Apple has made some fairly bold moves over the last 18 months with their professional Mac lines. The saw omission of both FireWire 800 and Ethernet peripherals, and removal of an optical disc drive. The new Mac Pro took it a step further and abandoned PCI expansion, seemingly handing its entire modular ability into the hands of Thunderbolt. With what’s seemed a very slow adaption to the protocol by most, Sonnet is starting to churn out some very interesting thunderbolt products, regaining compatibility to Apples flagship lines.
With the former mentioned exclusions to the , there were of course some counter offers by Apple that provided us with (what Apple are clearly considering) ‘backwards compatibility’ products.
The Apple FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt, Apple USB SuperDrive and Apple Ethernet to Thunderbolt all surfaced to offer re-assurance to investors in Apples latest professional laptop solutions. The problem? Your desk is left looking like a cable graveyard, with every possible port taken up for the most basic of professional configurations. It’s expensive also; I racked up well over $150 on adaptors when buying my Retina.
The Sonnet Docking Station tackles almost all of these issues (all but the issue of additional cost). Using a single Thunderbolt connection, it offers multiple peripherals including USB 3.0, eSATA, audio, thunderbolt and FireWire 800, as well as an optical drive and space for an additional hard drive.
“Sonnet’s Echo 15 Pro+ Dock enables you to connect any Thunderbolt Mac to your peripherals through a single Thunderbolt cable. Simply plug in your devices to the Echo dock with their supplied cables, and connect your computer to the dock with a Thunderbolt cable. When it’s time to disconnect your computer, just unplug the Thunderbolt cable!
Here is specification list of the Sonnet Docking Station:
- 2 x 3 Gb/s eSATA
- 1 x FireWire 800 9-pin (backwards compatible to 400)
- 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 2 x Thunderbolt/ Mini Display
- 4 x USB 3.0 (2 front, 2 rear)
- 2 x Audio input, analog 3.5mm jack front/rear
- 2 x Audio output, stereo 3.5mm jack front/rear
- 1 x Power
- SATA Power (INTERNAL)
- SATA Data (INTERNAL)
- Dimensions 7.87 x 3.3 x 8.86″ (20 x 8.38 x 22.5 cm)
- BD-ROM/8x DVD±RW drive OR 8x DVD±RW drive
This looks like a great addition to a , or iMac; freeing up so many ports whilst also offering so many more. The extra space for an additional hard drive is great also; perfect for a live running backup of your system.
Next to mention is Sonnets tip of the hat to the absence of PCI expansion with the latest Mac Pro. The Sonnet Echo Express III-D is an enclosure offering up to 3 PCIe slots, connecting via Thunderbolt 2 to your compatible system.
“This desktop Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card expansion chassis makes it possible for you to connect three professional video capture, audio interface, SAS or SATA HBA, 16Gb or 8Gb Fibre Channel, 10Gigabit Ethernet, and RAID controller PCIe cards to any Mac® with a Thunderbolt port.
Featuring 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2 technology that provides sufficient bandwidth to support many of the highest performance and most demanding PCIe cards, the Echo Express III-D delivers maximum performance when connected to a computer with Thunderbolt 2.
The III-D is also fully compatible with computers with 10Gbps Thunderbolt technology, supporting the majority of cards at full-performance.”
The Echo Express III-D uses locking Thunderbolt ports to provide a stable professional workflow, as well as direct support for the RED ROCKET. Sonnet have admirably designed the Echo Express III-D to house the RED ROCKET in a single PCIe slot, freeing up the remaining two. There is also dedicated space for the two BNC ports provide with the RED card. The internal fans are designed to run ‘remarkably quiet’ so as not to distract when sat on your desktop. For those who prefer rack mounted solutions, seek the Echo Express III-R.
Many will argue that it’s not up to others to pick up the pieces for what some consider Apples shortfalls. Never less, it’s great to see companies embracing the workflow. We hope to see more, as saturation of this technology will naturally make devices more affordable.