Other World Computing (OWC) has a new way to expand and adapt the ports on your new Macs! The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock brings a total of 13 ports to the party, all connected through one Thunderbolt port on your MacBook Pro or new iMac. Chuck tells you what you need to know.
With any dock, the first thing that draws your attention is the number and type of ports. That is what the dock’s purpose in life is, to connect things to your Mac, and more is always better.
The OWC Thunderbolt dock comes with four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the back of the device, and one high-power USB.3.1 Gen 1 on the front, suitable for connecting and charging an iPhone or iPad, for a total of 5. Also on the front is an SD card slot, and an analog audio in/out jack for connecting external speakers or a microphone or any other analog audio device.
Next to the USB ports on the back is a S/PDIF pro-grad e digital audio output, and a FireWire 800 port that helps with some of your legacy equipment. I tested the FireWire 800 port with a FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 adapter and two different FireWire 400 hard drives with no problems. That means that any of your legacy FireWire devices should function without issue.
A Gigabit Ethernet port gets you on your local network if wireless isn’t available, or if you prefer the security and high performance of a wired network connection.
Next up are dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, one that makes the connection to your Mac, and another for another Thunderbolt device.
A Mini Display Port adds sophisticated monitor support.
Finally, a power jack makes the whole thing work.
The Thunderbolt 3 Dock just looks GOOD. The top is a shiny black and sturdy enough to stack another device on top, as long as it isn’t too heavy and also isn’t flat on the surface, to prevent a reasonable amount of heat dissipation.
The front ports are exactly what you want in the front of the dock since you would want to insert SD cards, charge your iPad or plug in a portable external drive or thumb drive, or connect a set of headphones or an external mic.
Perhaps out of necessity, perhaps out of design, the dock has some weight to it, 1.2 pouds…and that’s a good thing. Too many docks, even powered docks, that I’ve used are so light that, but the time you connect multiple cables, at least one of them is curled or coiled to the point it won’t lay flat and pulls the dock off the desk or up off the desk. With the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock, everything stays right where you put it.
There are plenty of display options with the Thunderbolt 3 Dock, including driving two 4K displays or 1 5K display. If you are looking for VGA or DVI support, that can easily be accomplished with the appropriate adapters and dongles, not included.
What Is Included:
While it seems like it would be obvious, not all Thunderbolt device manufacturers supply a cable with their devices. OWC does, and that is a nice touch. You will need to decide which side of your laptop you will want to place the dock on since the cable isn’t long enough to reach both sides, but that is a small issue, especially since, with a MacBook Pro, it will probably find a specific spot on your desk. If you plan to use the dock with one of the new iMacs, then having less cable clutter is definitely a good thing.
If you are used to, and content with, using no-name docks and third party hardware, then be advised: This is a Thunderbolt dock. When you start using Thunderbolt, you are working with highly powered ports on your Macs, and you are no longer going to want to just plug something in to see what happens, like you often could with USB. OWC has an established reputation for high-quality products, and for standing behind them. I’m very comfortable with the idea of using this dock with my expensive Macs and expensive drives and other hardware because of that reputation. Don’t overlook that as a feature when you are making your buying decision.
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock retails for $299 and can be ordered from Other World Computing at MacSales.com. If you are looking for fast expansion to your Thunderbolt-equipped Mac, with lots of port options, this is a piece of hardware you want to take a serious look at.