| on January 18, 2013
Price When Reviewed: £155 plus VAT
Pros: Plug and play; USB 3.0 and gigabit ethernet connectivity; one-cable convenience
Cons: Single Thunderbolt port limits daisy-chaining options; requires Mountain Lion
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Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina Display is thin, light, and great for travelling, but when you get to your desk, the ritual of plugging in a keyboard, external monitor, DVD drive, speakers, and an external hard drive can feel anything but convenient. For ethernet users, the MBP's lack of an ethernet port can be problematic if you don't have an Apple Thunderbolt Display or a Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.
The DS1 from Matrox can help. This docking station has a single Thunderbolt connector, and when you connect it to your Mac with a Thunderbolt cable, the DS1 provides connectivity for audio, gigabit ethernet, USB 3 (one port) and USB 2.0 (two ports). It does not have FireWire ports.
There are two different models of the DS1, one with a DVI video output and one with HDMI video output. If you have a DVI or HDMI display, you can connect it to the DS1, instead of using a Mini DisplayPort adapter and connecting to your Mac's Thunderbolt port.
The DS1 creates when Matrox calls, "one-cable convenience," eliminating the need to connect and disconnect individual devices as you come and go from your desk. Simply unplug the Thunderbolt cable and power adapter from your laptop, and you're free to take your MacBook wherever you need to go, without having to unplug other cables.
If you have a Mac with one Thunderbolt port (such as the MacBook Air), there's one major downside to the DS1 – it also has one Thunderbolt port, which is used to connect to your Mac. When using the DS1, you can't connect a single-port external Thunderbolt drive and the DS1 at the same time. However, if you have Thunderbolt device with two Thunderbolt ports (such as LaCie's Little Big Disk, which we tested with the DS1), you can connect the DS1 to that device, which then connects to your Mac. Since the DS1 has only has one Thunderbolt port, it must be the end of a Thunderbolt daisy chain.
To test the DS1 in our lab, we connected it to a number of different peripherals. First, we made sure to update our MacBook to OS X 10.8.2, since the DS1 won't function properly with previous operating systems. After completing the OS update, we connected a LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD to our MacBook , and the DS1 to the LaCie drive. We also connected a DVI display to the DS1 and used it in a mirrored setting (you may also configure the display to extend your desktop). After connecting a display, we added a USB keyboard and a mouse using the two USB 2.0 ports on the back of the DS1. Finally, we connected a gigabit ethernet cable and headphones to the back, and a USB 3.0 external drive to the front. Everything worked as expected.
The DS1 is a docking station with a nice complement of connectivity options to turn your Thunderbolt MacBook into a full-fledged desktop workstation without having to spend $1000 on Apple's Thunderbolt display. The DS1 provides gigabit ethernet, extra USB ports, and audio-in and out, as well as DVI or HDMI monitor output, with just one cable to connect and disconnect between your computer and the device. Its lack of a second Thunderbolt port for attaching peripherals is unfortunate, however,