Tag Archives: Dock

Review ~ Kensington SD5000T Thunderbolt 3 has enough ports for any storm

As I have said before, what you do when you get a Mac with only a couple of ports (four on the MacBook Pro 15-inch)? Barely anyone I know finds this enough, and Apple keeps changing ports on us. I’m not about to lambast Apple for this – if we didn’t believe in change, we’d still be using floppy discs and serial ports, and forget about smartphones.
The new USB-C ports on the MacBook are smaller than previous plugs, yet handle almost everything. Once upon a time you needed a Mac with a USB port or two (preferably more), Mini DisplayPort, perhaps HDMI, Thunderbolt, maybe FireWire, and SD card slot … now the confusingly-named Thunderbolt 3/USB-C (it’s the same thing on a MacBook, with the port sharing these duties) does all of those jobs.
But four USB-C ports still isn’t many, and most of us have things we’ve been plugging into our Macs for years already that we still want to plug into whatever new Macs we et. Personally, I have two printers, three hard drives, an extra monitor, a mouse, a wired extended keyboard, an audio interface, a light (I know, that’s just silly) and hey, I like to directly plug in an iPad or iPhone every now and again too, for faster sync and backups and, best f all, faster OS updates (via iTunes).

The Kensington SD5000T Dock is aimed at professional environments and therefore has a Kensington lock slot, plus it has been designed to be mounted to the rear of VESA-compatible displays with a separate bracket accessory as longs as it supports the pretty rare Zero Footprint Mounting system. For this to work, you need a display that includes accessible VESA mounting holes even with the display’s foot attached. Of course, like most docks, the SD5000T will also sit happily on a desk. I guess this means that, mounted onto a monitor and locked with a Kensington lock, it effectively locks up your monitor too, at least against those without the time and tools to remove it from the bracket.
The SD5000T is a serious looking thing, in black and silver, following the convention of two handy ports on the front and all the rest on the back for more sedentary tasks. Left to right, on the front in a sort of indentation on the right, is the more standard USB 3, which is backwards compatible to any older USB plugs that fit it (stepping down to their speeds) but which is not USB 3.1, plus an additional USB-C port (which boasts USB 3.1 speed anyway).

On the back of the Kensington SD5000T (shown above) there is, left to right: Ethernet (I noticed I had to restart my Mac with the Dock plugged into the MacBook Pro to get this connection to work, by the way), USB 3, Audio In, Audio Out, the Kensington lock slot (in the middle), 2xUSB-C (one of these needs to go into your Mac but there’s a pretty short USB-C cable supplied), DisplayPort and the AC power inlet.
Since the USB-C cable can charge up even a MacBook Pro 15-inch (thus releasing another USB-C port on the Mac, which is great), there’s a very large power brick that comes with this Dock – it’s almost the same size as the dock (you can see it below). In other words, the SD5000T dock serves to deal out signal to all these different ports and interfaces while also charging your MacBook, which is a very big tick in favour of USB-C, no?Using USB — The older USB 2.0 standard is capable of a theoretical maximum data transfer rate of 480 megabits per second while USB 3.0 is capable of 5 gigabits per second, or over 10 times faster.
USB 3.0 ports have a blue ‘tongue’ inside the plug. USB 3.1, released in July 2013, can theoretically hit 10Gbps, rivalling the speed of Ethernet and the original Thunderbolt standard – and that’s the same theoretical speed as USB-C, but not many devices ever implemented USB 3.1 whereas the USB-C version, thanks to Apple, is beginning to gain traction.

Actual speeds — Copying a 6.05GB movie file from the very fast internal 1TB SSD in a 2017 MacBook Pro to a USB 3 (traditional, not Solid State) hard drive, in this case a LaCie Rugged plugged into a USB 3 port on the back of a Dell U2715H monitor (which is plugged in, in turn, via an adapter into one of the MacBook’s USB-C ports) took one minute 28 seconds (1:28). I didn’t expect it to make any difference, but I also tried this plugged into the front USB 3 port on the SD5000T. (It’s amazing how quickly you get annoyed at having to get the damn USB 3 plug in the right way up, after just a few days using USB-C!) Sure enough, a virtually similar 1:29 (which means that USB 3 hub on the back of the Dell is better than I thought, anyhow).
As an interesting comparison, I also have at hand an OWC SSD in an external housing – the same 6.05GB movie file copied to this, also over the USB 3 port, in under 20 seconds, or in 22.5% of the time! Almost five times faster.
I also, out of interest, plugged the same USB 3 cable into the USB-C port via a USB-C to USB 3 adapter and got 1:36. This should be distinctly faster through a USB-C cable to a USB-C hard drive. There are a few available already, and I’d love to try one. But suffice to say if you have a faster hard drive, you will get faster performance. Anyway, I figured I’d end up using the LaCie plugged into the Dock, but that’s pointless now as I may as well leave into plugged in the more difficult-to-reach Dell, since it stays mounted.
The Blackmagic Disk Speed tests for these drives, by the way, were 63.9MB/s read and 66.8MB/s write for the 1TB LaCie USB 3 Rugged external drive, 290MB/s read and 420MB/s write for the 512GB OWC Elite mini U3FW. I could not measure my own internal 1TB SSD, but Apple reckons this runs at a blazing 3.1GB/s read and 2.2GB/s write.

