View Full Version : Thunderbolt Hub/Switch

01-03-2013, 03:11 PM
Several companies have what they call a TB port duplicator which makes a TB port into every other port you can imagine. audio I/O, ethernet, USB, FW, DisplayPort, eSATA.. everything except MORE thunderbolt ports?!? Sometimes they will have a TB in and out for daisychaining but sometimes they don't even have that. Which means you can't use one with a TB display because they both can't occupy the last space in the chain.

Is there something I don't know about TB that doesn't allow this? USB/FireWire/Ethernet/Audio all have a box that you plug one cable into to make multiple ports of that same connection even eSATA has port multipliers… my research (quick and shoddy I assure you..) says that you can't get one of these at ANY price for TB

Any input?

01-03-2013, 04:07 PM
My first thought is - Intel sucks. (generally is my second as well)

They have so choked the development process that there is a dearth of quality products out. Too many of the solutions available we have looked at and passed by because they dead end the chain.

Any hub that doesn't have 2 Thunderbolt ports is a dead end.

One bright spot, Belkin appears to have a delivery date in mind... finally. That will be a nice product if more expensive than it should be.

Matrox is a dead ender. Only one port.

LaCie - typical LaCie crap.

I just hope that the better developers don't give up on Thunderbolt because of how bad Intel's development process has been.


01-03-2013, 10:42 PM
I want more than 2 ports. one in one out is a daisy chain and that sucks if something like oh say.. Apple's TB monitor insists on being at the end of the chain and you want to remove a device. I want a proper hub, one TB in and 4 TB out (or more)

LaCie makes the only TB device I would spend $ on right now (besides Apple) and that's the daisy chainable box that gives you two eSATA ports. I don't like LaCie.

The Belkin box does nothing for me. My Apple TB monitor does all those same things, has an isight, great speakers and is a kickass monitor as well

Why don't they ever ask ME before building these gizmos

I am, after all…

01-04-2013, 12:01 AM
This isn't the first time that a promising tech improvement has been brought out and then left to languish. There's probably some numeric threshold that will bring about a change to the availability of something useful for the average joe. Oh but wait who around here is average?
That RAID box Rick has is really nice, I just don't have a need quite that large.
And then everything else just is some sort of stop gap thing and not a widely useful addition.

My TB port looks real nice, but so far it just sits there, with potential. Still waiting.

01-04-2013, 10:30 AM
I see a little different path/need for Thunderbolt. Because of the high cost of the Thunderbolt interface (bridge chip/development cost/cabling), seems to me it is not efficient to use it for connecting low throughput, low cost devices like a single hard drive or a card reader. That is really far better kept in the realm of USB 3.0 which is cheap and plenty fast for that task.

Problem with USB 3.0 is that Apple did a piss poor job of implementing it in the 2012 Macs. All the new Macs are buggy on USB 3.0, with strange behaviors that require constant fiddling to get it to work. And also frequently having mounting and dismounting behaviors that can quickly reach unusable on randomly plagued computers. The mounting issue is unpredictable in that it only effects a small percentage of Macs. But so far, all the Macs have the quirky weirdness on the USB ports where you never know what combination of plugged in devices will make for strange behaviors on those devices. And USB 3.0 hubs make the behavior exponentially more unpredictable.

As well, Apple's USB 3 ports are slower than the promise of the bus specification of 5 Gb/sec - some developers state USB 3.0 bus spec as 600 MB/sec, others 500 MB/sec - depends on who you talk to and what day of the week. But a given is that the fastest USB 3 throughput I have ever seen connected a Mac USB 3 port is 205 MB/sec.

205 MB/sec is plenty fast for a single hard drive. And with the low low cost of USB 3.0 bridges and cabling it makes sense to use USB to connect small devices even with a 205 MB/sec speed limit.

I actually have been hanging some hope on the Belkin hub that it will solve a couple issues I have with Apple's USB port behaviors. Since the Belkin hub takes Thunderbolt and bridges it to 3 x USB 3.0 ports and a Firewire 800 port, the hope is that Belkin knows how to implement USB 3 better than Apple did it. If the ports don't have the buggy quirkiness of the Apple ports, and if those ports actually get closer to the specification performance, we could have a really useful and high performance alternative. Not to mention one that doesn't dead end the Thunderbolt chain since it has two Thunderbolt ports..

That's my hope anyway.

