OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock adds 14 powerful ports to your Mac [Review]

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OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock review
Put the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock on your desk and you’re ready for high-speed connections to a wide range of accessories.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

You need a powerful dock to make your Mac the center of a highly capable office. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock has fourteen ports for connecting a wide range of peripherals. That includes multiple USB-C ports, something you won’t find on USB-C hubs. Plus there’s USB-A, Ethernet, a headset jack and more.

I added this dock to my office. Here’s how it performs in real-world use.

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OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock review

I’m a fan of USB-C hubs for Mac and iPad but they have a real limitation: they can’t include multiple USB-C ports. For that you need to turn to Firewire. OWC’s dock lets you plug in multiple USB-C accessories, including a monitor. And there’s Firewire port so you can connect really high-speed accessories.

On top of that, there’s five USB-A ports, two memory card readers, a headset jack and even a digital audio port. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is ready to be at the center of a very elaborate office setup. Or even an entertainment center.

Hardware and design

You don’t fit fourteen ports into a small device. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is 9.1 inches wide, 3.6 in. deep and 1.1 in. deep. It’ll take up a chunk of your desk, but at least it does a lot. Add in a really sizable power brick (6.5 in. by 3.1 in. by 1.0 in.) and this device isn’t particularly portable.

The exterior is brushed aluminum, in either Space Gray or silver. The top and bottom are shiny black plastic. The corners are rounded but not the edges. To me, it matches the look of a Mac quite well.

Front ports

OWC put a few ports on the front of its dock where they’re easily accessible.
You can easily plug in your headphones or charge your iPhone from ports on the front of the dock.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

OWC put a few ports on the front of its dock where they’re easily accessible. These are for accessories you might want to regularly plug and unplug.

That includes a 3.5mm headset jack. Yes, your Mac has one of these but an advantage of the Thunderbolt 3 Dock is you can plug all your accessories into it then detach from them all by removing a single cable when you need to take your MacBook and go.

Also on the front of the dock is a USB-A port. OWC suggests using this to charge your iPhone or other mobile devices. But the port also supports USB 3.1 Gen 1 if you want to transfer data.

But these days, a better option is the front-facing USB-C port. This provides 5V and 3A (15W). And it supports USB 3.1 Gen 2. In my testing, it copied a 1GB files from an external drive to my computer in about 3 seconds. The file moved the other direction in about 5 seconds.

SD and microSD memory card readers are also easily accessible. Copying a 1GB video file off one of these cards takes roughly 24 seconds. You should be able to get your drone pics fairly quickly.

Curiously, OWC’s documentation says, “Both the SD card reader and the microSD card reader are controlled by the same chipset, meaning only one can be in use at a time.” But I had no problem copying a 1 GB file directly from one to the other in just under a minute.

Back ports

A majority of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 ports are on the back where their cables are less visible.
The back of OWC’s desktop dock includes multiple USB-A ports, Thunderbolt 3 ports, and more.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A majority of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 ports are on the back where their cables are less visible.

That includes four USB-A ports. These support USB 3.1 Gen 1 so they aren’t especially fast. They’re primarily there so you can plug in a keyboard, mouse, etc. I did so and these peripherals worked exactly as expected. Just note that to use the Apple SuperDrive or Apple USB keyboard (and only these) you’ll need to install a driver on your Mac.

But the most capable port on the whole dock is a USB-C one that offers Thunderbolt 3. A limitation of USB-C hubs is that you can’t daisychain them — that’s not true here. You can plug another Thunderbolt 3 accessory to this port, like another dock or a hard drive. Or use the port for a USB-C accessory, including a display.

I tested the port with the OWC Envoy Pro FX because the drive supports Thunderbolt. Copying a 1GB file from my computer to the drive took under 2 seconds. Copying the same file from drive to computer was even faster.

In further testing, the Thunderbolt 3 port had no problem running a USB-C display.

Another display option is a Mini DisplayPort++. This can handle a 4K monitor at 60Hz. Just notice that there’s no HDMI port in the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. That might be a problem for some people.

A gigabit Ethernet port gives you access to high-speed internet without needing to depend on Wi-Fi. Wireless networking is great, but wired is often faster and is always more secure.

An S/PDIF digital audio output port lets you connect your Mac to a sound bar or other audio accessories that use this type of connectivity.

There’s a second USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 but this is needed to connect the dock to your computer. Be sure to use the cable OWC bundles with its accessory — just any off-the-shelf USB-C cable won‘t do.

With the 2021 iPad Pro or Windows

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is primarily intended for Mac — especially MacBook — but Apple added Thunderbolt to the 2021 iPad Pro so the tablet can take full advantage of the many features of the dock.

While Cult of Mac is an Apple-centric site, this dock also supports Windows PCs with Thunderbolt 3.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock final thoughts

Don’t let the limited number of ports on your MacBook stand in the way of it becoming the heart of the office setup you need. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock lets you use a huge array of peripherals, including multiple USB-C ones. And its data-transfer speeds are top-notch.

Over the years, OWC has built a reputation for quality. This product lives up to it.

Pricing

This Thunderbolt dock offers premium performance and is priced accordingly. It’s available on the OWC website for $269.

Alternatively, it can be purchased from Amazon.com for the same price.

OWC provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out other in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.