Matrox DS1 is 'world's first' Thunderbolt docking station

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Although the high speed Thunderbolt protocol was introduced with Apple's MacBook Pro line in March 2011, products have been slow to reach consumers, but Matrox looks to change that with its DS1 docking station.

Matrox DS1


Launched last week, the $249 Matrox DS1 is one of the first Thunderbolt docking stations to hit the market, providing a breakout box into which Mac users can connect their collection of peripherals with one cable.

Most Thunderbolt-equipped accessories seen so far have been high-end hard drives or external SSDs, monitors and specialty equipment targeted at professionals. While this trend is normal with many new I/O formats, Thunderbolt has taken an unusually long time to curry favor with device makers marketing to the average consumer.

Currently, MacBook Pro or Air owners have few choices when it comes to a Thunderbolt-ready hub, one being Apple's own Thunderbolt Display, which is disappointing given the spec's bandwidth capabilities.

As for the Matrox DS1, the concept is simple: create a dock that leverages the 10-gigabit per second protocol to consolidate a number of components on a Mac user's desk.

Front View
Matrox DS1 front view when connected to laptop and "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0.


Build quality is high, with an aluminum frame protecting substantial, weighty innards. On the back are two USB 2.0 ports, separate audio in/out plugs, a Gigabit Ethernet port and either an HDMI or DVI output connector, while the front stays clean with one "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 port and one Thunderbolt port. The unit is not very large and sits rather unassumingly at the end of a Thunderbolt daisy chain.

Note that the DS1 must be at the end of a chain because it does not support Thunderbolt pass-through, something painfully obvious as the station only holds one Thunderbolt port. While not a problem for most consumers, pass-through is a main feature of the high-speed I/O tech and mimics the abilities of FireWire. In the case of Thunderbolt, the specifications limit the chain to seven devices, including two Thunderbolt-enabled displays, at least one of which requires two ports.

On the topic of FireWire, the DS1 curiously lacks support the legacy high-speed standard, a choice which could be a deal breaker for some. Many pro users, especially those in the audio/visual industry, still have equipment that outputs through FireWire. Matrox says that market studies indicate that most MacBook Pro and Air users don't own FireWire equipment, so the company opted for USB 3.0 instead.

Back View
Backside ports. From left: HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0, audio out, mic in, power.


Over the week AppleInsider was able to test the DS1, it performed as expected, with high transfer rates over USB 3.0 and low-latency display output through HDMI. There was zero lag when mirroring a late 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro's desktop, including full-screen video, on a 55-inch HDTV in full 1,920-by-1,080 resolution. It should be noted that customers must decide between either a DVI or HDMI configuration as the docking station does not support both.

Transfer speeds over USB 2.0 and Gigabit Ethernet were on par with the direct output from the laptop's ports, and the so-called SuperSpeed USB 3.0 was a welcome addition to the year-old laptop which lacks the newer interconnect. The station also delivers power over USB as the current iterations of Thunderbolt still rely on copper wire, though this will change once interconnects switch to fiber optic sometime down the road.

For owners of current Retina display MacBook Pros, the station basically replicates the existing I/O ports, the only addition being Gigabit Ethernet and one USB connection. The choice to stick with two USB 2.0 ports in the rear of the DS1 is also questionable as it seems like a step backward from Apple's all-USB 3.0 offerings.

Plug-and-play operability was solid, and devices were recognized quickly and without fault. Thunderbolt peripherals, like LaCie's external SSD, saw negligible drops in speed, and USB 2.0 HDDs worked normally. When all ports were connected to and operating a peripheral, the DS1 got a bit warm, as did the Apple Thunderbolt cable feeding out from the laptop, but temperatures never reached a critical level.

Size
Size comparison with iPhone 5.


It is clear Matrox is targeting the mass market with the DS1, with more standard USB and HDMI ports and a desktop-friendly design, but the accessibility comes at a steep price. With Apple leading the charge in Thunderbolt adoption, however, docking stations like the Matrox offering could begin to hit store shelves at increasingly lower prices.

The unit is on sale now at select retailers and the online Matrox store for $249.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 84
    That is one handy box! And for $249 you can't go wrong. Or get the 8-port from [URL=http://www.belkin.com/us/thunderbolt]Belkin[/URL] in13Q1:

    [IMG ALT=""]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/17936/width/500/height/1000[/IMG]
  • Reply 2 of 84
    I don't get why it doesn't have Thunderbolt out and USB 3.0. Hopefully someone else makes one that has it.

    edit: I see [B]PhilBoogie[/B] has found one. Turns out that price will be $400, which is $100 over the current Belkin Thunderbolt dock, and doesn't include a Thunderbolt cable.
  • Reply 3 of 84
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member


    Glad to see more TB products out there, but how about a TB external GPU—or slot in which to install one? Whatever card the drivers can handle! (Meaning, I suppose, whatever OS X expects a Mac Pro to handle.)


     


    I can’t give up Air portability, but TB has held out the promise of greater GPU power when I’m at home at my desk. All promise... no reality, so far. A GPU made for Mac Pro would be FAR better than you’d expect an ultrathin laptop to be able to offer. Come on, TB, let me have my cake and eat it too! Plus then I could choose to keep the same (home-base-only) GPU when getting a new Air.