My second Christmas wish is for a Thunderbolt to eSATA hub where the eSATA ports are port multiplier capable. Or Thunderbolt to SATA PM in a form factor we can put in a Burly for 4 or 5 drives. So far the multiple drive boards coming out are all hardware RAID boards and VERY costly. These RAIDs are great for a high end video or photo studio that can justify the cost versus performance curve. But the small business or non business user can't justify a thousand $ spent on a RAID board. A Thunderbolt to eSATA PM hub or a SATA PM internal board would be just right filling the large capacity, high performance and low cost niche for individuals.

Those are the two directions I would like to see Thunderbolt take. And I expect to get that fulfilled in the reasonable near future. If the Belkin hub resolves the issues I have with USB 3.0 on the Macs, it should find a place in the market. USB 3.0 done right would be an efficient solution to many of our needs.


01-04-2013, 10:31 AM
I would not be surprised if TB is daisy-chainable only; no hubs or switches.

Oh wait....there are FW hubs, and that tech came out with only chains....didn't it?

What's this (http://www.electronista.com/articles/13/01/04/usb.30.cable.also.planned/)? Progress??

01-04-2013, 11:07 AM
Would not surprise me either. And there is a fairly low limit for the number of chainable devices - seven I think.

I believe that the Thunderbolt chip will have to be a future 'revision 2' to support an optical cable.


01-04-2013, 12:04 PM
So that LaCie eSATA boxen is NOT pm capable? I didn't expect it to be but it would have been a nice addition

01-04-2013, 12:53 PM
Boxen? As in a boxen of doughnuts?

01-04-2013, 01:00 PM
That LaCie is made to attach 2 single drives.

01-04-2013, 04:08 PM
One bright spot, Belkin appears to have a delivery date in mind... finally. That will be a nice product if more expensive than it should be.

Really, says here first quarter 2013:
Then again before that it said fourth quarter 2012 for months, that is until shortly before the end of 2012. :rolleyes:

So that LaCie eSATA boxen is NOT pm capable? I didn't expect it to be but it would have been a nice addition
Sonnet's Echo Express (TB to PCIe expansion) with *two* TB ports are shipping:
Presumably with a PCIe eSATA PM card, you'd get what you'd need. That said, Sonnet sells a convenient bundle:
which includes their latest and greatest eSATA card Tempo SATA Pro 6GB 4-port (there's also a 2-port version for less.)

Sounds great. But then for fun, take a close look at the specs for that new card:
See something missing about port-multiplier support in OS X. :rolleyes:

Presumably their older card will work as would (hopefully) other card with PM support.

Still a pricey way to get eSATA PM with two TB ports. USD400 for the cheapest Echo Express SE without the card.

01-04-2013, 05:04 PM
Problem is, none of the PCIe eSATA cards that are port multiplier capable work in the Sonnet expansion chassis. Sonnet, in their infinite wisdom, decided to stop supporting or building anything that is port multiplier.

Sonnet's Echo box is a dead ender - no second Thunderbolt port. It WILL become an issue for any user who buys it.

And as you noticed, and why MacGurus doesn't carry it, the new SATAIII PCIe card from Sonnet only supports port multiplier on Windows - how's them bananas from a supposed Mac developer??


01-04-2013, 05:53 PM

I follow this thread with a detached air.....

I don't need much.


For any others who need best advice, please, listen to Rick.

Rick is the beating heart of MacGurus.

Rick cares.


01-05-2013, 01:45 AM
Sonnet's Echo box is a dead ender - no second Thunderbolt port. It WILL become an issue for any user who buys it.

All 4 Echo boxes have a second thunderbolt port.

Problem is, none of the PCIe eSATA cards that are port multiplier capable work in the Sonnet expansion chassis. Sonnet, in their infinite wisdom, decided to stop supporting or building anything that is port multiplier.

That makes it a freaking non-starter for eSATA.

01-05-2013, 06:21 AM
Ok, a bit more research and I think I may have some *shipping* alternatives to Sonnet.

mLogic has a 1-slot, 2 thunderbolt port, box called mLink:
Lists for the same amount (USD399) as the cheapest Sonnet Echo Express SE, but with a noticeable difference.
On the list of compatible cards, I see the new Firmtek Seritek SeriTek/Q6G, which looks like it's got PM and they're selling it for USD 199:
That combo will set you back USD 600, just as much as the Sonnet combo, but this one looks on paper like it will support PM.

Know anything about either of those Rick? I know you carried Firmtek in the past, but I do not recall exactly when and/or why you dropped them.

Magma has a pricey* (USD 979) 3-slot, 2 thunderbolt port, box:
*It may be pricey but it's not much more than the top-of-the-line Sonnet 2-slot Echo Pro box at USD 799. And based on Magma's history alone, leaving aside card compatibility for the moment, I'd pay the extra for the Magma and get an extra slot too.

