OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

For those that have the right equipment, this TB3 dock has a lot to offer…

http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/05/14/review—owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-is-the-only-game-in-town-for-firewire-800

Introduction
As I mentioned in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review in the USB-C Ports section, you’re really going to want some kind of docking station for working with Apple’s new notebooks featuring their TouchBar (and those without…).

Over the years, I’ve found that having a docking station for my notebook computer is important. I hate plugging and chugging cables in and out of my notebook computer when I want to compute on the go; and I’ve found that doing so – plugging and unplugging cables in and out of a notebook – can actually be damaging to both the PC and the cables. At some point, you’re going to rush, and you’re going to tweak either a port or a cable, and then it won’t work right any longer. That can get expensive if it’s the PC or very inconvenient if it’s a cable you have to replace.

A little more than a year and a half ago, I reviewed the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for 15″ MacBook Retina. The dock was awesome and to be honest, the type of dock that I really wanted for my family member for use with their Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro, but when we purchased the notebook back in June, the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 version of the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock wasn’t supposed to be available for purchase until September 2017. Well, September 2017 is here, and the dock… well, it isn’t.

Thankfully, I got rescued by OWC and their Thunderbolt 3 Dock. It’s one of the best and most affordable Thunderbolt 3 docks available today.

As I noted in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review, the notebook in and of itself is missing a LOT of ports. While it has four (4) USB-C ports that also support Thunderbolt 3, finding the peripherals you need that will work through these ports – keyboard, mouse, thumb drives, your phone, etc. – don’t actually exist yet. While all of these peripherals are available, they don’t have USB-C ports yet, and as such, aren’t supported natively on the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro.

Ports o’ Plenty
Thankfully, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock resolves all this. It has thirteen (13) ports, to provide you with all of the legacy connectivity you need. It has

• 5 USB-A 3.1 Ports, including 2 high power ports
• 1 S/PDF Out Port
• 1 Fire wire 800 Port
• 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
• 2 USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 Ports
• 1 miniDisplay Port Port
• 1 SD Card Reader Port
• 1 Audio Out Port

owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-sg-ports-ms@2x

The nice thing here, is that if you find you need more ports than are offered on this dock, you can daisy chain another hub or dock to the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock either via one of the High Power USB-A 3.1 Ports, or one of the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 ports. So, the dock is expandable, if you will. This is important, in that you may have more than five USB-A peripherals, for example. I know that I do. Between printers (plural) a DVD-R/W drive, desktop storage, a keyboard and dedicated ports for my phone, DSLR, Apple Watch and even my Firewire 800 powered Time Machine Drive.

Connectivity and Speed
When connecting devices to these ports, you’re going to be very pleased and very surprised. Nearly everything works with nearly every device in both macOS and Windows (under Boot Camp). However, you’ll find that the dock’s Firewire port will not work under Boot Camp, so, it won’t work with your Mac’s ability to boot into native Windows.

The ports that do work, however, work; and work very well. Thunderbolt 3 supports up to 40Gbps (gigabits per second). In reality when working with other USB 3.1 related devices, however, you’ll get about 10Gbps. It’s hard to know just how fast drive or data transfer rates will be for things like a USB 2.0 compatible thumb drive, but trust me… you’re really going to be impressed. When moving large data files, I was getting speeds equivalent to 80MBps (megabytes per second). This converts to about 0.625Gbps or 640Mbps (megabits per second). In comparison, some of the best REAL internet download speeds I’ve ever seen have been in the range of 150 – 195Mbps, and those downloads were lightning quick… LITERALLY. You’ll be able to copy large movie files in minutes instead of 30+ minutes or more to and from locally connected media.

The Dock also comes with an SD card reader. This is a huge deal, as nearly every Mac laptop has had an SD card slot for the last ten or so years. The fact that the MacBook Pro no longer has one is a huge issue in my mind. The fact that the dock has one makes it all that much more valuable. Its fast, too. When you pair Thunderbolt 3 speeds with this card slot, you get a really wonderful, really fast connectivity solution.

Conclusion
I’ve used a number of different docks and docking stations over the years with the computers that I’ve owned. On the Windows side of the world, this has been easy. Docking solutions on that side of the fence are many and myriad. On the Mac side, however, not so much. Macs don’t have specialized dock connectors that allow dedicated and quick connection to a permanent dock. In most cases, you either have to attach every port to a single docking solution (the those provided by Henge Docks) or you sacrifice a single native port for a port replicator styled dock like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

There’s not much difference between how the two solutions provide connectivity. One uses all the native ports, the other only uses one, connecting you to the dock via a cable. Thanks to TB3 technology, though you’re going to get some of the best performance you’ve ever experienced when working with your peripherals.

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $299 and is available from their website.

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