  • Reply 4 of 84
    nagromme wrote: »
    Glad to see more TB products out there, but how about a TB external GPU—or slot in which to install one?

    Sonnet sells those

    1000
  • Reply 5 of 84
    nagromme wrote: »
    Glad to see more TB products out there, but how about a TB external GPU—or slot in which to install one? Whatever card the drivers can handle! (Meaning, I suppose, whatever OS X expects a Mac Pro to handle.)

    I can’t give up Air portability, but TB has held out the promise of greater GPU power when I’m at home at my desk. All promise... no reality, so far. A GPU made for Mac Pro would be FAR better than you’d expect an ultrathin laptop to be able to offer. Come on, TB, let me have my cake and eat it too! Plus then I could choose to keep the same (home-base-only) GPU when getting a new Air.

    They appear to be available.
  • Reply 6 of 84
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post





    Sonnet sells those



    That's a nice little box.  I'll have to check that one out.

  • Reply 7 of 84
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post





    Sonnet sells those


     


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    They appear to be available.


     


    I very much fear, though, that existing products such as those two don’t support GPUs.

  • Reply 8 of 84
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    I think I'll hold out for the next Thunderbolt display. The device variety for Thunderbolt (at 20 months and counting) is disappointing to say the least, and the fact that most of them don't have a second port for chaining is a huge cause for concern.
  • Reply 9 of 84

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    They appear to be available.


    That thing costs nearly $1000.00. That's crazy.


     


    The Sonnet box is better, as it costs "only" $400-$800 depending on the model, but it only works with half-length cards.


     


    Does anyone know why these things cost so much? If Thunderbolt is really just external PCI-Express, it seems that a TB->PCIe adapter should be a very simple piece of equipment, shouldn't it?

  • Reply 10 of 84
    nagromme wrote: »
    I very much fear, though, that existing products such as those two don’t support GPUs.

    Magma FAQ:

    Q: Does GPU or video card work with ExpressBox 3T?
    A: The GPU must be supported by the Operating System AND have a compatible Thunderbolt Driver.

    So the Magma does support GPUs but you still need to find a PCIe GPU that supports it with Thunderbolt -and- Mac OS X drivers.
  • Reply 11 of 84
    solipsismx wrote: »
    They appear to be available.

    1000
  • Reply 12 of 84
    nagromme wrote: »
    I very much fear, though, that existing products such as those two don’t support GPUs.

    From their KB:
    714 Do GPU cards work over Thunderbolt on Windows? Nov-02-12
    GPU cards over Thunderbolt under Windows are currently neither supported by Sonnet, nor the GPU card vendors, nor Microsoft.

    Several GPU cards do seem to work with Windows if you boot the maching with the Thunderbolt chassis attached at boot time. We should also note that Sonnet Echo chassis don't currently provide auxillary PCIe power which several high-power GPU cards require. Furthermore, the power required by the card must to be under the rated power of the chassis less 10W for Thunderbolt, less the power drawn by a subsequent bus-powered Thunderbolt device, if any. Here's an informative link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pci-express-graphics-thunderbolt,3263.html Bonne chance.

    ...so I have no idea! I do remember the Dell docking station for their Latitude back in, what 1998? Damn, that was a challenge getting it to work under NT4!
  • Reply 13 of 84
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,740member


    Matrox should be embarrassed to bring this to market with two USB 2.0 connectors.

  • Reply 14 of 84
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    I don't get why it doesn't have Thunderbolt out and USB 3.0. Hopefully someone else makes one that has it.

    edit: I see PhilBoogie has found one. Turns out that price will be $400, which is $100 over the current Belkin Thunderbolt dock, and doesn't include a Thunderbolt cable.


    Intel has several chip variations. This was likely an issue of cost to produce the logic board for such a thing. It also could have been an issue of getting certification for a thunderbolt out port there.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    Glad to see more TB products out there, but how about a TB external GPU—or slot in which to install one? Whatever card the drivers can handle! (Meaning, I suppose, whatever OS X expects a Mac Pro to handle.)


     


    I can’t give up Air portability, but TB has held out the promise of greater GPU power when I’m at home at my desk. All promise... no reality, so far. A GPU made for Mac Pro would be FAR better than you’d expect an ultrathin laptop to be able to offer. Come on, TB, let me have my cake and eat it too! Plus then I could choose to keep the same (home-base-only) GPU when getting a new Air.



    There are a number of potential issues with an external gpu. I wouldn't personally trust one unless it's certified by a company that produces graphics cards. If someone manages to make a plug and play kind of device, you'll probably see an Anandtech review.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by drblank View Post


    That's a nice little box.  I'll have to check that one out.





    You still need to ensure that the gpu works properly under OSX unless you're just gaming under Windows. I'm not sure if the thunderbolt port on Macs has bootcamp drivers. There are motherboards with thunderbolt ports at this point and a handful of notebooks. I don't think it's natively supported by Windows though in the sense of generic Windows support. You also may have to reboot to get it to see something like a gpu. They aren't typically hot plugged devices. You're also limited on bandwidth. The high end cards are not likely to run at maximum performance levels. Most of them won't even work with these boxes. Some of the top gpus can exceed 200W. Just make sure you check all of the details prior to moving forward.

