The new Thunderbolt standard, developed jointly by Apple and Intel, is an exciting prospect for media creation professionals of all sorts. It allows a phenomenal data transfer rate that looks sure to change the way we think about computer peripherals. As of September 2011 Apple has now added Thunderbolt ports to all it’s computers except the Mac Pro which is sure to follow shortly. Like many other photographers though I have been eagerly awaiting some useful peripherals. People “in the know” have suggested that Apple is currently charging a huge amount of money to license the technology though, meaning that consumer targeted solutions will be a while away.
Nonetheless, Thunderbolt peripherals are starting to trickle out and Sonnet Technologies are the first ones that I have seen who are offering a memory card reader solution. In fact the way they have approached the problem is quite clever. Essentially they have build a Thunderbolt enabled dock for existing expresscard expansion ports. You can buy one of their Echo docks and then simply add to it the relevant expresscard adapter. They have a dual compact flash card reader, an SD card reader and of course Firewire and all manner of USB and SATA. This is clever because it means you only have to buy the dock once, thereby only sucking up the currently high Thunderbolt licensing fee just once, but allowing you to use different options plugged into it.
WARNING ! THIS IS NOT CHEAP ! The Echo dock is slated to ship in October for a cost of $150 , you will then need a Thunderbolt cable from Apple for $50 and a Sonnet CF card/expresscard reader for $100. Yes that makes it a $300 card reader!! More if you want to add other options. Due to the high licensing cost though we are not likely to see mainstream manufacturers like Sandisk, Belkin etc offering a solution anytime soon though…
While it’s great to see manufacturers develop hardware to support thunderbolt, I’m not sure what the purpose of this particular device would be over the built in SD card reader on Macbook Pros, or a regular USB card reader. Take a Class 10 SD Card, it has a theoretical data transfer rate of 10MBps and CF at 20MBps. USB 2.0 handles 480Mbps/60MBps. So theoretically using a thunderbolt SD/CF card reader won’t yield faster transfer rates compared to USB card readers at current (affordable) SD card speeds.
Scott – Burnt Stew Computers, Whistler.
Its a good point, but there are some other considerations. My Macbook Air doesn’t have an SD reader, and most of my cameras and other pro camera use CF cards anyway, at $300 this is a pro solution for sure (if someone can find enough benefit in it)
Also I’m going to assume that anyone who might want to drop $300 on a card reading solution is also not worried about low priced cards. My Sandisk ones are 90mb/s but currently through my Sandisk reader I only get 20mb/s write and 30mb/s read ( I just ran AJA on it for a reference). For those kind of crappy speeds this solution would be an improvement though granted I’m not going to buy it …..
The third thing is that this also allows people with newer Macbook Pros to connect eSata devices to their laptops and it gives Firewire to Macbook Air users. That opens up some usefulness.
Just a quick note. The licensing fees for Thunderbolt are from Intel, not Apple. Apple is itself a licensee of Thunderbolt.
Wan’t it co-developed by both of them ?
No, Intel developed it but Apple and a number of other companies are part of the “consortium”.
Licensing is still payed to Intel… the other members were just showing faith in the concept.
Just a point about the Sonet dock. It only has a SINGLE thunderbold port, so if you have a monitor connected to your Mac, you will have to run it without the screen while copying the files 🙁