Apple knows that only professional users really needed ExpressCard/34 slots for their laptops—that’s why the company only continued to include the feature in 17” MacBook Pros. But with the invention of Thunderbolt, pro-grade I/O capabilities are now found in every Mac from the Mac mini on up, and thanks to Sonnet, there’s now a way for every Thunderbolt-equipped Mac to access ExpressCard expandability. It’s called the Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter ($150), a plug-and-play card slot that allows you to connect a whole host of adapters to your machine. If you’re thinking about picking one up, make sure you have an extra $49 handy; the Thunderbolt Cable isn’t included.
So what kinds of adapters can you hook up? Right now, there’s eSATA, FireWire, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, memory card readers, and PCIe Bus Extender. That list is just to start; Sonnet expects it to grow as drivers are updated to support Thunderbolt. This could be especially handy for people using the MacBook Air, which is pretty much bereft of I/O options. While it’s not for everyone, and certainly not cheap, it’s a neat solution if you have ExpressCards or want to add connectivity to recent Macs.