List of compatible cards with the Magma are here:
And I'm seeing more options as far as PM eSATA cards, e.g. other Firmteks and CalDigit, compared to the mLogic box.

Using that compatibility list, I see CalDigit makes an affordable 2 port eSATA card with PM support:

Interesting card is this CalDigit USB3 + eSATA combo card:
At least for someone like me with 3 TB Macs without USB3.
If that sucker would work in the mLogic mLink, that would be pretty sweet...for me at any rate. :D And if that "budget" 2-port card works in the mLink, that too wouldn't be too bad either. Just to emphasize, mLogic doesn't have the CalDigit cards on their list (yet); doesn't mean they won't work but doesn't mean they will.

01-05-2013, 11:09 AM
The Sonnet Echo Express34 card adapters are what I was referring to as not having 2 Thunderbolt. There are Express34 cards that do work with port multiplier enclosures.

The full size PCIe card expansion chassis, so far as I know, have no path to a supported port multiplier capable eSATA card. The 2 people I have talked to who tried the Seritek card found it would only see a single drive on a port multiplier enclosure.

The reason we dropped Firmtek was they stopped giving any support. We would get call after call of users having problems and they were getting no answer whatsoever back from Firmtek. We were supporting dozens of Firmtek's customers that didn't even purchase from us. It was a mess. And I haven't seen them get better.

The CalDigit card with the USB 3.0 port and SATAIII ports is one I have tried - not in a Thunderbolt chassis, but in a MacPro. Didn't know it had a Thunderbolt driver written for it. If it does, that might be a decent solution. We tested that card in a couple of the MacPro's here at the lab, then sent the card on to John in the warehouse so he could pretest before shipping USB 3 products before they went out the door. On our machines the card worked perfectly, on John's it was very erratic. No idea why.

The CalDigit FASTA-2e is a card I am surprised at. It has the same designation as the older SATAII Silicon Image 3132 card that CalDIgit made years back. I don't see anything that mentions Thunderbolt drivers.... Where did you see it listed as compatible in a Tbolt expansion chassis?

I do see that the ARECA cards are listed on Sonnet's site as supported. The ARC-1300 will ably run as many as 8 port multiplier SATA enclosures off of MiniSAS to eSATA fan out cabling. And they make a version with 4 eSATA ports as well. So that is a possibility. We have sold a number of these to film editors needing to expand beyond a 4 port card.

I would want to make sure a given combination worked well before spending the money on it. I'll keep looking as well. The ARECA thing might be a great answer.

01-05-2013, 11:15 AM
The MLink page has a AJA Speedtest on it that I don't get. They show 700 MB/sec, but that is with a transfer file size of 256 MB. Why would anyone run the transfer test at 256 MB? Without seeing the larger file transfer tests I would have trouble believing they don't have something to hide. It might be very innocent, but it looks cherry picked to me.


01-05-2013, 11:59 AM
Thanks for all that info Rick.

The CalDigit FASTA-2e is a card I am surprised at. It has the same designation as the older SATAII Silicon Image 3132 card that CalDIgit made years back. I don't see anything that mentions Thunderbolt drivers.... Where did you see it listed as compatible in a Tbolt expansion chassis?

On Magma's site (linked before) for their TB chassis; here's the link again:

There are actually two 2-port cards listed, differentiated it seems with 6G and 3G.
1. CalDigit FASTA-2e SATA 6G which Magma says is compatible with their box, and that the drivers are in OS X 10.7+
2. CalDigit FASTA-2e SATA 3G (Note the 3G) which they say for drivers to contact the manufacturer.
3G the old one?

01-05-2013, 12:32 PM
The FASTA-2e 3G card is the Silicon Image 3132 based card, just like the Lycom card we sell, and the Sonnet 2 port PCIe SATAII card. All use the same chipset and drivers. That chipset is limited to 150 MB/sec maximum throughput. And that chipset is also used in many of the older SATAII Express34 cards.

I have no idea what chipset CalDigit is using in the SATAIII card.

With Sonnet stating compatibility with the ARECA 1300, I might be interested in pursuing testing that myself. ARECA is an Apple developer, so their drivers often are included in the Mac OS operating system. Compatibility is always superb. I am hoping I can figure out how to do some testing without throwing too much money at it. Problem with Sonnet is they sell their stuff direct on Amazon cheaper than they sell it to us as resellers, so I usually can't afford to carry their high end stuff like the Tbolt expanders. Have to do some price snooping to see if there is a place for us.


