Professional users, especially video editors prefer Thunderbolt over the new USB 3.0, despite it becoming increasingly popular. Recently, a lot of Thunderbolt 2 hubs have been launched. These hubs have one connection for the computer, one for an accessory and numerous other ports for Ethernet, video, audio and USB. The idea is to keep all your devices connected to the box and using a single cable to connect all of the gear you want to your Mac. This is our CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 2 review.
CalDigit, which is known mostly for their professional accessories for the Mac, has just launched the Thunderbolt Station 2. The new hub offers the same features as the Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD from Belkin ($300) and the Thunderbolt 2 Dock from Elgato ($230) into a denser and much smaller package at a price of $199. However, the Thunderbolt Station 2 offers a few benefits and a limitation that makes it worthy of taking into consideration among other such hubs, ultimately meaning it’s more of a personal choice when deciding on a hub.
CalDigit’s hub doesn’t exactly look like a common accessory for Mac. The device measures 4.9 inches by 3.8 inches by 1.75 and it is built almost completely out of aluminum which makes it look a lot closer to a Western Digital hard disk drive than a normal hub. The hub feels quite resilient and solid even though it doesn’t have a unibody frame. A small blue LED on the front of the Thunderbolt Station 2 lights up when the device is connected to power and a computer.
The Thunderbolt 2 can be used in both upright position, such as a mini tower and in horizontal position, unlike Elgato’s and Belkin’s hubs that are a lot longer and can only be used in horizontally. Whatever position you choose for your hub, rubber pads will make sure the device will not slip on the surface you place it on.
The back of the device is where all the magic happens. There are three USB 3.0 ports (one is on the front of the device and two are on the back), an Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a power input and an HDMI port (which supports both 2K and 4K). Thunderbolt 2 also has two 6Gbps eSATA ports for your hard disk drives. Elgato and Belkin did not include such a port mainly because eSATA is no longer as popular in the Mac world. However, if you are still using eSATA, these ports will allow you to connect your hard drives on any Mac that features a Thunderbolt port.
We didn’t experience any problems with the hub. Every device we connected to it worked flawlessly: fast USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2 transfer speeds, perfect HDMI output and great audio. However, remember that all the devices you connect to this hub share a single port on you Mac, so speed depends on how many gadgets you plug in.
The rear USB port on the Thunderbolt 2 will not send power to devices if a computer is not connected to it and turned on. Fortunately, this is not the case with the front USB port and it is powered all the time. This means that you can charge your iPhone or iPad when a computer is not connected to the hub.
The hub from CalDigit is a good alternative for hubs already on the market. It’s a great choice if you are looking for a smaller package or wish to be able to connect your eSATA hard drives. However, be aware that this hub doesn’t come with a Thunderbolt cable.
We can’t exactly say which hub is the best but it is good to know that there are several options out there.
Images source: 9to5mac.com