Conclusion — A handsome unit with an unexpected design benefit that it quickly becomes a handy receptacle for paperclips and pens as the top has raised edges – it can act as a little tray. This Kensington Thunderbolt 3 dock has a handy (OK, indispensable) array of ports and the fact that it charges even a 2017 MacBook Pro 15-inch is a big positive. I actually have an additional monitor with DisplayPort and getting that was the first time I even saw that type of port, being more used to HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Unfortunately I don’t have a DisplayPort cable to try it with (I’ve been using the Dell with a DisplayPort to USB-3 cable – the Dell did not come with a DisplayPort cable. But it drives it find with this cable via USB-C.

What’s great — Useful array of ports, attractive and useful design.
What’s not — Expensive compared to other docks but its ‘sensible’ design, plus the possibility to lift it off the desk into the back of the right VESA-compatible monitor plus the Kensington Lock Slot should justify this for enterprise users.
Needs — Anyone with the need for more than four USB-C ports on a new MacBook.Kensington SD5000T Dock, NZ RRP $519.95 (US$349.99)

System — Mac OS, Mac OS 10.5, Mac OS 10.6, Mac OS 10.7, Mac OS 10.8, Mac OS 10.9, Mac OS X 10.10, Mac OS X 10.11, Mac OS Sierra 10.12

More information — Kensington.

Review ~ moshi symbus compact dock for USB-C Macs

If you have a new MacBook or MacBook Pro, you only have USB-C ports which are wonderful in every single way except one: hardly anyone uses them. Ouch. I mean, they’re faster, daisy-chainable, multi-functional … you know what I mean.
So, to get anywhere with these marvellous machines, you need dongles … dongles that basically step down all these marvellous new capabilities to the boring old tech everything else uses: USB, Ethernet, HDMI … but hey, you can go one better.
A Dock – one device, that only uses one of those precious be-all/end-all USB-C (AKA Thunderbolt 3) and parlays it into a veritable party of those old technology connectors so you can run everything you already have while, best of all, leaving three more of those USB-C ports (in the case of the 15-inch MacBook Pro) for newer technology. Once it shows up.
And these marvellous Docks will set you back a few hundred, but they do a lot of work for the money. I hope to look at Belkin’s and Kensington’s Thunderbolt 3 Docks soon (popularity seems to be affecting supply), but in the meantime, let’s assess this little Moshi contender, the symbus.

Small — The symbus is a very compact (by Dock standards) and thence portable (although it needs its own power supply) USB-C hub. It’s only about the size of a packet of cigarettes – remember those?
The symbus is silver and sits on a fairly substantial, non-slip pedestal and has a fixed USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 cable coming out of the back, about 25cm long, which goes into your Mac, and a power-brick with NZ/AU power supply that plugs in. As for ports, it can’t fit as many as a full-size Dock but its array is well considered and, for many, indispensable: 1000mbps Ethernet, HDM for an external monitor or projector, and 2x USB-A 5Gbps ports.
In turn, plugging in the symbus, since it has a power supply of its own, can push up to 65 watts – enough to charge a MacBook or MacBook Pro 13-inch (the MacBook Pro 15-inch with Touch Bar needs 87 watts, so it’s not up to that). But on compatible Macs, that means another port is released for you.
Symbus will provide power delivery up to 65W for laptop charging. This is enough for MacBooks and MacBook Pros up through the 13-inch model from late 2016, but the 15-inch MacBook Pro (late 2016) with Touch Bar requires 87W of power to charge it.
The USB ports carry different power too. The left-hand USB port is high-speed for charging smartphone and tablets (2.1A). This meant it also ran my Zoom UAC-2 Audio Interface; the other port did not, so the right one’s more for mice, keyboards and other low-power requirements.

The symbius has two USB ports on the front, one Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, the fixed USB-C cable out and the power supply-in on the back.

App for that — Although this is a plug-and-play device, moshi has an an app in the Mac App store (free) called the USB-C Dock Utility which adds the features of letting you eject any USB devices plugged into the Dock at once, it indicates Ethernet status and lets you update firmware on the symbus should it be available.
This installs into your more amenable (to customisation) right-side menus at the top of your monitor.