01-05-2013, 05:47 PM

Interesting card is this CalDigit USB3 + eSATA combo card:

I wantz it.. I wantz the precious…

01-06-2013, 12:39 PM
Interesting card is this CalDigit USB3 + eSATA combo card:

I wantz it.. I wantz the precious…

Whoa, found one more 2-port TB, 1-slot expansion box, OWC's Helios: (sorry for linking a competitor Rick):
Priced now at USD 349 ("holiday discount" over the usual 399), that's the cheapest 2-port TB, 1-slot box I've found so far. 50 cheaper than the Sonnet and the mLogic mLink. Gotta say looks like a black clone of the Sonnet SE.

Here's their compatibility list:
Compatible PM eSATA cards look to be:
- that CalDigit USB3 + eSATA
- Firmtek SeriTek/e6G 2-port

01-11-2013, 03:06 PM
About that Belkin hub. Here's the latest from CES:

Product page has been updated too:

- We have a price sort of: $299.99 in the press release, $399.00 on the product page.
- eSATA port is gone.
- Still "coming soon", now it's Q1 2013

02-08-2013, 05:22 PM
Well, I just ordered the OWC Mercury Helios TB Chasis and the CalDigit FASTA-6GU3 (2) eSATA / (2) USB 3 ports. I will report back and let you know if this works on my (2) 5 bay Burly's as soon as I receive! IF the USB3 is implemented better than my 2012 iMac, I may use it instead of eSATA - since I already upgraded both Burly's with the Lycom PM Boards that are USB3/SATA.

What would the Speed difference be do you think between MAC/TB/PCIe/SATA/BURLY vs MAC/TB/PCIe/USB3/BURLY??? I typically only use one or two drives at a time.

02-08-2013, 06:37 PM
No difference.

02-12-2013, 06:22 PM
Jeeezzuusssss. Just got the CalDigit FASTA-6GU3 card installed in the Helios and hooked everything up. Guess what... it only support port multiplier on ONE SATA connection at a time! WTF??? Just confirmed this with tech support. I am beyond frustrated. On top of that, he says they only tested the card on a 4 Bay enclosure, doesn't even know if it will work on a 5 Bay. I don't know myself since a few of my bays are burned out in each enclosure, the replacement trays get here Thursday, but what does it matter anymore, I can only get 5 of my 10 bays online at a time.

Rick, do you know of a half length PCIe card that supports Port Multiplier on BOTH ports?

I thought I had it all worked out, once again. But here I am...

02-12-2013, 06:51 PM
Just had thought, why not try to hook up the Enclosures to the USB3 Ports on the CalDigit Card and just... see what happens. I've already installed the drivers. Fingers Crossed.

I really don't like the lack of HotSwapping via USB3 but maybe I'll just use that enclosure for backup drives and things that I don't mess with often.

I just can't believe that after spending over $900 trying to hook up my Burly's to my 2012 iMac, that I am COMPROMISING on anything at all... Guess I should've bought that MacPro after all. ;)

02-14-2013, 03:34 PM
Okay, I have done some testing now that all 10 bays are up and running (a few of the bays had gone bad and were just replaced, they were 6 or 7 years old):

First of all, the CalDigit card is a POS. It only supports port multiplier on one of the two eSata ports at a time. Worse, yet, it will only mount four of the five drives in the enclosure.

I tried using USB3 and immediately had the exact same problems I was having when I hooked directly to the 2012 iMac - Improper Disc Eject Warnings, etc... That's the end of that test - I don't want to fry anymore drives. I was hopeful that CaDigit's USB3 Driver would help me work around the shortcomings of Apple's USB3 implementation, but not.

So now, my last real option as far as I can tell, is to try out the FirmTek SeriTek/e6G Card. It says in black and white that it will support up to 10 drives . Here is a link to the description: http://www.firmtek.com/seritek/seritek-e6g/

Anyone know if it will work? Or if there is some reason that it absolutely won't work? Or should I just buy it, try it, and report back?


Will this card work? http://www.macgurus.com/store/ecom-prodshow/LYCeSATA4e.html

It needs to be Full Height, 1/2 Length. Here's the compatibility list for the Helios: http://eshop.macsales.com/tech_center/Thunderbolt/PCIe_Compatibility/

02-14-2013, 10:21 PM
Great fun you are having. Sure wish I knew why any given computer cannot mount USB enclosures reliably. It does not appear to follow any rhyme or reason. I read threads on forums bashing this or that enclosure manufacturer, but all of them never figure out why or how to get around it.

