Create a high-performance workstation with a single Thunderbolt 2 port.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years designing and re-organizing workspaces. Whether it be in our home office or in my workplace, I like to create a comfortable workspace for myself. One of the easiest ways to do this is to manage cables and devices properly. Sometimes that means you have to ‘hide’ cables or small products like USB hubs or Ethernet switches. One easy way to do this is to incorporate a docking station and/or switch.
I have a mid-2014 13-inch MacBook Pro, which features 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports as well as 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port. This makes hooking up peripherals quite simple because there are so many ports. The only problem is the cable clutter. I mean, imagine if you had one device hooked up to every port on the MBP. There would be 5 different cables sticking out of the computer and that doesn’t count the power cable or the Aux port. With this in mind, I decided to look at the Thunderbolt 2 KVM by IOGEAR to help with management of my current workspace.
The Thunderbolt 2 KVM transforms your computer into a high-performance workstation with a single Thunderbolt 2 port. You can connect to eleven devices or connect a second Thunderbolt 2-enabled computer. There is a switch on the top of the dock that allows you to seamlessly switch between the two computers without having to rewire your entire setup. The dock is compatible with Thunderbolt 1, 2, and 3 (with adapter).
When you first open the box, you will find the KVM on one side of the box while all the accessories are stored on the other. The KVM comes packaged with a base stand, Thunderbolt 2 cable, power brick/cable, and a quick-start guide. While it seems like a fairly explanatory set-up, there are certain steps that must be taken prior to startup First, you plug in the power cable and then all the cables to your peripherals. The device itself has a very sleek design to it. Its body is an anodized aluminum and it comes in the silver color — just like the body of my MacBook Pro.
There are 13 ports in total available on the IOGEAR Thunderbolt 2 KVM Docking Station — 12 on the back and one on the front. The connections include:
- Auxiliary Audio port – input (microphone) and output (headphones/speakers) options
- Two Thunderbolt 2 ports (daisy chain)
- One Thunderbolt 2 port
- Three USB 3.0 – Two on the back and one on the front
- Two USB 2.0
- Gigabit LAN (Ethernet)
One of the things I really like about this device is that it’s vertical. There are a lot of docks out there that are horizontal and I much prefer being able to have it stand vertically on my desk so that it takes up less space. I currently have a simple mobile-style desk set-up at home and vertical objects are just better. Truth be told since I don’t have a dual monitor set-up, I wasn’t sure how much use I would get out of this extraordinary dock, but like I said above, imagine not having to plug everything into your laptop.
The KVM dock can also work as a USB charger and one thing I have quite a few of is USB devices that need charging. I have a portable battery that charges using a dock of its own. So I simply plugged the USB cable into to the IOGEAR dock and let it do the heavy lifting. It saved me from having to route a bunch of cables to power adapters. The dock has two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. So, I decided to use one of the USB 2.0 ports for charging this device. That way it wouldn’t be a waste of a faster data transfer speed. Since the IOGEAR dock is powered by a DC12V adapter, it’s got enough power to supply a simple portable battery.
Another thing I found particularly useful was being able to plug in a portable hard drive for additional storage. I really despise having them plugged into my computer and ‘hanging out’ on the desk while I transfer files. Plugging the hard drive into the IOGEAR dock allowed me to take advantage of USB 3.0 transfer speeds and it allowed me to hide the drive away so that it wasn’t contributing to my desktop clutter. Finally, I connected my Audio Engine HD3 Speakers into the dock using the Aux cable. Even though that set of speakers is wireless, I prefer a wired connection to my computer since sometimes the Bluetooth signal is interrupted. Again, this connection prevented me from having a cable strewn across my desk. I did have to change the output settings in Preferences, but once I did, I didn’t have any issues with the sound quality or connection. Now I do want to point out that the quick start guide states that — Audio Line-in/Line-out ports only support optical or self-powered sound devices. My Audio Engine speakers are self-powered, which is why they work.
Now if you have two computer set-ups that you want to use this dock as a KVM switch, you can do that by plugging each CPU into the Thunderbolt 2 spots. Then, you punch in the button for the CPU you want to use actively. For example, I have my MacBook Pro plugged into the Thunderbolt 2-1 port and in order to use the devices plugged into the dock — including any monitors or speakers — I would have to punch in the button on the top of the dock with the single dot. What’s interesting is that even if you don’t have a second computer plugged in, you can switch to the second Thunderbolt input and all the devices will switch over to that input. As a test, I switched to input 2 and the music I was listening to through my Audio Engines quickly changed back to my MacBook Pro internal speakers. The switch was instantaneous. When I flipped back to input 1, the speakers reconnected, but it took about 6 seconds before I started hearing Green Day playing through them again.
One thing I was to address is the stand. At first, I didn’t really see a purpose to it since the bottom of the dock has small silicone feet on it, but then I realized that the stand provides clearance at the back for the cables that are plugged in. Don’t plan on being able to have the dock sit flush against a wall because there will be cables sticking out of the back. Follow the base as a guide for how much space you need to allow for. The IOGEAR Thunderbolt 2 KVM Docking Station is a really nice investment for workspaces that need some space savers and organization. I love how it’s turned my mobile desk into a real workspace. The only thing that I wish was included was an SD card slot on the front.
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