Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express HD Dock Review

This is very late to the game, but since there has been a slight resurgence in demand for 2015 Macbook Pro’s of late, I figured it might not hurt to give a short review on this unit. The Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express HD Dock attempts to be a lot crammed into a relatively small package. At the time of me writing this, it’s been out for a few years and is priced pretty much on par with the other options like it. The nice thing about buying it now, however, is you can pick them up used for a good bit cheaper.

The main appeal of this device is it can connect 8 different devices over one Thunderbolt 2 cable, with the option to further daisy-chain additional Thunderbolt devices. It comes with three USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, HDMI, Ethernet and two audio out ports (one includes mic support). For me, the main appeal was a way to consolidate the mess of wires I had plugged into my laptop for my particular needs. Prior to this dock, I had: an Ethernet adapter plugged in over Thunderbolt, a wired keyboard and trackpad (the trackpad wasn’t required to stay plugged in, it’s just a preference of mine), wired external speakers, HDMI out and of course power. Thanks to this dock, I am now down to just a single Thunderbolt 2 cable and a power cable. I’d certainly prefer this to be one wire, but it’s vastly superior to how I was doing it.

The primary reason I wanted to move to this solution was because I was finding myself rarely using my laptop outside of my desk, solely because it was such a hassle to remove all of these cables. Sure, I could have a wireless keyboard and trackpad, wireless speakers, and even ditch the Ethernet, but my gigabit network speeds are many times faster than my wifi, I already own the wired keyboard that I like, and I don’t like wireless speakers (they’re usually Bluetooth and lossy/flaky at best). Keeping things how I prefer, I never have to deal with charging my trackpad or pairing to the speakers, instead, this dock allows me the comfort of all of these preferences through one cable.

Enough of the why, the real question is how well does this thing work? First off, it should be noted that I did buy this used on Amazon, so there is always a chance that any problems I have with it may be due to that. I was leery when reading reviews on all of the docks of this sort available, as they often had similar complaints regarding issues with HDMI or Ethernet in particular. A few claimed their Ethernet speeds were 100mbit/s instead of the advertised gigabit, which was concerning, as it would make my whole reason for this device a bit less necessary if my wifi speeds are better than that.

I’ve only had this dock a few days, but overall, so far so good. I tested Ethernet speeds between the official Apple dongle and this dock, and they are generally comparable, a few times the dock even outperforms the dongle. So far, no issues with HDMI either. In the past I’ve had occasions were HDMI directly from the HDMI port on my laptop gave me trouble, but nothing of the sort yet. My keyboard and trackpad are plugged in and working fine (though I previously had my trackpad plugged into one of the USB ports of my keyboard, once using the dock this resulted in a message about power every time I connected to the dock so I just moved the trackpad to charge directly from the dock, no more message). The only real complaints I have so far are with the speaker connection (and this is largely my own fault for having a particularly quirky setup).

I have a set of desktop speakers connected to a desktop computer, then a cable that runs from the line in on that computer to the dock (previously to my laptop). Since moving to the dock, I have noticed a slight feedback hum over my speakers, but immediately rearranged some wires and found the power cable was causing the majority of the noise. Moving it away helped, but hasn’t completely fixed it. There may be some other fix, but for now I’ve minimized it enough to not care. The only other complaint, and this really doesn’t affect me directly, is how hot the dock gets while in use. I realize I’m nearly maxing out it’s ports, but it gets surprisingly warm driving my 4K monitor (which is advertises it can do). I don’t know that this is the culprit, but it makes the most sense given how low-bandwidth the rest of the connections are. While my Ethernet can do gigabit, the dock still gets warm while idle and driving my display. If the display goes to sleep, however, the dock does cool down, so that seems to be the common factor. Again, this really doesn’t impact me overall, as it still works and I rarely need to touch it (nor is it too hot to touch, just warmer than I’d like). This could cause some longterm problems, but I guess time will tell.

I should add, one of the main reasons I picked this dock over a few other options I was considering was largely because it has the USB port and audio jack (with mic) on the front, as well as the ones on the back. This is minor for most people, but since I have the desktop speakers plugged in on the back, I wanted something I could still easily plug in headphones and other USB peripherals into as needed. If these aren’t needful things for you, the other docks may suffice (but I can’t vouch for them). For me, this seems like a winner.


Aaron Dippner

Software engineer who loves to nerd out about technology, home automation, gadgets and everything else.

Read More