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CalDigit Thunderbolt Station
Update: the MPG docking station of choice is the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock (as of early 2015).
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station™ adds three (3) USB 3.0 ports, audio in/out, HDMI and ethernet to any Thunderbolt Mac.
- Two (2) Thunderbolt ports.
- HDMI out.
- Three USB 3.0 ports.
- Gigabit ethernet port.
- Audio in and audio out.
- MSRP $199.
The unit is a handy expansion item for the 2013 Mac Pro.
As of March 14, 2014, the Thunderbolt Station now adds support via a driver for:
- iOS device charging, such as iPad and iPhone.
- Apple USB SuperDrive
- Apple Keyboard
MPG has verified operation of high power devices including the Apple USB SuperDrive (burning a DVD) and iPad (charging and also connecting and updating iOS over that connection).
The iPad is a high power draw device that few USB hubs will charge, and while the TRIPP LITE USB3 hub will charge an iPad on its one special high power port, but it will not function as a data connection (charging only). The CalDigit Thunderbolt station not only charges the iPad, but provides a data connection to the computer.
On a laptop such as the MacBook Pro with Retina display, your author has used wired gigabit ethernet via the Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter, leaving one Thunderbolt port and two USB3 ports available.
For your author, the USB3 ports are always in use while at home and often when traveling too (external drive, camera card reader, digital devices of various kinds, mouse, at least for use at home, so “one short”).
And so the CalDigit Thunderbolt station functions as a triple-port USB3 expansion box, including the ability for all three ports to charge devices.
The HDMI and sound ports might also be useful for some users.
MPG plugged the NEC PA301W display into the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station and it worked correctly in both landscape orientation (2560 X 1600) and portrait orientation (1600 X 2560), using the latest OS X Mavericks.
This can matter for some: the MacBook Pro and Mac Mini have only two Thunderbolt ports and the MacMini is severely constrained with only one Thunderbolt port. Thus by attaching the display to the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station, the other Thunderbolt port remains available.
The HDMI port should work similarly, but MPG did not test it explicitly.
For the gigabit ethernet port, use Network Preferences to create.
The manual makes no makes no mention of this, and it cost me some time to figure it out (as well as there being some kind of system bug where it could not be created).
But I was pleased to find that ethernet through the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station worked perfectly coming out of sleep (within a few seconds), whereas the Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter had become a serious headache, requiring a reboot to regain internet function in OS X Mavericks.
The CalDigit Thunderbolt Station provides up to the standard 900 mA of power for charging USB3 devices (500 mA for USB2 devices). While this is not enough to charge an iPad, CalDigit’s specifications state that it will in fact charge an iPad at a slower rate, even if the iPad claims “not charging”. I did not verify this claim.
Power usage was not measured, but the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station does get warm with use when using the ethernet port.
My big disappointment (literally) is that the cord and power brick together are nearly as large and heavy as the unit itself (power brick plus robust power cable plus the thinner low voltage cable from the unit itself to the power brick).
While this is actually good engineering to externalize the power supply (keeps heat down inside the unit), it adds to the pile and tangle of cords and cables for the 2013 Mac Pro.
Because wall power is required for the Thunderbolt Station, it is not particularly useful for travel other than the “hotel room”. And with the bulky power brick and cord, it’s a lot to carry.
Notebook computers have become increasingly powerful, delivering performance that rivals traditional desktop workstations. However, they have always been disadvantaged due to the lack of connectivity, often sacrificed for portability. Thanks to the incredible versatility of Thunderbolt™ technology, the CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station allows users to add multiple interfaces to your current computer with a single Thunderbolt™ connection.
The CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station adds USB 3.0, Audio In & Out, HDMI, and Ethernet connectivity to your computer via dual Thunderbolt™ ports. Housed in a high strength aluminum body, the CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station's rugged construction and portable form factor make it an excellent solution for professionals on the road. Priced at $199 (MSRP), the CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station is a solid value for anyone looking to expand the versatility of their Thunderbolt™ enabled computer and less expensive than anything else on market.