Alternatives — Moshi also makes a USB-C Multiport Adapter, a 3-in-1 hub that supports 1080p and 4K video output to HDMI plus one USB port, with a pass-through USB-C port so it can also be used to charge a MacBook, for NZ$140. https://www.moshi.com/usb-c-multiport-adapter )

Conclusion — A handy compact Dock, in effect, that limits itself to the most useful features in a small form factor (Ethernet, HDMI and two USB ports). However, some devices need the high power port (some audio interfaces) and you’ll need to remember that’s the left-hand-one, not the right-hand-one.

What’s great — Attractive, small, portable, slick and very useful
What’s not — Good luck finding one. Moshi is still setting up retail sales in New Zealand. It’s also expensive for only four ports, it’s getting near the prices of much bigger Docks with 10 ports like the Kensington (NZ$380, but only charges to 60w) or Belkin ($640 but charges to 85w)
Needs — Anyone wanting to free up one or more ports, and those who prefer faster (than wifi) internet access, as I do, with Ethernet.

Left: my wifi speeds over Gigabit fibre; right over Ethernet (higher numbers = faster). Physical wires are always faster than over the air.

Moshi symbus Compact docking station NZ$269.99 (US$124.95)
System — Any USB-C or Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop – Thunderbolt-3 compatible and 100% plug-n-play, no drivers needed, although firmware updates are available through the free moshi app. HDMI port for adding an external display (4K@30Hz, 1080p@60Hz); Gigabit Ethernet port for wired data transfer up to 1000 Mbps; 2xUSB-A ports for connecting a keyboard, mouse, or hard drive; USB PD function for fast-charging USB-C laptops (up to 50W, which does not include the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar) with integrated Smart LED charging indicator (for Macs that are supported)
More information — Moshi

Five Tip Friday ~ Tidiness tips for macOS

1/ Minimise apps into their icons — You can click the yellow pill button in the upper left corner of a window to minimize an app’s window into the Dock in macOS Sierra, but if you minimize a lot of windows, the right side of the Dock quickly becomes cluttered.
The solution is to minimise windows into their app icons.
Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and choose Dock. Check the box next to ‘Minimize windows into application icon’ (shown above). Now they minimise down into the originating app’s icon – click-and-hold on that in the Dock to see your files (below).

If you have a lot of minimized app windows, and have trouble finding what you’re looking for, control-click (hold down the Control key on your keyboard and click) the app icon to reveal a list of that apps minimized windows. Choose an item from the list and it will open.

2/ Group windows by application in macOS Sierra — macOS Sierra introduced system wide tabs for most (but not all) apps, allowing you to merge multiple windows into a single window or separate merged windows.
With two or more windows of a supported app open, go to the Windows menu in the Finder and choose ‘Merge All Windows.’ All windows of the same app will be grouped into a single window. Each file you have open will appear as a tab inside the single window.
To separate the merged windows into standalone windows of their own, select the merged window to make it active. Go to the Windows and click the ‘Move Tab to New Window’ option. Click it to move the selected tab to a separate window.
This won’t separate all tabs into windows of their own, but separate the current tab to its own window. All remaining tabs will remain grouped into a single window unless you separate them one at a time.
Click the close button on a merged window, and it will close all tabs you have open in it.

3/ Move multiple Events between Calendars — If you’ve got several events you need to move to a different calendar, change to month view by pressing Command-3 or click on the Month option in Calendar’s toolbar or at top-centre of Calendar.
Now find the events you’d like to move, hold down Command on your keyboard and click on each one to select them all in turn.
When your events are all highlighted, right- or Control-click on any one of them. From the contextual menu that appears, choose the ‘Calendar’ option and pick the one you’d like to move your selected events to. Simple.

4/ Multiple ways to move items to Trash — Trash is a To put item(s) in the Trash, once can simply drag the item(s) to the Trash icon, or move highlighted file(s) to the Trash using the keyboard combo Command-Delete. If you realize you made a mistake, you can Undo the operation by choosing File > Undo, or the keyboard combo Command-Z.
If you’d like to delete highlighted items immediately, you can hold down Option and select File > Delete Immediately…. Alternately, you can use keyboard combo Command-Option-Delete. Either way, you’ll received a confirmation dialogue that the operation is permanent and can’t be undone.

5/ Empty stubborn Trash items — ToIf there are files in the Trash, which you can confirm visually because you’ll see items in the Trash, you can empty it by either choosing Finder > Empty Trash…, or using keyboard combo Shift-Cmd-Delete. You’ll be presented with a confirmation dialog asking if you’re sure. You can also hold down Option and select Finder > Empty Trash, or use keyboard combo Shift-Option-Command-Delete. Notice that since there isn’t a trailing ellipsis after the choice, it will be done immediately without a confirmation dialogue. [If this still doesnt work, you need Terminal, as detailed here.]