Elgato Thunderbolt Dock review

Connect several devices to your computer by plugging in a single cable

Elgato Thunderbolt

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Elgato's dock is certainly an appealing add-on for a MacBook. Its price tag is similar to other docks, but it's high enough to keep Thunderbolt docks in the realm of an indulgent convenience. Used with any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac that has only USB 2.0 ports, it offers an affordable way to get better transfer rates out of any USB 3.0 storage you've bought in the last few years.

Elgato Thunderbolt dock

Take care when buying, though, because the dock comes in two versions – with and without the cable for £180 and £190, respectively. A cable bought separately costs around £25. Note that the bundle sold through Apple's online store for the lower price includes the cable, so be savvy and shop around.

We liked

Although speeds from the USB ports falls below that of ports built into recent Macs, their overall performance isn't bad per se – write speeds on our SSD were most heavily affected, but read speeds were good.

The dock's 17.8cm by 8cm size means it doesn't take up much room, and its height of 2.5cm allows it to be comfortably tucked under an iMac. The Thunderbolt cable that's provided is the ideal length for positioning, and it's just long enough to keep a mess of cables away from a MacBook.

The software utility to eject connected drives is the icing on the cake when it comes to convenience for a MacBook. This is a feature that both Belkin and Matrox's docks lack, even though their marketing pitches them for the same purpose.

We disliked

USB transfer rates will be mildly disappointing if you were expecting the very best from the spec sheet's boast of 5GB/s and UASP support. Knowing the speed limitation of the USB 3.0 ports at least allows you to assess which devices will work adequately enough through the dock, and which you might want to always connect to your Mac to ensure they operate at their best. If you care about this, the dock's one-cable-to-connect appeal is slightly diminished.

The exclusion of FireWire isn't a major problem for most people as it can be added with an adaptor. However, doing so will require a rethink of your cabling if you currently connect a DVI or HDMI display to your Mac using a Mini DisplayPort adaptor.

Final verdict

Ultimately, Elgato's dock isn't much different to its rivals, except for promise of faster USB ports. It lives up to that, although to a more limited extent than you might like. It's the best-specced Thunderbolt dock to date; with add-on software that shows good thought has gone into how it will be used.