New Thunderbolt accessories signal renaissance of Mac customization

Want to customize your Mac(s aapl)? Unless you’re happy with making changes to the RAM, or really nothing at all on MacBook Air models, you face limited options these days. But newly announced Thunderbolt(s intc) accessories could soon help your Mac do a pretty good impression of more expensive professional machines, like the Mac Pro.

Magma’s three-slot expansion chassis for Thunderbolt, the ExpressBox 3T announced by the company on Wednesday, is a perfect example of how Intel’s high-speed I/O port, which ships on nearly all new Macs, could bring back a greater range of customization options for owners of Apple computers. The accessory will allow you to use any PCIe 2.0 cards with Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, including video capture devices, media transcoding tools and high-speed data storage.

The ExpressBox 3T can be daisy-chained with up to six Thunderbolt devices, including the new 27-inch Cinema Display that Apple just recently began shipping to stores. It also could mean that PCIe graphics cards will let less powerful machines like the MacBook Air keep up with higher end devices for gaming and video editing applications.

It’s another step along the path of Thunderbolt allowing Mac notebooks to become powerful workstations through single-cable plug-in solutions, something which can’t come fast enough in my opinion. Portable computers already account for the bulk of PC sales, and if tech like Thunderbolt can ensure that we can have portability without sacrificing power, storage or speed when settling in to performing demanding tasks, we should be able to move closer still to Jobs’ Post-PC era.

Magma hasn’t announced pricing or availability info for the ExpressBox 3T yet, but the company will be showing off the device, and possibly releasing more information at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, which runs Sept. 13 – 15. Sonnet, which makes the upcoming ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt adapter, has also announced PCIe expansion chassis products, but no details about its release timeline have yet been unveiled. Let’s hope they all hurry up and get here so we can see what Thunderbolt is really capable of.