a review by Tom Piper
As the demand for USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) connectivity grows, starting with the initial introduction of the MacBook 12" laptop, followed by the wonderful MacBook Pro Touch Bar and other great Apple computers, the response has been varied and extensive from many different companies. I've waited for the emergence of a powerhouse unit, and my patience has been rewarded by this newest dock.
Now with 13 ports that many of us need, OWC's new Thunderbolt 3 Dock has brought unbelievable connectivity to my laptop through an included 20" Thunderbolt 3 cable which delivers more than enough charging power to my laptop and numerous other devices, all at the fastest speeds possible. Compared to the previous Thunderbolt 2 dock (reviewed 01/31/17, applejac/usb-c-docking-solution, and 06/10/15, applejac/thunderbolt-2-dock) this is a major step forward for our latest computer workhorses.
Thunderbolt 3 Dock delivers more connectivity which can drive two 4K displays, connect and charge up to six USB 3.1 (or lower) devices, work with legacy FireWire storage, enjoy pristine audio, wired networks, and read SD cards, all at twice the speed of Thunderbolt 2 through a single cable. Its a nice size at 1" x 3.5" x 9.1", and only about 1.2 lbs. In addition to the Ethernet green power and amber activity lights on the back, there are also a pair of power lights on the bottom which are hard to see (except in the dark), but this is not a concern.
With its phenomenal bandwidth (up to 40Gb/s), this Thunderbolt 3 Dock is the foundation of my computing setup with gigabit ethernet network connection. With the ability to drive the latest generation 5K displays, two ultra HD 4K displays, or a combination of 4K, HD and other displays with the mini DisplayPort port and additional Thunderbolt 3 port, the viewability possibilites are amazing. The mini DisplayPort port allows for the use of HDMI or VGA dongles for a variety of displays.
Setup out of the box was quick and simple, even though I accidentally plugged a Thunderbolt 2 hard drive into the mini DisplayPort (it fit, but nothing happened, instead I used a dongle to plug it into the second Thunderbolt 3 port). With 135W of power, my 15" MacBook Pro Touch Bar laptop was easily connected and powered (the half-meter USB-C cable seems too short, particularly if I had wanted to plug into the other side of my computer). Yet, my numerous Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 external hard drives power-up immediately when my laptop starts up, and the 128GB Transcend JetDrive SD is comfortable in the SD slot. There is no need for a power switch, because everything comes to life when my laptop starts up or wakes up.
In my daily work, I have a highly-specialized workflow complete with specialized and legacy ports, including FireWire 800 and USB-3 hard drives. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock also supports my S/PDIF digital audio speakers, as well as an SD card reader and hybrid analog stereo audio headphone/microphone jack. This unit is quiet, unobtrusive, and reliably meeting almost all of my accessory needs; it is truly a powerhouse of connections!
OWC provides a superior level of support and warranty coverage to their customers. Even when not used, they understand the peace of mind afforded by this two-year warranty period. As I have seen with their other products, OWC connectivity solutions are engineered to demanding quality standards in order to deliver the most reliable, highest performance available on the market.
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock is available at eshop.macsales.com/preorder/owc-thunderbolt-3-dock for Special Pre-Order Savings of only $299.00. This is the best Thunderbolt dock yet produced by Other World Computing, even though my review unit is still at the pre-certification stage (a firmware update may yet be required). It faithfully upholds the OWC tradition of fine products at very competitve pricing.