Apple ThunderBolt To USB 3.0 AdaptersA ThunderBolt to USB3 converter is most likely to appeal to Mac users with early models of Macs that have ThunderBolt but only came with USB 2.0 ports. ThunderBolt's rival - SuperSpeed USB 3.0 is finally getting 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 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 Docks And Hubs With USB3 PortsThe few currently shipping ThunderBolt to USB 3.0 solutions are from Akitio, Matrox, CalDigit and Belkin with their multi-port adapters priced in the $200-$300 range. But there's no standalone ThunderBolt to USB3 adapter on the market at this time. With three USB 3.0 ports (versus Matrox's single USB3 port) the Belkin Express Dock has the technical advantage for connecting more SuperSpeed USB3 devices. Akitio doesn't offer HDMI or Audio ports, but excels for multiple FW800, eSATA and USB3 drive interfaces.
|CalDigit TBolt Dock
USB Keyboard and SuperDrive Support
|Akitio ThunderBolt Drive Dock
USB 3.0 - eSATA - FireWire 800
|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.
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/OrAs 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.