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Computex: Thunderbolt is coming, slowly for now

There has been a lot of talk about Thunderbolt and we’ve already seen motherboards from all of the major manufacturers that support the new standard, as well as many Ultrabooks and even a tablet and that doesn’t even take Apple into account. What we haven’t really seen a lot of so far is accessories, but we did spot a fair few new products at Computex, so we thought we’d share them with you.

First up we have a very compact Thunderbolt dock made by Pegatron, although this is an OEM product and we don’t know quite where it’ll turn up or under what brand. It has a pair of Thunderbolt ports, as well as three USB 3.0 ports courtesy of a FrescoLogic FL1100 host controller, an HDMI port and an Ethernet port. This should hopefully end up being an affordable solution once it launches, at least more so than Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock which is priced at US$399.

Next up we have a docking solution from Sunix which is unlike anything we’ve seen so far and it’s also easily the biggest docking solution we’ve ever seen. It adds the usual connectivity options you’d expect from a dock such as four USB 3.0 ports, three audio jacks, optical S/PDIF out, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a memory card reader. It also supports daisy chaining, but these features are pretty much the norm. What Sunix has done to stand out is to add a slot-loaded slim Blu-ray writer, as well as an internal 3.5-inch SATA 6Gbps drive. This makes the Sunix solution night on half a PC and it’s actually bigger than many nettops we’ve seen.

HighPoint was showing off its range of RocketThunder modules which are intended for both storage solutions with SATA as well as SAS, but also towards external drive enclosures with options for various slot configurations. Due to the limited bandwidth of Thunderbolt, none of HighPoint’s solutions are aimed towards external graphics expansion, although at least one model could potentially be used for it had it had an open ended PCI Express x4 slot. The company also showed off a simple Thunderbolt to SATA 6Gbps dual hard drive dock that works the same way a USB 3.0 hard drive dock does.

Netstore was showing off a pair of external units that can accept up to three PCI Express cards depending on model, but once again, the bandwidth is limited. The company is also offering a PCI Express to ExpressCard 34 adapter so notebook expansion cards can be used with Thunderbolt equipped notebooks or Ultrabooks that lack ExpressCard slots.

QNAP and Raidon were both show off various external enclosures, of which Raidon’s dual drive 2.5-inch enclosure is the unusual one out of the lot. Not only does it have Thunderbolt connectivity, but it also supports expansion via an eSATA port. The other enclosures were pretty standard affairs that accept up to four 3.5-inch drives.

We weren’t exactly blown away by the imagination by the manufacturers making Thunderbolt devices, but then again, technically it’s just an external x4 PCI Express interface as far as most of us are concerned. The display connectivity part didn’t seem to have been considered by anyone, but maybe we’ll see something more interesting with regards to that come Display Taiwan 2012 next week.

Kitguru says: The good news is that Thunderbolt is no longer Apple exclusive and we’re finally starting to see a wide range of products that uses the interface, but USB 3.0 is still a lot cheaper and not always that much slower.

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