Like many Mac users, I’ve been hoping for more utilization of the power of Thunderbolt than being able to hook in a few multi-purpose adapters to my MacBook Pro.  So, when Belkin proposed the Thunderbolt dock, I thought that might be the way to go.  I have one now sitting on my desk, nestled behind a 24 inch Apple Cinema Display with a mini-display port hookup.  I use it to hook up my 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro and my 2.5 GHz Core i5 powered Mac Mini using a single Thunderbolt chord to the monitor and a mix of peripherals.  Was the dock worth the $299 it cost?  I’m not so sure.

There are two major reasons why I’m hedging.  The first is that the design just isn’t as well thought through as it could have been.  Its advertising says it has two Thunderbolt ports, which it does, but that’s still misleading.  Yes, it has two, but one of them is used to hook to the Thunderbolt port of your Mac, so only one Thunderbolt port is usable for peripherals.  If your display is, like mine, a mini-display port version, then there are NO Thunderbolt ports remaining for any peripherals on the dock itself.  (I tried to ferret this out prior to its release but obviously was unsuccessful…so I took a gamble…and lost!) This is not much better than my Retina MacBook Pro without the dock, since I typically use one Thunderbolt port for the monitor and the other for a Gigabit Ethernet connection rather than run the slower “N” wireless connection on our home network.  It does leave one Thunderbolt port free that wasn’t before..on the Mac itself.  The dock would have been more worth the money if it had been designed so that the Thunderbolt cable from your Mac connected into the dock’s front, leaving two Thunderbolt ports open on the rear, especially considering the Belkin’s premium cost.  The only way to get full utilization out of the dock is to already have an Apple Thunderbolt monitor.  That really seems redundant..and expensive!

Moreover, this morning I discovered that when hooked to my Mac Mini and booted into Windows 7 via Bootcamp, NONE of the USB 3 devices are being passed through to the Mini!  This is a serious drawback that wasn’t spotted by one reviewer, which shows that most of them are doing little more than regurgitating press releases.  I got everything back by unhooking the Apple keyboard and plugging it directly into the Mac Mini so at least I had a keyboard and mouse and could make things work.  Don’t know whether the Ethernet also didn’t get passed through…

I do like the convenience of usually having to only plug in a Thunderbolt cable instead of USB, audio, etc; but I am honestly now looking at whether I might just give the dock to my wife whose MacBook Air doesn’t have a Bootcamp partition.  For the rest of you thinking about buying it, better think twice if you think it’ll work under Bootcamp; you’ll find yourself doing what I did and plugging stuff in anyway to get it to work.  If you’re running OS X and want it, fine, as long as you realize if you have a mini-display port monitor, any Thunderbolt items will have to be hooked into the Mac itself or there will still be three cables you have to hook up to make it all work (two power, one TB cable to the dock, the other to the monitor).

The bottom line with this device is that the single Thunderbolt cable hook up is still a myth, three hundred dollars later.