Even though a few years have passed since Thunderbolt appeared in selected Mac models, we are still waiting for flagship peripherals to arrive. This technology comes with great potential which still waits on being fully unleashed, and up until now we only saw a few truly remarkable Thunderbolt-equipped accessories. On the other hand, you can find a number of similar products which fail to bring all the benefits that come with this technology, so we can say that this still is a process of learning how to get the most out of Thunderbolt.
If you’re willing to accept this technology, and I am sure that you’ve got all the requirements for that (at least if you’ve bought a Mac in the last three years) the safest bet would be to buy a docking station. You can use Thunderbolt docks to remove the clutter from your desk by rerouting all the cables into one dock capable of very high speeds. Up until now we brought you reviews of Belkin’s Express Dock and Kanex’s Simpledock, both of which were great accessories with some design or performance limitations. As we wait on the big next solution, we decided to try StarTech’s Docking Station and see if it’s capable of bringing all the benefits of Thunderbolt.
What’s interesting about docking stations like this one is that they usually bring very interesting design. This goes hand in hand with its asking price which is usually $200+ which means that design now plays very important role in persuading a user into buying it. Differently said, these docks are made to work with Apple-made hardware, so it’s important for these products to be aesthetically compatible. StarTech’s docking station resembles the iPhone 4 in many ways, since it brings large black shiny surfaces and silver metal band around the edges. You’ll also receive a stand kit which allows you to mount the dock vertically and you’ll also receive a 3ft (1m) Thunderbolt cable. This device is priced at $250, but you can find it around $200 at various online resellers.
What you’ll receive with this docking station are the following ports: one Ethernet, HDMI, 3 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports, and one audio setup (in/out). In order to check the performance we tested each one of these ports and used accessories which support the highest quality setup. When it comes to USB ports, we used a portable hard drive with UASP support which allows full 3.0 transfer speeds. Even though we expect to see around 430Mbps, StartTech’s docking station peaked at around 320Mbps. Speaking of HDMI, it’s said that it supports up to 1920×1080 resolutions but you can use Thunderbolt technology to reach up to 3840×2160 on the newest Mac models. However, I need to mention that setup wasn’t easy and I needed to spend some time making sure that this setup works since it produced some glitches and crashes as well.
Finally, I also need to say that the headphone and microphone jacks are a bit recessed into the metal band, which may case issues with some larger headphone plugs. This is something to keep in mind if you’ve got one of these headphones.
Even though StarTech managed to create a fully working Thunderbolt dock, it failed to reach its full potential. We were somewhat disappointed with speeds and HDMI connectivity, which is even more worrisome if you pay $250 and expect what it says on the box.
Cable included. Nicely designed. Affordable, in comparison to similar devices.
Slower than expected performance. HDMI limitations.