Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock: What price convenience?

It's basically 'too' expensive, but, if it saves a big daily fuss and gives you the extra ports you need, isn't it worth it?

It's basically 'too' expensive, but, if it saves a big daily fuss and gives you the extra ports you need, isn't it worth it?

A lot more than a glorified USB hub. And costs a lot more too. (Credit: Belkin)

The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock is still one of the only Thunderbolt external docks on the market and it's understandable why. You're basically making and marketing a product everyone is going to argue costs too much for what it is.

It's a device that looks and feels as basic as a stylish USB hub, the likes of which run at middling double-figure prices these days. But this is AU$349.95 and doesn't come with a required Thunderbolt cable which adds at least AU$35 to the price.

Complaints aren't inaccurate. That is serious money. But it really is so much more than a USB hub.

When Thunderbolt was announced it was always intended as a means to expand and extend the capability of lightweight laptops. It delivers 10Gbps of bandwidth in both directions, effectively adding the equivalent of internal component connectivity to a range of external devices.

The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock adds 3 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x FireWire 800 port, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port, 1 x Thunderbolt port (you can daisy chain up to 5), 1 x headphone jack and 1 x microphone jack. That's a major set of expansions for a MacBook Air when you come back to your desk. Even if you don't need every one of these ports, the convenience of jacking in a single cable when you come back to your main desk is a major convenience compared with plugging in a series of cables if you use an external monitor, wired Ethernet or other external storage or devices at the desk.

(Credit: Belkin)

Thunderbolt has not taken off as the next big thing, but it is a major convenience for those who have a supporting laptop — which pretty much means Mac users. The lack of competitive options, however, mean Belkin's dock is basically all there is.

On one hand it's likely that it really is expensive to produce a refined hub that delivers a high-quality Thunderbolt experience. On the other hand, when you have no competition it's easy to charge whatever you want to. If you need to plug all those devices at once into a laptop that doesn't have the ports to do it, you simply need to buy this dock.

So what is convenience worth to you? Do you hate the sight or the fuss of cables dragging around your desk being pushed and pulled on a daily basis? At AU$349.95, is the convenience of that single cable and the elegance of tucking all your other cables out of the way hidden behind the hub worth, say, 50c a day over two years?

The price versus convenience factor of the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock really does sit in the balance. It is a big investment on the day you buy, but if you're committed to the Thunderbolt platform it is a deeply convenient solution.