While the price may seem high for entry-level users, $300 for the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock makes a lot of sense. This is especially true for those of us who have thousands invested in our machines.
Get your own
Other World Computing pretty much bailed out the Mac community when they announced availability on their OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. For years, Apple has been removing ports and features in an effort to streamline products and satisfy the seemingly sadistic design whims of Jony Ive. My latest purchases included a 2017 iMac and the latest MacBook Pro with Touchbar. On the former, USB-C (or, in actuality, Thunderbolt 3) displaced the twin mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt 2) connections. For the MacBook Pro—well, all you get are four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports and a headphone jack.
I’ve shopped with OWC for years, making memory and replacement battery purchases among other things. Since they’ve been consistently informative and reliable, looking to them to solve the disappearing port problem seemed like a good bet. Still, we do a lot of video and audio editing, with ample peripherals, so we needed the dock to really function without disrupting our workflow.
OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock Features
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock provides 13-ports to expand your system. It delivers an SD card reader, audio in/out jack, 5 USB 3.1 ports, S/PDIF, Firewire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and a mini DisplayPort. The mini DisplayPort works for monitors only (don’t confuse it with a Thunderbolt 2 connection). You can use that and the additional Thunderbolt 3 port provided to drive up to two 4K monitors or a single 5K monitor. This wide variety of ports makes it a very powerful peripheral. It’s also priced right at around $299 (less, if you catch it on sale).
The dedicated 20V, 6.75A power supply feeds the Dock (the external transformer keeps the physical dimensions of the dock small). That external power supply is actually quite big, so if you’re looking at the size of the aluminum chassis for portability, don’t forget to factor that into the mix. You can do the math, and understand why this system can power and charge Thunderbolt 3 laptops up to 60W. Two of the aforementioned USB 3.1 ports carry high power (2A). That means they can operate an Apple SuperDrive or Apple USB keyboard. They can also provide high-speed charging for Apple iPads and iPhones.
It goes without saying that the refined chassis adds to the value. Available in either Silver or Space Gray, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock looks great next to your iMac or MacBook Pro. At the bottom, low profile LED status lights make for a nice accent. They also don’t blind you like so many other products I’ve tested. Green indicates data transfer or activity, while the blue LED assures you that the power is connected.
Getting Under the Hood & Testing
There’s a lot of tech inside the OWB Thunderbolt 3 Dock. For example, the Thunderbolt 3 interface is driven by an Intel DSL6540. Taiwanese C-Media powers the S/PDIF output as well as the ADCs and DACs for the analogue audio input/output port.
I tested the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock over the course of two months on several projects. Editing several videos for tool reviews allowed me to try out many features. I had a drive connected via Firewire 800, dual monitors, three USB peripherals, plenty of use of SDXC cards, Ethernet, and headphones. I perceived no latency issues and none of my drives seemed to slow down in the least. This, despite the fact that I was running data through quite a few of those ports at one time.
One thing you’ll want to be wary of is using additional “downstream” ports. For example, while you can connect a 4K monitor to the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, don’t use that monitor’s USB ports for additional peripherals. You’ll likely exceed the driver voltage and could experience dropouts or glitches. Use the dock as it’s designed, however, and you’ll likely do very well in any number of potential data-heavy applications.
While the price may seem high for entry-level users, $300 makes a lot of sense. This holds especially true for those of us who have thousands invested in our machines. Reliability also comes into play. The two-year warranty offered on the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock goes a long way to providing peace of mind. If only Apple would realize we actually need these ports to do our work. Two lanes might look much better downtown, but the resulting traffic jam makes it a really bad idea.
For more information, visit OWC here.