Apple ThunderBolt To USB 3.0 Adapters

A ThunderBolt to USB3 converter is most likely to appeal to Mac users with early models of Macs that have ThunderBolt but only came with slower USB 2.0 ports. ThunderBolt's rival - SuperSpeed USB 3.0 has finally gotten serious traction in the computer market. USB 3.0's 5Gbps vs ThunderBolt's 10Gbps bandwidth may seem a significant difference, but frankly, alot of computer peripherals simply DON'T NEED TO or can't even begin to fill the USB 3.0 pipe - let alone twice that with ThunderBolt's 10Gbps pipeline.

ThunderBolt USB 3 Dongles / Adapter

For modest needs, a small dongle like that from Kanex that incorporates a USB 3.0 port (along with Gigabit Ethernet or eSATA) may be all you need. It's ideal for 'upgrading', say, a MacBook Air with ThunderBolt, but only a slow USB 2.0 port. You can always add a USB 3.0 hub for even more device support. RocketStor's ThunderBolt 2 box is more hardcore and pricier, because each independent USB 3.0 port has it's own dedicated controller chip for FULL 5Gbps potential thruput per port.
   
Kanex ThunderBolt USB 3.0 Dongle

With 10/100/Gigabit Ethernet
USB 3 ThunderBolt 2 Hub

4 Full 5Gbps Speed USB3 Ports

Multiport ThunderBolt Docks With USB 3 - And More

The few currently shipping ThunderBolt to USB 3.0 docking solutions are from OWC, Akitio, Matrox, CalDigit, ElGato and Belkin with their multi-port adapters priced in the $200-$300 range. With three or more USB 3.0 ports these docks have the technical advantage for connecting more SuperSpeed USB3 devices.

 
Akitio ThunderBolt Drive Dock

USB 3.0 - FireWire 800 - eSATA
Belkin ThunderBolt Express Dock

8 Various Device Ports Total


For those with a big investment in legacy storage devices, Akitio's ThunderBolt To USB 3.0, eSATA and FireWire 800 adapter lets you connect any or all of these types of HDD or SSD drives to your ThunderBolt enabled Mac. Akitio's ThunderBolt hub doesn't offer HDMI Video or Audio ports, but excels for multiple FW800, eSATA and USB3 drive interfaces. It's available in a revised 20Gbps ThunderBolt 2 model, tho the original 10Gbps version is still available at a discount if your needs are modest.

CalDigit's ThunderBolt Dock offers three USB 3.0 ports in addition to 3.5mm Audio In/Out, HDMI display and Gigabit Ethernet as well as dual Pass-through ThunderBolt ports. For full functionality and optimal USB3.0 device support make sure you're running OSX 10.8.4 or later and downlaod drivers here. iPad and iPhone device charging is also supported.

Belkin's Docking Station was first to market, but their USB 3.0 ports are limited to 2.5Gbps per second (Half of USB 3.0's potential bandwith). For most single USB3 hard drives this doesn't matter, but for SSD and multi-drive RAID arrays it could be a performance bottleneck.

USB 3.0 vs ThunderBolt - A False Either/Or

As with many computer interfaces, this isn't an Either/Or game. BOTH of these high-speed peripheral interfaces have their place in the technology marketplace. USB 3.x and ThunderBolt ports will exist side by side, and both will have thier best uses. USB 3.0's low-cost and backward commpatibility with legacy USB 2 speed devices is just too compelling a benefit for the consumer, so USB ANYTHING won't face the widespread adoption hurdle ThunderBolt needs to overcome. USB ain't going anywhere, and Thunder-Bolt ain't going to 'kill' SuperSpeed. As we've seen with many computer interfaces over the years, they co-exist and sometimes ubiquity wins-out over performance specs and technical 'superiority'.

Apple is currently shipping TBolt equipped iMacs and Mac mini's to follow the initial debut of ThunderBolt MacBooks. There's definitely a healthy interest and market for USB 3.0 ThunderBolt adapters and converters to bridge existing backup drives and USB 2.0 accessories to the new USB3 standard via ThunderBolt ports. The cylindrical Mac Pro was recently released with 2nd-generation, 20GBps ThunderBolt 2 ports.

Intel - and by extension - Apple stalled adoption and incorporation of direct USB3 support into Intel's bridge chipsets until sometime in mid-2012. This gave the two companies plenty of time to try to get millions of ThunderBolt ports out onto the market - before they started to USB 3.0 SuperSpeed support across all Intel's CPU chipsets. WIth 4+ million Macs being sold every quarter, there's now a huge number of TBolt capable Macintosh machines out there.

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