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Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt dock video review

 The Matrox DS1 is an expansion box for your PC or laptop, a single break-out box to be used as a digital hub. See also: in-depth review of Matrox DS1

It has a single Thunderbolt port feeding a range of desktop peripherals. You get three USB ports, gigabit ethernet, DVI for a display, plus analogue audio in and out. For ultraportables such as the MacBook Air, this expansion could be a godsend, allowing you to reinstate unsupported interfaces such as ethernet. You'll save space and avoid clutter.

See: What is Thunderbolt?

Matrox DS1: design and build

The folded, silver-painted aluminium box is compact – like a tall phrasebook lying flat. The port placement is peculiar: that one Thunderbolt port is at ‘front’, alongside a single USB 3; all remaining socketry is behind. Ranging from the left, there's DVI, gigabit ethernet, two USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone and line-in jacks and a DC input. There are no FireWire ports, or digital audio interfaces.

A 24-Watt adaptor plug is included, which ought to be sufficient for connected USB devices. We found we could charge an iPhone from USB 2.0.

Because of its single Thunderbolt port, the DS1 can be connected only at the end of a chain, where you would usually attach your monitor. For this reason built-in display outputs are offered, DVI or HDMI, which you must choose between at the time of purchase. These are limited to just 1920 by 1200 pixels.

Matrox DS1: performance

 Performance is okay, but the DS1 seems to have compromised on data throughput and couldn't compete with our MacBook Pro.

Throughput performance tests

Matrox DS1: USB 3.0: 151MBps reads, and 143MBps writes

MacBook Pro: 210MBps reads, and 195MBps writes

The headphone jack worked well enough, although its output is a little low in volume.

On other thing: the Matrox DS1 ran very warm, but never too hot to touch.

Matrox DS1: verdict

As the first Thunderbolt dock, the Matrox DS1 shows promise. But it’s severely compromised, with poor USB 3.0 performance, limited display quality, and no passthrough to allow full-resolution on larger screens. If you need a one-stop box to add ethernet and few more USB ports, it’s an expensive but eminently usable solution.

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