OWC Thunderbolt Dock Review

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Thunderbolt 4 has arrived with this ultrafast Thunderbolt Dock


 OWC Thunderbolt Dock Review

Review Manufacturer: OWC

Price when reviewed

£249

$299

Our Verdict

Laptops may have the processing power to deal with the hi-resolution files from the latest video and stills cameras. But, when it comes to storage and connectivity, these powerful laptops are decidedly lacking.

You have the power to process files but not to store them without connecting to an external hard drive. Then because you have to have the power connected, once another drive is connected there’s no way to connect a memory card reader, or for that matter, anything else.

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock remedies the issue with a simple hardware interface that enables you to plugin a vast array of accessories with ease.

Designed to stay in situ, the OWC Thunderbolt Dock is mains powered, with the idea that you leave it on your desk and plug in your laptop when you arrive home with a single cable rather than many.

The simple ease of use isn’t the docks only advantage; along with the hardware comes the bundled OWC Dock Ejector software package that saves more than just time.

If you’re fed-up with cables, plugging in and out different accessories or are lost for connection options, then the OWC Thunderbolt Dock is for you.

For

Good selection of connection options Pass through power No performance drop for connected drives

Against

Requires mains power

What is the OWC Thunderbolt Dock?

These days most of us have dumped the desktop computer and moved full-time laptops.

The convenience of the smaller machine with its built-in screen, keyboard, a trackpad that enable you to work anywhere is obvious, but there are drawbacks.


 OWC Thunderbolt Dock Review

However fast the latest laptops are, they often lack the features you need for a comfortable days work; monitors, enough storage to hold all that video you shot and an external keyboard, mouse or control board.

All of these accessories are essential in the professional workflow or, for that matter, anyone passionate about imaging. These accessories all need the same thing, ports to connect into, and those ports are often limited or missing from the latest laptops.

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock is designed as a one-stop solution; plug in all your accessories, from monitors to hard drives, into the dock, and then connect the dock to your computer with a single cable.

This one cable connection for all your accessories is especially relevant with the latest MacBook Pro 13-inch. Just two Thunderbolt 3 ports are severely limiting for plugging anything of use in. Once you’ve plugged in power, you’re then down to one port.

That’s not enough ports for even the simplest tasks, such as downloading the contents of your memory card to a hard drive.

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock isn’t just a simple hub offering a host of connection options. Instead, it offers a complete docking solution.

By being mains powered, it has power pass through to charge you’re MacBook or PC laptop while you work.

It offers an SD card reader, USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone jack with the 90w Thunderbolt power pass through on the front.

Then on the back, there are three Thunderbolt 4 (Thunderbolt3 backwards-compatible ports), ethernet and three USB 3.2 ports.

This means you can plugin monitors, keyboard and mouse along with hard drives and still have room for more.

What’s more, OWC has extensive experience with software solutions, and as I saw with the Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock, the OWC Dock Ejector software is incredibly useful.

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock is a complete docking solution and gives you all the connection options and convenience of a desktop.

Performance

In my main workspace, I have a couple of monitors, speakers, and hard drives set up and connected to an old Mac Pro 2013. The Mac Pro, while old, still packs in enough power to happily plough through images as well as many other tasks, but when I need a bit more grunt, I turn to my newer MacBook Pro.

Connected to a Blackmagic GPU, those two monitors, speakers, another set of hard drives, a Monogram and several other devices, it would take a few moments to plug everything into one machine.


 OWC Thunderbolt Dock Review

However, with the OWC Thunderbolt Dock, everything is already plugged into the small box and ready to go; all I need to do is plug in the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 cable into the MacBook Pro, and I’m ready to get started.

My two main areas of concern when using a doc like this are any of the more delicate components, a Lacie Big and the Blackmagic eGPU. Both mount without issue with the drive appearing on the desktop and the eGPU icon appearing in the icon bar at the top of the Mac screen.

Over the month that I’ve been using the doc I’ve had no issues with drives not ejecting correctly or any type of data worry.

In use, aside from the lack of cables plugged into the machine, there’s no difference in the MacBook Pro performance. It appears as fast as ever, and editing video footage from storage on the external drives proves that transfer speeds are the same as if plugged in directly to the computer.

The eGPU also works as it should with no issues. The other question was would it work with the OWC Dock Ejector?

As with hard drives, the eGPU and Monogram ejected from the system with the one-click from the eject toolbar. This single features saves time and also helps ensure that everything is ejected each time correctly.

The one-click Dock Ejector is a feature that should be as standard with all computers and works seamlessly here.

After a few weeks of solid use, the dock work exceptionally well. It’s one of those pieces of kit that integrates into the workflow to the point that you don’t realise it’s there.

Sit down at your workstation, plugin in the laptop, and you’re ready to go.

If you want to plug in an SD card, headphones or another USB 3.1, gen 1 or 2 device, then the ports on the front enable you to do this quickly without faffing around with adapters or trying to locate a port around. The back.

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock works.

Final Thoughts

The OWC Thunderbolt Dock makes life easier and helps avoid the need to eject, unplug and reconnect devices from your computer constantly.

The small size also means that it sits discreetly under your monitor; I positioned the review unit comfortably on the monitor stand, visible and ready for action when needed.


 OWC Thunderbolt Dock Review

In use, there’s no performance drop with hard drives and monitor resolution compared with plugging those accessories directly into your computer.

The big wins for the OWC Thunderbolt Dock are the ability to plug all your accessories into one device and then a single cable into your machine. This saves time and keeps things neat, or at least a little neater.

There’s also the Dock Ejector software, a big small feature that enables you to eject everything in one go quickly. It works incredibly well and helps you avoid the trauma of unplugging a drive-by mistake and then being unable to reconnect.

The convenience continues with the ports on the front that mean you don’t need to locate an SD card reader, and the headphone port is always there and accessible when you need it.

Using the OWC Thunderbolt Dock proves that it will have wide appeal; anyone who wants to dock into a system should seriously consider using a dock, just for convenience.

The difference it makes when you’re constantly plugging in and ejecting devices the whole system makes sense for professionals. It makes using a laptop as your main machine somewhat less temporary.

The Doc is expensive, which will put it out of reach for most people, but it’s one piece of kit that you really cannot afford not to have in a professional environment.

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