We’re pretty high on the new MacBook Pro, but like always, we’re mildly annoyed that we’re going to need a bunch of new adapters and cables. The new MacBook Pro only has USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, which means no HDMI, no standard USB Type-A ports, no ethernet ports (admittedly, we’ve been used to that for a while) — you get the idea. Type-C really is a wonderful, do-it-all connector, but implementing it is tricky, and we still haven’t seen a lot of peripherals make the jump. So, if we have to buy a bunch of new hubs and adapters to happily use our Apple devices (admittedly, we’ve been used to that for a while, too), we might as well get something that will last. Belkin’s one of the first out of the gate with the goods, introducing a new productivity dock, a Thunderbolt 3 cable, and a USB Type-C-to-HDMI adapter.
The Thunderbolt Express Dock HD is the productivity dock, and it’s going to replace most of the missing ports on the new MacBook Pro. It’s a sleek, solid aluminum dock with one USB Type-A 3.0 port and a combination headphone/mic 3.5 mm port on the front. The party is in the back, with two USB Type-A 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports, one DisplayPort, one audio out port, and one Gigabit ethernet port. The only thing that’s missing is an SD card slot — Satechi’s USB Type-C hub has one, but that hub doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3 and its faster data transfer speeds.
The dock will come with a Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C cable and a power adapter, which means the MacBook Pro (or any future laptop with USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports) can be charged through the dock while still getting 40 GB/s Thunderbolt 3 transfer speeds and DisplayPort output, all in one package. To help manage this, the dock can supply 85 watts of power through itself and the included Type-C Thunderbolt 3 cable. It’s enough power to ensure that the dock can be a viable replacement for your laptop’s power supply, so you don’t need to bring both when traveling. It can also handle dual 4k video output, using the DisplayPort and one of the Thunderbolt ports. Here’s another impressive number — up to five other Thunderbolt devices, including external drives, can be daisy chained from the dock.
Next up is the USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 cable. Normally we’d blanch at a $70 cable (we still kind of do), but Type-C cables aren’t as interchangeable as older USB cables. USB Type-C is still in the process of being understood, but there are a lot of difficulties in ensuring safe power delivery — something that, if gotten wrong in a cable, could possibly damage your devices. We’re not sure how big the risk is in using a cheap Type-C cable, but there’s enough to make us consider spending a little more for the reassurance.
The Belkin cable has USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connectors on both ends and supplies 60 watts of power, making it an effective and safe way to charge a device and transfer data at 40 GB/s at the same time. It can also be used as an A/V cable, and supports 4k video output. This cable is 2 meters long (Belkin already has a .5-meter cable available).
But, there still aren’t many displays with USB Type-C connectors. Until then, we’ll need HDMI-to-USB Type-C adapters. Right now, Belkin’s USB-C to HDMI Adapter is ideal only for the new MacBook Pro, which has Type-C ports and Type-C ports only. The adapter supports 4k HDR video output from a Type-C port and supports the HDCP 2.2 copyright protection standard that services like Netflix and iTunes require.
Belkin hasn’t yet announced pricing or a hard release date for the Thunderbolt Express Dock HD. The 2-meter Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C cable is $70 and will be available directly from Belkin on November 4, while the 0.5-meter version is on their site for $30. The USB-C to HDMI Adapter is $50, but the release date is still TBA.