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New Thunderbolt accessories signal renaissance of Mac customization

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Want to customize your Mac(s aapl)? Unless you’re happy with making changes to the RAM, or really nothing at all on MacBook Air models, you face limited options these days. But newly announced Thunderbolt(s intc) accessories could soon help your Mac do a pretty good impression of more expensive professional machines, like the Mac Pro.

Magma’s three-slot expansion chassis for Thunderbolt, the ExpressBox 3T announced by the company on Wednesday, is a perfect example of how Intel’s high-speed I/O port, which ships on nearly all new Macs, could bring back a greater range of customization options for owners of Apple computers. The accessory will allow you to use any PCIe 2.0 cards with Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, including video capture devices, media transcoding tools and high-speed data storage.

The ExpressBox 3T can be daisy-chained with up to six Thunderbolt devices, including the new 27-inch Cinema Display that Apple just recently began shipping to stores. It also could mean that PCIe graphics cards will let less powerful machines like the MacBook Air keep up with higher end devices for gaming and video editing applications.

It’s another step along the path of Thunderbolt allowing Mac notebooks to become powerful workstations through single-cable plug-in solutions, something which can’t come fast enough in my opinion. Portable computers already account for the bulk of PC sales, and if tech like Thunderbolt can ensure that we can have portability without sacrificing power, storage or speed when settling in to performing demanding tasks, we should be able to move closer still to Jobs’ Post-PC era.

Magma hasn’t announced pricing or availability info for the ExpressBox 3T yet, but the company will be showing off the device, and possibly releasing more information at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, which runs Sept. 13 – 15. Sonnet, which makes the upcoming ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt adapter, has also announced PCIe expansion chassis products, but no details about its release timeline have yet been unveiled. Let’s hope they all hurry up and get here so we can see what Thunderbolt is really capable of.

5 Responses to “New Thunderbolt accessories signal renaissance of Mac customization”

  1. I agree with your comment. The thunderbolt seems to be a step backwards from FireWire 400 & 800. For example, before purchasing the MacBook Pro recently, I was able to live capture video by way of FireWire cable from my video camera to my computer either by QuickTime or Final Cut Pro. Sine I was told thunderbolt was bidirectional I assumed it could receive video signal but soon after purchase found differently. I purchased a MacBook pro with thunderbolt & also the cable from the Apple store, that had HDMI on one end & thunderbolt on the other end for camera to laptop use.

    I have yet to get the laptop to see my camera that is connected to the laptop. I call 1-800-my-Apple & was assured it’d work. Apple sets me up an appointment at local Apple retail store with genius tech & he can’t figure it out. He finally tells me that thunderbolt doesn’t work with capturing video from a video camera source.

    To return to the post comment, I do feel Apple has taken some steps back. I can no longer live capture from video camera to MacBook anymore.

  2. This modular design thing (like everything else Apple has done in the pro market) seems like a step backward to me. I don’t see the benefit of splitting a workstation into pieces. Sure, it might benefit mobile production on a laptop (maybe to capture dailies and stuff), but Apple and the press are trying to sell this as a replacement to the Mac Pro. I don’t see the cost benefit, or even the practicality benefits of replacing one unitized cohesive chassis with integrated parts with a bunch of little chassis filled with distinct and separate systems that come together through a single lane. Am I the only one that thinks this is a major step down from the Mac Pro? This is like when they killed X Serve and suggested people use Minis instead. This ecosystem is becoming a joke. Every Mac person I know (including me) has started to give some serious attention to PC workstations like the HPZ800 or Boxx. I could have never imagined I’d be looking at PCs again, but if this is Apple’s future, a half-baked non-integrated solution for Pros – well, it was nice while it lasted I guess.

  3. each of the mac pros pci slots can do almost 3000MB per second per slot thats over 12000MB total compared to 600MB total for thunderbolt without a monitor hooked up.
    I say the mac pro will be needed for quite awhile, most non pros dont relize the huge difference in bandwith between the two.
    the maximum the TB 3 bay pci slot can do is 600MB divided by 3 or 200 MB per slot

  4. Digital Dazzle

    That alone is worth upgrading to a Thunderbolt notebook or iMac. However, this could also spell the end of the Mac Pro, but then Apple has been slowing down “all things Pro” anyway…