We did a bunch of testing on the CalDigit card, it worked mostly ok with USB 3. However, I never tested it with more than a single PM enclosure on it and almost always I use drives in sets of 4. I had no idea it would only support a single PM. That really seems weird. And only 4 drives also seems weird.

I had heard some reports about the Firmtek and issues with it on Thunderbolt. Firmtek isn't know for support, so I never followed them up.

The only card that I know of that really works is the ARECA 1300 series (http://www.areca.com.tw/products/sasnoneraid3g.htm). I sold one to a guy who used it in one of the expansion chassis, I am afraid I don't remember which chassis.

02-15-2013, 08:30 AM
My opinion on USB remains as it has always been…

It was designed originally for low speed input devices and it should have stayed that way. Unless I am absolutely forced to I won't use USB for anything high speed.. with the exception of my iPad and iPhone, I only have my keyboard and mouse on USB. Even my printer is ethernet. Everything else, and I have lots, is either Thunderbolt or Firewire

02-15-2013, 06:13 PM
Hey Rick, Yeah it does seam weird, but I'm afraid it is what it is. I knew I was a relatively new adopter of TB technology, but I thought I'd be able to work it out pretty quick and easy. Sadly, it's just turned into a "try it and see" situation. I hope you don't think I'm bashing your product - not at all the case. I love my Burly's, it was one of the best investments I've ever made in my business (realized early on that a bunch of Lacie's would not be sustainable long term). I'm up to 30+ Drives all mounted in Trays and ready to rock!

If my tone appeared directed, please forgive me, it wasn't. Just a venting of pent up frustration. Nobody's fault, just new tech and proven tech trying to commingle. This is one of the only forums that even knows what I'm talking about half the time, LOL. So, I just put it all out there. Maybe someone can help me, or maybe I can help someone else...

I'm still bewildered that a tiny Express34 Lycom card could mount all ten drives onto my MBP (at 150Gbit), and yet I can't find a card that will do the same in the Helios Chasis. I think FrimTech might be my best bet at this point. eSata is ROCK SOLID on the new iMac, and that's what I need. I just want to hook up BOTH Burly's... Right now, I'm able to get 4 drives mounted, that means I can get real work done, so I'm good. I will work it all out in the near future, and just have more options.

I'll take a closer look at the Areca 1300 Card for sure!

Do you think there will ever be a Port Multiplier Board that spits out TB to TB??? That would be AMAZING...

02-15-2013, 10:20 PM
All that Thunderbolt is is PCIe over a wire. There is no reason at all that a developer cannot marry a port multiplier capable SATA chipset to a Thunderbolt chip. Problem is, looks like the developers trying to build a port multiplier SATA chipset with SATAIII capabilities are all buggy. That'll work out in the end.

That seems a hell of a lot easier than getting some of the Macs to work with USB 3.0. I am pretty frustrated. I appreciate more than you will ever know your kindness through these trials.

One day we'll all look back and wonder why we had any problems at all. Until then the slog continues.

04-10-2013, 07:58 AM
.. Apple's TB monitor insists on being at the end of the chain and you want to remove a device.

Are you sure about that? It suggests it is not possible to make two monitor setup (and why does it have an out TB?)

By the way, I believe any hub would emulate a daisy chain therefore any TB out should "consume" the devices limit - and if so the only benefit would be to transform an end of chain device into a "in the chain" one (sorry for my pour english).


04-10-2013, 05:39 PM
On my mini It is not possible to currently make a 2 Apple TB monitor setup. You can use one TB Apple monitor and one DVI Apple (or other) monitor because the Mini has an HDMI port and comes with a DVI adapter. Mac Pro's may have more TB ports.

The TB Apple monitor has only one TB port and it is an 'in' port from the computer.

04-11-2013, 01:01 AM
Hi Damien. Please see the link below - wait for pictures to scroll (or click the blue button 2 and 3): picture 2 shows two monitor with MBP (only one out TB port on MBP) and picture 3 shows the back of TBD - one TB cable other them TB port.


What you think?


04-11-2013, 01:59 PM
I think the confusion here is that Apple changed the spec. The first 27" Cinema displays only had a MiniDisplay port, not a TB port. So they had to go at the end of a TB chain......which means only 1 external TB monitor.

They changed the monitor from MDP to TB, so now two can be chained together, or something else can be down the chain.

To really confuse us, they look exactly the same.......both the monitor and the port. The only difference I am aware of is the tiny symbol on the TB or MDP.


04-11-2013, 09:49 PM
I stand corrected…

There are in fact 2 TB ports on the back of the Display. How is it that I can own a TB display and not know that? I must be getting old..