OWC Thunderbolt Hub Review
Review Manufacturer: OWC
Price when reviewed
$288 Check current price
There’s no doubt that the OWC Thunderbolt Hub provides a convenient solution for anyone looking to add more Thunderbolt 3/4 ports to their Mac or PC.
Plugin and you’re away, three additional Thunderbolt 4 ports in an instant and a USB-A for good measure, and of course, the Thunderbolt 4 ports are fully backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3. Unfortunately, Mac ports are still languishing at Thunderbolt 3, while Thunderbolt 4 is fast becoming the norm in the PC world; check out the Intel NUC Extreme.
The Hub itself is compact. However, the power supply and cables are almost double the size and equal in weight, but this Hub isn’t designed to be portable.
The Hub provides a no-fuss daisy-chaining solution with plenty of bus power for all devices. Also, being self-powered, the Hub can deliver up to 60W to power and charge your laptop.
The OWC Thunderbolt hub is a great solution for anyone using a recent 13-inch MacBook of any type or 60W power-hungry PC laptop and adds much-needed ports while still supplying power.
For those with 16-inch MacBook’s or 100W PC laptops, the benefits are far less obvious, and for the money, it would be better spent on the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock.
Compact Latest technology Fast and backward compatible
Large power supply Only provides 60W of pass-through power.
What is the OWC Thunderbolt Hub?
The OWC Thunderbolt dock is a compact Thunderbolt 4 port solution for your laptop, be it Mac or PC. Realistically 13-inch MacBook users will benefit the most as the addition of the Hub boosts the usually standard poultry usable ports from one to three.
The dock itself features four Thunderbolt four ports and one USB-A port; power is supplied through a power supply which means that all four ports can be used, the front port being for power pass through and data connection to the Mac or PC.
This realistically leaves you with three Thunderbolt ports for accessories and an optional USB-A port for an additional accessory.
In effect, that would boost the 13-inch MacBook Pro from one Thunderbolt port, the other being used for the power supply, to three, not a bad boost in connectivity terms. The fourth is used to connect to the Mac.
Powered hubs these days are quite unusual as everyone scrambles for portability, and while non powered is convenient, the performance isn’t always as stable as you would hope.
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub features power to charge the laptop and ensures consistency for all of the connected accessories.
This is especially important for those using their laptops for creative application such as video, where an additional strain of power and data transfer is put on the Hub.
The Hub also tackles the issue of daisy-chaining accessories. Some accessories need to be at the front of the chain to draw enough power to function properly. For example, you may find that you connect a portable hard drive to your non-powered Hub but find that it doesn’t appear.
More than likely, this is a daisy-chaining issue where the hubs bus isn’t providing the required power to the accessory. In some cases, this can cause issues with the connected device as it’s mounted and unmounted from the system.
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub gets around this issue by being powered. Therefore with the 60W pass through, the Hub has sufficient to power the accessories while still powering the Mac.
It’s worth noting that this Hub is Thunderbolt 4, whereas most Mac’s are still Thunderbolt 3. So while Mac users won’t be, at present, able to make use of the additional speed and features of the newer technology, it won’t be long before the next generation of Macs appears featuring Thunderbolt 4.
Although I’ve gone heavy on the Mac side of use with the OWC Thunderbolt Dock, it’s also 100% compatible with PCs such as the Intel NUC 9 Extreme.
Build and Handling
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub features the same build and design quality that we’ve come to expect from OWC. The small Hub is around the same size as a pack of cards and features a solid build with a metal surround.
As with the Dock range, this Hub has been designed to last.
The design sees a power supply inserted directly into the back of the Hub. Then Thunderbolt 3 and above devices can be connected, such as the OWC Envoy Pro FX portable drive, Monogram Creative Console or card reader.
Then on the front, you have the direct MacBook Thunderbolt connection and a spare USB-A if needed.
It’s all very simple and neat. However, what further enhances the Hub is the software. It’s compatible with the OWC Dock Ejector software. This means that with a single click, you can disconnect all accessories safely.
Starting out, I connected the OWC Thunderbolt Hub to the power and positioned the Hub under the monitor. One point here is that the cables that OWC supply in the box are of a decent length, 3m, which makes it easy to stretch to an available plug point.
Once in position, the accessories, up to three, you wish to connect can be plugged directly into the ports at the back.
Everything connected the OWC Thunderbolt 4 cable can be connected to the MacBook.
I’m running this test on a 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the best boost will cone from connecting to a 13-inch.
This both boosts the number of ports and enables you to charge your machine.
So, the first thing to check on for the test is any performance with a connected hard drive.
I decided the best way to test this was to connect all Thunderbolt ports with an accessory and then check the drive’s transfer speed.
The devices connected are OWC Envoy, Monogram Creative Studio with the addition of two orbiters and a Lexar multi-card reader with a UHS-II card inserted.
Using the Blackmagic disk speed test, I checked the read/write speed of the OWC Envoy portable hard drive and found a slight drip in write speed but a slight uplift in reading speed.
Direct to MacBook Pro
Write speed: 1615MB/s
Read speed: 2339MB/s
Through Thunderbolt hub
Write speed: 1357MB/s
Read speed: 2445MB/s
Even at the slower write speed provided by the Hub, this is more than enough to edit most 4K video formats. So essentially, it’s as fast as it needs to be.
Speed is just one aspect of this Hub, reliability is the other, and sure enough, editing some 4k video, the performance of the connected drives and card readers was impressive.
Ultimately the performance of the Hub was excellent; with multiple accessories attached, there was little if any drop off in performance.
Rounding up, I have to say that I’m impressed with the performance of this Hub.
It’s designed as an in-situ solution rather than one that gets packed in your bag and carted around.
The Hub itself is small, but the size of the power supply is oddly larger than the Hub itself.
When the Hub is neatly tucked under your monitor, the small size of the is easy to position, and for me, the ability to plugin those essential Thunderbolt 3, 4 in the future, compatible accessories made it a tidy solution.
As I’m using a 16-inch MacBook Pro, I couldn’t make full use of all the features, however, plugged into a MacBook Pro 13-inch and the boost to the ease of use was instantly apparent.
Adding those extra ports made a world of difference, with just one cable quickly connecting to Monogram Creative Studio, Monitor and hard drive while still retaining power to the computer.
The write performance through the Blackmagic Disk Speed test may have been down, but the connection to drives and accessories was solid, far more so than when using a non-powered hub.
For 16-inch owners, the OWC thunderbolt hub offers plenty, but for the outlay, I would probably opt for the Thunderbolt 3 Dock for the additional features.
However, for the MacBook Pro 13-inch, I’d have to opt for the OWC Hub; it’s small compact and boosts the connection option for the laptop without restricting the performance.
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub looks simple in its aesthetic design but ultimately provides the goods, and is an excellent connection solution.