMI
- 1 3.5 mm audio jack
- 2 Thunderbolt ports -- one upstream, one downstream
The dock will allow all of your peripheral devices to plug into your Mac via a single Thunderbolt cable. That all sounds really great, but there are two big gotchas. First is availability; Belkin won't release the Thunderbolt Express Dock until September 2012, which means Apple's Thunderbolt Display remains the only practical Thunderbolt-enabled docking solution.
The second and even more worrying gotcha is the price: at US$299, Belkin has priced the Thunderbolt Express Dock far beyond the reach of what the average consumer is likely to pay. This little accessory would sell like crazy if Belkin priced it more reasonably -- say $99 or even $129 -- but 300 bucks puts the Thunderbolt Express Dock way out of my price range, and probably out of range for most people who'd consider picking one up.
Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals have been both thin on the ground and highly priced in the year since Apple debuted the new connector, which hasn't painted an especially reassuring picture for Thunderbolt's future. However, at CES 2012 a variety of non-Mac PCs were announced with Thunderbolt support, as well as external drives from major manufacturers. Hopefully when more Thunderbolt-equipped PCs are in the wild, peripheral makers will be encouraged to step up production and lower those eye-popping prices.