19 May 2017

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock offers 13 ports for legacy tech

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Safe harbour: OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 dock has a mammoth 13 ports Safe harbour: OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 dock has a mammoth 13 ports OWC

RedShark Review: OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 dock has no less than 13 ports, all of which represent OWC’s experience with users’ needs in terms of support for legacy technology.

I always imagined OWC to be a company that doesn't give a hoot about design — you know, the kind of business that packs its products in dull-brown cardboard boxes with an ordinary sticker on the side to show what’s inside. The packaging actually surprised me as it was everything you’d expect from a company selling to professional Mac users: carefully designed to appeal to our artistic instincts. Better yet, the dock itself has a great design, with a glossy surface and a space grey bezel. But most important of all: it’s a great expansion box.

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock comes with a 0.5 m Thunderbolt 3 40Gb/s USB Type-C cable. Its 13 ports have been chosen to best support your legacy equipment. Besides the two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports on the rear side, you’ll find one mini DisplayPort, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 Standard-A ports (with one supporting high-power output), a Gigabit Ethernet port, an S/PDIF digital audio port for output and a FireWire 800 port. The front side is home to one USB 3.1 Gen 1 type-A port, which also supports iPad charging, a very useful and fast SD 3.0 media card reader and a hybrid 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack.

The Thunderbolt 3 ports support video pass-through, supporting up to 4K/60Hz monitors. The mini DisplayPort 1.2 port supports 2K or 4K screens at 60Hz, so in total — and as with most Thunderbolt 3 docks worthy of that name — you can hook up two 60fps 4K displays. And of course you can also connect one 5K Thunderbolt 3 display.

The dock performed as advertised and I didn’t miss any of the other ports some docks have, like HDMI or a full-sized DisplayPort. Far from it, I was very happy with the mini DisplayPort as that meant I could connect (via adapter) an HP display I purchased a couple of years ago. The SD-card port is a boon as well. It’s faster to just plug in a microSD card into an adapter into the OWC card slot, than plugging in the — furthermore excellent — Lexar card reader when I only have one card to read.

The Thunderbolt 3 port made my Thunderbolt 3 compatible CalDigit Tuff test unit reach its highest speed. I also found the generous number of USB type-A ports to be better suited to the work I do than other ports I’ve tested. Heck, even a Thunderbolt 1 RAID system worked perfectly, using Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt adapter.

In short, The OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock so far has been the best port extension device I’ve come across — regardless of it being a Thunderbolt 1, 2 or 3 dock. Even if you don’t yet have a Thunderbolt 3 Mac, you can’t go wrong with this one. It costs $299.


Erik Vlietinck

Based in Holland and Belgium, Erik Vlietinck is the publisher of the IT Enquirer, a pan-European online publication covering multimedia content production.

He also regularly creates online textual and video content for websites of companies across Europe and writes for Photoshop User and occasionally contributes to Post Magazine. Erik has been a freelance writer for over a dozen IT-magazines in Great-Britain, Holland and Belgium.

He has written product reports on editorial systems, superwide format UV-curing inkjets, Postscript RIPs and DAM systems. From 1998 to 2004 Erik wrote the Administrator Guides for DMPartners’ linguistic search engine for publishers and WoodWing Software’s Enterprise 7 cross-media publishing system.

Up to 1990, Erik served as a solicitor at the Antwerp Bar Association and a lecturer at Vlekho, a university located in Brussels, where he bored post-graduate students with IT contracts law.

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