Critical Mass

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock

MULTI-FORMAT INTERFACE

The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock (www.belkin.com) enables MacBook and ultrabook users to instantly access multiple desktop peripherals with one cable. The dock allows users to simultaneously connect to multiple USB devices, watch movies in full HD 1080p, transfer volumes of data in seconds and view online content at gigabit Ethernet speeds. The dock provides an easy transition from a desktop workstation to unrestricted mobile productivity. The Thunderbolt Express Dock provides a much-needed solution that creates a cleaner, faster, more productive workspace and reliable connectivity to desktop devices and the Internet. Available from electronics retailers at a suggested MSRP of $299.

THREE-SLOT PCI EXPRESS EXPANSION CHASSIS

The Magma ExpressBox 3T (www.magma.com/thunderbolt) provides an "outside-the-box" solution for using PCIe® cards with Thunderbolt-equipped computers. High-performance workflows are possible by connecting a Thunderbolt-equipped computer to a Magma ExpressBox 3T containing PCIe cards such as video capture, media transcoding, audio processing and fast data storage. Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, so you can daisy-chain a high-resolution display with your Magma ExpressBox 3T. The pre-order price is $979.

There are also a wide variety of Thunderbolt to USB 3.0, USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800 and GB Ethernet adapters coming to the market on an ongoing basis from various manufacturers.

THE COMPETITION

The major competing standard to Thunderbolt is USB 3.0, which was introduced in 2009 and has many more devices available than Thunderbolt. USB 3.0 only has a theoretical 4.8 Gbps transfer speed and only outputs 5 watts of device power through, both of which are half of the capability of the Thunderbolt specification. But USB 3.0 is backwards-compatible with the millions of USB 2.0 devices on the market, giving it a leg up in establishing itself as the predominant standard. It would seem that USB 3.0 is plenty fast for the typical consumer, while the greater capability of Thunderbolt would obviously be superior for pro video and photography users.

Fortunately, Thunderbolt was invented by Intel, and Intel sells millions of processors to PC manufacturers, so the hope is that the Thunderbolt standard will expand and establish itself into the PC market as well as the Apple market. The question is, based upon previous formats, will the Thunderbolt standard introduced by Apple, like FireWire, become a boutique standard, only used by Apple users. FireWire was released on a number of PCs, but failed to gain much traction in the PC market.

The year 2012 will serve as a make or break year for the Thunderbolt standard. From a technical standpoint, Thunderbolt serves as an outstanding, ground-breaking solution for the storage, editing and interface needs of audio, video and photography users. In the past, standards such as FireWire, which were also technologically advanced for their time, have remained a mostly Apple-only standard. Only time will tell if Thunderbolt will continue to evolve and grow to fulfill the requirements of new standards like 4K video and 3D video editing, as they come to the forefront of media production.

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