There are a number of Thunderbolt hubs around, but this new unit from Other World Computing might be the one to beat.
When I purchased my 27" iMac last year, I thought I had hit the port jackpot. After all, I was coming from a 13" MacBook Air, which is relatively spartan in the input/output department.
The 27" iMac includes a headphone jack, a SD card slot, four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet connector. I thought that I would never run out of plugs.
But, for a power user like me, you start to accumulate things that plug into your computer. I used one Thunderbolt port to connect to a second 27" monitor. I used the other port to connect to an external hard drive, which meant that I couldn't use my television as a third monitor.
I connected an external microphone, plus a Lightning cable, to connect and charge my iPhone, a USB printer, and finally a USB gaming mouse. All of a sudden, I was out of ports!
Then there was the headphone jack, which I was especially annoyed about, because sometimes I listen to music on my headphones while I'm working — and other times, I like to have audio coming through the built-in speakers on the computer. Annoyingly, if you have headphones plugged into the iMac's headphone jack, it totally disables the internal speakers. There's no software override or anything. So, if you want to go from headphones to the internal speakers, you have to reach around behind the iMac and unplug them. Not very handy.
Thankfully, the new Thunderbolt 2 Dock from Other World Computing solves all these problems. It adds a litany of plugs for power users like me, including:
- Five USB 3 ports (including two high-powered ports for charging power-hungry devices like the new iPhone 6 and the iPad
- Line-in and line-out plugs for microphones and headphones
- A FireWire 800 port for connecting legacy devices
- A Gigabit Ethernet port, useful for portable devices that don't include Ethernet
- An HDMI port for connecting another external monitor or television, supporting HDMI 1.4b
- Two Thunderbolt 2 ports, one for connecting to the computer and another to daisy-chain more Thunderbolt devices.
The dock, which is roughly 9 x 4 x 1, is a nice stainless steel with a black top, matching the iMac. I put mine on the rear of my iMac, sitting on a BackPack for iMac from TwelveSouth — it's basically a shelf that connects to the iMac's stand, giving extra storage space behind the big screen.
Everything worked as advertised. I connected a 32" LCD television via HDMI, charged my iOS devices, and connected my home's Gigabit Ethernet connection to it. I can connect my headphones to the audio out jack, and with a quick option-click on the volume menulet next to the clock (a little power user trick), I can change the audio output device quickly and easily. This little box solves all my connectivity problems. It does need to be plugged in for power, taking up another spot on your power strip, but there's no avoiding that.
If you find yourself in need of additional I/O with your recent-vintage, Thunderbolt-equipped Mac, the Other World Computing Thunderbolt 2 Dock is worth a look. It's a great addition to any desk and is one of the few Thunderbolt Docks to support the newer Thunderbolt 2 standard.
Currently, the Thunderbolt 2 Dock is available for pre-order for $250.00 (USD), but after the pre-order period is over, the price will rise to $300.
Do you find yourself needing more ports for all of your external devices? Let us know how you solve this problem in the discussion thread below.