Help me setup a "dock" for the MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by chris401, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. chris401 macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    I have a 2011 MBA. It is our only home computer. Unfortunately, I long ago maxed out the internal storage space (128 GB?) and it runs awful as a result.

    Originally I intended to use this for photos and videos of the kids and to make photo albums. But with the storage space maxed out, I can't really run any programs on it, not to mention add more photos or videos.

    I would like to use this as a pseudo desktop computer until a new Mac mini comes out that can be my photo/video/storage manager. What is the best solution for achieving a nice set up, and what type of budget should I expect?

    I will need:
    Dock(?) with thunderbolt connection?
    External monitor
    Keyboard and mouse
    2TB or more hard drive in either eSATA or USB3.0 (thunderbolt drives seem way overpriced for my needs)

    Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated, including specific models. As mentioned, the idea would be to plug all of the gear into a Mac Mini later when the new version comes out.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. ppenn macrumors regular


    Oct 22, 2013
    As far as a dock I do not have a recommendation, and based on your usage mentioned, I'm not sure why you would need one.

    Mouse/Keyboard. I always recommend Apples keyboard and mouse. Besides, looking good it's just an overall better experience with the OS.

    I have only ever bought Western Digital and Seagate hard drives. Seagate bought WD so now they are one in the same. USB 3 will be best for you.
  3. chris401 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007

    Thanks, ppenn. My thinking on the dock is that I want to just use one cable to connect/disconnect, and I thought the thunderbolt cable would provide that capability. But maybe that's overkill. Doesn't seem like thunderbolt lived up to expectations this many years later.
  4. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    He has a 2011, no USB 3.0 for him

    As far as docks are concerned, there's Belkin, Matrox, CalDigit, and....?
  5. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    Apple Thunderbolt display does exactly what you want. It will work great with your Mac Mini when you decide to buy it.

    There is no better elegant solution. It is not the cheapest, but it works great.

  6. chris401 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    The CalDigit looks interesting. The Belking gets awful reviews, and they halved the USB 3.0 speed. I forgot to mention that I want speedy external storage, so was hoping for USB 3.0 or SATA type speeds. Which means that the Apple Thunderbolt Display doesn't even seem like a good option, because it is my understanding that it is limited to USB 2.

    I will look more carefully at the Matrox. Maybe CalDigit is the only real option right now.
  7. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    The concept of physical docking is outdated, by the advent of high speed wireless networking.

    I understand if you want to move to a desktop anyways.

    But if your main reason moving to a desktop is that you find yourself limited to resources by a laptop...

    You don't have to physically hook up a laptop to access terabytes of data, fast enough. Todays' WIFI typically runs at 150 mbit/sec minimum and if you want to spend more, double, or triple that.

    Wireless printing is common.

    Wireless speaker system is common.

    You can even use wireless mice but I personally prefer the wired kind.

    In a pinch, you can even wireless send the screen to an HDTV, although some people say the quality not as good as wired. Depends how often you do this.
  8. jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    +1! If you're wedded to the notion of a single machine serving a number of different needs, the TBD is an excellent investment.
  9. Boyd01 macrumors 601


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I got one of these on clearance for $140 at Best Buy last summer:

    Their "Backup Plus" e-SATA drives pop into the dock, a 3TB drive is about $100. I have my ancient 23" Apple Cinema Display (1920x1200) plugged into this dock with a minidisplayport > DVI adapter and it works fine.

    I use a wired USB keyboard and mouse separately. I would love one of the Thunderbolt displays, but since I already had the old screen (that still looks great after all these years), this was a much cheaper solution.
  10. ppenn macrumors regular


    Oct 22, 2013
    A dock will down convert to USB 2.0 speeds anyways.
  11. chris401 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    Thanks all for the comments. I certainly don't want a dock that downgrades to USB 2 speeds. That's why I'm trying to use this otherwise useless thunderbolt port. The Thunderbolt drive from Seagate that you linked seems very interesting; I may get that plus hook up a monitor. With wireless keyboard/mouse, I'm good to go with just one cable. I think.
  12. w00d macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2010
    You'll still probably want a power cable.
  13. scaredpoet, Dec 20, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013

    scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Not true at all, ESPECIALLY for an ultralight with limited ports. With a dock you can access additional USB ports, get firewire back, and still be able to attach a larger external display. And in an environment where the spectrum for Wifi is crowded, ethernet can be much more reliable. And you get all of this by plugging in a single Thunderbolt cable.

    There are people (like myself) who want the amenities of a full desktop when we're at home or in the office, AND still be able to take that same computer with us somewhere. A thunderbolt dock makes that possible.

    Or, for much cheaper, you can get gigabit ethernet.

    One thing I've observed through actual use: wireless speakers and mice typically use , and bluetooth bandwidth is extremely limited. If you've got a wireless mouse, speaker, and keyboard all going at once, you start to have problems. Audio will cut out or clip, or the mouse will freeze on occasion, or other devices will stop responding. Bluetooth is great for one or two low-bandwidth devices, but it overloads easily.

    Also: bluetooth audio just isn't that great. It works if you got wireless headphones and need to to listen quietly to spoken word or get a feel for certain music, but it's just not the same as a goo set of wired headphones or a wired sound system.

    As for airplay: It's decent if you're playing audio or video from your local storage. But if you're streaming, there are still lots of apps where airplay isn't optimized, and bandwidth usage is really inefficient (you're streaming to your computer and then streaming again to the AirPlay device). The effects are noticeable if you're sharing that wifi network with anyone else in the house.

    Actually, most (mine included) work at USB 3.0 speeds.
  14. Abazigal macrumors G4


    Jul 18, 2011
    What's wrong with just saving all your photos to an external hard disk drive? I believe a 3tb drive can be had at around $200?

    Likewise, if you are going to leave your MacBook Air at home and don't plan on bringing it out much, I don't think you really need a Thunderbolt Display. At least, I can't really justify spending $1k on one.

    Here's my setup as a reference, which is working quite well for me.


    Monitor is a 23" samsung display, keyboard and trackpad were swapped from my iMac in another room, but there's no reason why you can use any cheap Logitech mouse and keyboard (which incidentally, I am using with my iMac).

    MacBook is resting on a mStand. Get a USB hub if you need more ports. I am running purely off wifi. It can feel a bit cramped at times, but otherwise, should meet your needs pretty well. :)
  15. chris401 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2007
    I just wanted to drop back in to thank everyone. I had it down to a (somewhat overpriced IMHO) Seagate Thunderbolt Back Up Plus and then connecting a regular monitor with a thunderbolt to HDMI cable daisy chained off the drive. With wireless keyboard/mouse, that would leave two cables (power and thunderbolt). It seemed like the components in that approach could be used later in other set ups, as opposed to one of the docks.

    But . . . before I bought it, I tried once again to transfer my iPhoto library (which is 95% of the disk space on this MBA) to a Seagate Go Flex Home via WiFi -- and it failed overnight. This has happened so many times. I got irritated and decided I would buy a new iMac. Which I just got from Best Buy today.

    Thanks again all.
  16. Saltymac macrumors member

    Aug 19, 2013
    Rocky Mt State
    Wow - Seagate buying WD would be news to the stock market - perhaps you need to check our facts in this area. Both companies have good products.

    I don't know why you haven't purchased a Toshiba 1 TB USB 3.0 portable drive by now. Inexpensive and runs fast with 3.0.

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