Apple’s decision to move to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C in its new MacBook Pro with Touch bar models generated some heat but is also fostering a boom in MacBook Pro hubs. These hubs are designed to add support for earlier flavors of USB, Lightning, HDMI and other interconnect standards.
On hubs and hubris
When Apple elected to move to the new interconnect there was a lot of criticism. In truth, many users won’t need much beyond a Lightning/USB-C adaptor, but many Mac users, particularly in pro markets, will need solutions like these. This is why many vendors have announced new hubs for this purpose in the last few weeks, including these noteworthy examples gathered here.
[Also read: The MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 adapter guide]
Elgato Thunderbolt 3
Elgato’s newly announced Thunderbolt 3 Dock provides you with three USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt USB-C ports, 1 DisplayPort (1.2), and both headphone and microphone jacks. The intention is that you leave the powered dock on your desk where it connects all your peripherals, including displays. (It can power one or two displays using DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 3 at up to 5K). The dock will be available at the end of January 2017 at $299.95.
Introduced at CES 2017, the DEC is attracting lots of attention. This is because while it makes your svelte new MBP as thick as the 2012 model, it also adds USB-A and Gigabit Ethernet ports, an SD card slot and 4TB of storage to your Mac. The product is designed to slot to the underside of your Mac and is expected to ship in Spring 2017, price to be announced.
Announced last year, HyperDrive occupies two of your MacBook Pro’s four USB-C slots. In exchange, it provides you with twin USB 3.1 ports, a microSD and an SD slot, a single USB-C port (at 5Gbps), a Thunderbolt 3 port and HDMI video output. You can power two displays at 4K or a single display at 5K with this. The Kickstarter project raised over a million dollars in funding. This product costs $69.
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD
Similar to the Elgato's product, Belkin announced this dock in October 2016 but still hasn’t said when it is likely to ship. You get two Thunderbolt 3 and two additional USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, headphone jack and Gigabit Ethernet port. The powered dock can also support up to two displays, or one at 5K. Belkin hasn’t yet announced the price but you can find out more here.
Kanex Thunderbolt 3 Travel Dock
Introduced at CES 2017, this is one of three new Thunderbolt 3 accessories from Kanex. It features two HDMI ports, a single USB, and a single USB-C port, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet slot. The portable hub supports dual 4K video output simultaneously and each at 60 fps from both HDMI ports. This product costs $149.95.
What’s interesting about these hubs is that demand is quite clearly there. This is evidenced by the fact that when the Hyperdrive project was announced on Kickstarter it attracted over 11,000 backers, far beyond expectations.
There is already a wide range of other USB-C accessories for Macs.
In response to criticism of its move to the new interconnect, Apple is currently offering steep discounts on those sold through its own online and physical retail stores.
In December the company extended its discount on these products through until March, which strongly suggests that Mac users should take advantage of these offers today to future-proof their existing setups as the industry migrates en masse to USB-C.
“We’re absolutely more sure than ever that we’ve done the right thing,” Apple’s VP marketing, Phil Schiller said when discussing the move to USB-C. The rash of new peripherals suggests that third party Mac accessories vendors agree. They really want to hook you up.
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