  • Reply 15 of 84
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    I bet spending al that money will help make one person feel better since they have a hole burnt into their pocket. Whew saved by Matrox. Now he wont have to buy new dockers. Wa waa waaa waaaaaa.
  • Reply 16 of 84
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Magma FAQ:

    Q: Does GPU or video card work with ExpressBox 3T?

    A: The GPU must be supported by the Operating System AND have a compatible Thunderbolt Driver. So the Magma does support GPUs but you still need to find a PCIe GPU that supports it with Thunderbolt -and- Mac OS X drivers.


     


    Hmmm... interesting. I always assumed that the only external GPU PCI cards that would be possible (for Mac) would be the ones Apple officially has drivers for—meaning, the cards Apple sells for Mac Pros. But it sounds like you also need special TB drivers as well? In that case, a PCI card via TB must not appear to the system in the same way a PCI card normally appears. I wonder if that's a potential compatibility problem for all manner of PCI cards—sounds that way.


     


    Their compatibility list seems to contain no graphics cards, just a note: “External graphics support is a feature many users desire and we’ll keep you informed."


     


    I hold out hope for the future... I’d spent $100-$150 for a chassis that let me connect a decent dedicated GPU to a MacBook Air. (Hot plugging not expected... I can accept a reboot if I have to. But I do want it to be OS X! OS X is where I game, while Windows remains safely virtualized and strictly used for occasional testing of web stuff in IE.)

  • Reply 17 of 84


    "On the topic of FireWire, the DS1 curiously lacks support the legacy high-speed standard, a choice which could be a deal breaker for some. Many pro users, especially those in the audio/visual industry, still have equipment that outputs through FireWire. Matrox says that market studies indicate that most MacBook Pro and Air users don't own FireWire equipment, so the company opted for USB 3.0 instead."


     


    Who the heck did Matrox survey!!! Only people who bought MBP & Airs in the last six months??? There are still millions of those models in use that have only USB 2.0 and Firewire. Am I supposed to believe that I'm the only one of those people (i.e. not pro users, not in the audio/visual industry) who uses Firewire…that almost everybody else use only USB 2.0!?!?!


     


    No doubt in my mind. This piece of s… item will not sell well.

  • Reply 18 of 84
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    philboogie wrote: »
    That is one handy box! And for $249 you can't go wrong. Or get the 8-port from Belkin in13Q1:
    1000

    Nice! Any idea on price of this device! Well equipped for the video semi-pro market. I don't understand Matrox thinking FireWire isn't necessary. They are missing they very market they specialize in, video editing. Who doesn't have some FireWire gear in this field? My only concern is Belkin doesn't scream 'quality' in my experience. Hopefully I am wrong.

    Meanwhile ... Mac Pro 2013 gets closer.... Oh yeah baby!
  • Reply 19 of 84
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    No
    nagromme wrote: »
    Glad to see more TB products out there, but how about a TB external GPU—or slot in which to install one? Whatever card the drivers can handle! (Meaning, I suppose, whatever OS X expects a Mac Pro to handle.)

    I can’t give up Air portability, but TB has held out the promise of greater GPU power when I’m at home at my desk. All promise... no reality, so far. A GPU made for Mac Pro would be FAR better than you’d expect an ultrathin laptop to be able to offer. Come on, TB, let me have my cake and eat it too! Plus then I could choose to keep the same (home-base-only) GPU when getting a new Air.

    Nobody promised GPU support over TB except for a few poorly informed pundits on the web. The idea has no merit at this time.
  • Reply 20 of 84

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post



    No

    Nobody promised GPU support over TB except for a few poorly informed pundits on the web. The idea has no merit at this time.


     


    ahem


     


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4474/sony-updates-vaio-z-thinner-lighter-light-peak-and-external-gpu


     


     


     


     


    Quote:


    The main reason why the new Vaio Z is so much lighter and thinner than its predecessor is the lack of a discrete GPU. It comes with Intel HD 3000 which is integrated into the CPU die, whereas the old Vaio Z came with a discrete NVIDIA GT 330M. However, Sony has provided an interesting solution to this. They have announced a Power Media Dock (PMD) which is basically a souped up external optical drive. The external dock has an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of DDR3 in it as well. The AMD 6650M allows you to connect up to two displays to the PMD so you can have a total four displays: two attached to the PMD, one attached to the laptop’s HDMI port and obviously the laptop’s integrated LCD. 




























    AMD 6650M specifications

    Shaders

    480

    GPU frequency

    600MHz

    Memory

    1GB DDR3

    Memory frequency

    900MHz

    Memory bus width

    128-bit


    To make this worthwhile, Sony uses Intel’s Light Peak technology (yes, Sony calls it Light Peak, not Thunderbolt) which provides up to 10Gb/s of bandwidth in each direction.



Sign In or Register to comment.