The Matrox DS1 Docking Station is the first Thunderbolt-compatible docking station available for the Mac OS X platform. The docking station expands the functionality of a MacBook laptop by additing addition video, audio, networking and peripheral ports via a single Thunderbolt connection.
The Matrox DS1 comes with one Thunderbolt port, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports and one Gigabit Ethernet port, as well as separate 3.5mm audio ports for input and output. The docking station offers a huge increase in connectivity options for laptops with a minimal number of ports, including the MacBook Air. Even if you don’t care about having additional USB ports, the convenience of using only one cable for wired networking and audio in/out can be valuable.
Transceivers for wireless keyboards and mice can be plugged into the USB 2.0 ports, along with an external DVI or HDMI monitor. You could also use the dock to add a high-definition external LCD display. Gigabit Ethernet offers substantial boosts in transfer speed and reliability, which can be particularly valuable when transferring large files.
Installation consists of powering up the DS1 Docking Station using the included AC adapter and plugging in a Thunderbolt cable, which must be purchased separately. The various ports are automatically enabled as soon as the dock is powered on, and you don't need to install any drivers or tweak any configuration. Link aggregation can also be enabled if used with a Thunderbolt Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
One complaint I have about the DS1 is its rather strange positioning of the Thunderbolt port on the front panel. The DS1 also comes with just one Thunderbolt port to keep costs low. That's not as bad as it sounds, but it does mean that only one Thunderbolt device can be connected to it at a time. So the DS1 must be the last device on a Thunderbolt chain.
Back view of the Matrox DS1. The above unit sports a DVI port; a HDMI version is also available.
The Matrox DS1 connected via Thunderbolt cable.
Conclusion: Matrox DS1
The Matrox DS1 docking station costs $250, and it comes with a stylish metal chassis. It is available in two versions: the DS1/DVI with DVI (1920x1200) video output; and the DS1/HDMI with HDMI (1920x1080) output. As previously noted, a Thunderbolt cable must be purchased separately. The DS1 is currently available in the United States, and it will be released worldwide in January.