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Thunderbolt expansion docks for MacBook Pro have been slow to come to get started with offerings from Matrox and Belkin only now coming to market after lengthy delays. And they’re pricey, too, at $299 and $249 respectively. A new Kickstarter project called the MacDock argues you can do almost as much for considerably less, and without adding Thunderbolt into the mix.
Instead, the MacDock (and MacDock Mini, which is smallest but with fewer connectors) opt to take advantage of the addition of USB 3.0 to later-generation MacBooks to provide an expansion solution that likely fits the needs of most, in a portable package that retails for less than half what the Thunderbolt expansion options mentioned above are currently going for. A combined USB 3.0 and DisplayPort connector mean you can also hook external displays up to the MacDock, and it’s backwards compatible with USB 2.0 connectors, too.
The dock has a unique design compared to most, with a thin ribbon connecting the part that jacks into your Mac to the extension block with the added ports. The MacDock Mini merely replicates the ports it plugs into, giving you a single USB 3.0 (or USB 2.0, depending on which generation MacBook you have) and a single DisplayPort, but kept away from the body of your MacBook with a lead that will be either 25 or 50cm in length (depending on the results of a backer survey to follow). The MacDock borrows the same design, but puts three USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort and an audio jack on the hub end, greatly expanding your connection options. Both come in both black and sliver finishes. Versions designed to work with the MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Air models will come later depending on funding achieved.
I asked U.K. designer Jan Sapper, the project creator, why he felt the need to bring this expansion dock to market when there are no shortage of USB hubs out there already. He argued that nothing that currently exists can both do everything the MacDock can (combining audio, USB and video into a single solution) and none match Apple’s unique design sensibilities. Sapper has been working on the MacDock for over a year now, and is partnering with Austrian data transmission firm Pidso (which counts Boeing and BMW among its clients) to get the product production-ready.
Pledges start at £37 ($57 U.S.) for a MacDock Mini, and £57 ($88) for a full-sized MacDock. Sapper is targeting an October 2013 delivery date for the gadget, so here’s hoping he built some allowances for changes in MacBook Pro design into that £30,000 funding target.