OWC’s new 6-port USB-C hub is tough and portable [Review]

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OWC’s new 6-port USB-C hub is tough and portable [Review]
Expand the capabilities of your Mac or iPad with the OWC USB-C Travel Dock E.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The OWC USB-C Travel Dock E adds the most commonly used ports to your Mac or iPad. It lets you use an HDMI monitor, two USB-A accessories, Ethernet and more. And the stylish hub ready to be used in your office or on a business trip.

I put the accessory through a battery of tests. Read on to see how well it stood up.

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OWC USB-C Travel Dock E review

In 2019, OWC introduced the original USB-C Travel Dock. Recently, it followed this up with a version that adds Gigabit Ethernet. Hence the ‘E’ added to the name.

Both take on the same general task: adding a variety of ports to your Mac or iPad. Apple builds only USB-C into MacBooks, which allows them to be very sleek, but it forces anyone who wants to use USB-A accessories or an external display to use adapters.

OWC built a hub that includes six ports in a range of types. And it wrapped them in a thick casing of aluminum and plastic that seems strong enough to stand up to the kind of punishment many of us subject our gear to. But it still manages to look professional.

Hardware and design

Aluminum and black plastic are key parts of the design of any MacBook, and the same is true for the OWC USB-C Travel Dock E. All four sides are covered by a relatively thick layer of aluminum. The top and bottom are black plastic, so the device fits in well with the look of macOS notebooks.

And the aluminum and plastic are thick. While OWC makes no claims about ruggedness, this accessory seems almost tough enough to hammer a nail with.

The hub is compact at 3.1 inches square and 1.0 in. thick. But it weighs in at 0.4 pounds — the downside of its toughness is above-average weight.

The thick connecting cable is built into this accessory, and curls up to fit into a recessed slot. So it’s both protected and out of your way.

Ports

OWC USB-C Travel Dock E adds an Ethernet port
OWC’s latest USB-C travel hub includes USB-A, HDMI, Ethernet, and more.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The USB-C connector that connects the OWC USB-C Travel Dock E to your computer is on the end of the 6-inch cable I just mentioned. It’ll easily connect to a MacBook or Mac mini.

But don’t overlook that this hub works with most Apple tablets. The iPad Pro and recent iPad Air and iPad mini models all have USB-C and can make use of any of the ports built into OWC’s accessory. And its cable is also long enough that this hub can be used with an iPad set in a keyboard.

The parade of features really starts with two USB-A ports so you can plug in a keyboard and mouse at the same time. I tested this setup without problems. It’ll also work with an external storage drive.

These ports use USB 3.2. This allows them to transfer data at up to 5Gbps. In my tests, I copied a 1GB file from an external drive onto my computer in 12 seconds. Copying the other direction took 38 secs. That’s not particularly fast when compared to Thunderbolt but about the best you can hope for from USB-A.

The OWC USB-C Travel Dock E also includes an HDMI 2.0 port that offers up to 4K video at 60Hz. I tested the port — works great.

An SD card reader lets you easily pull images off a camera that uses one of these removable cards. It uses UHS-II so it offers a maximum of 312 MBps. Real-world performance is slower, of course. In my test, copying a 1GB file from the card to my computer took 12 seconds, while the transfer in the other direction took 34 seconds.

As noted, the big difference between the USB-C Travel Dock E and its predecessor is the Gigabit Ethernet port. It’s useful in places where Wi-Fi is slow or not secure enough. The RJ45, 1000BASE-T port provides connections up to 1 Gbps… hence the name. In my tests, it can easily handle my consumer-grade internet connection.

There’s also a USB-C port on OWC’s hub. This helps you to keep your Mac or iPad powered while using a variety of accessories. You can run up to 100W through it. But the port can not be used to access other USB-C peripherals. I tested to make sure.

OWC USB-C Travel Dock E includes Ethernet and USB-A ports, along with an SD card reader.
The second USB-A port is on the opposite side, next to the SD card reader.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

OWC USB-C Travel Dock E final thoughts

A multiport hub really expands the potential of any Mac. And can be very useful for most iPads, too. OWC’s USB-C Travel Dock E puts the most-used ports into a tough but relatively compact exterior. It’s right for your office or a coffee shop.

The six ports passed all my testing with flying colors. They do just what they’re advertised to do.

Pricing

The USB-C Travel Dock E costs $64.99 on OWC’s MacSales website.

If you can get by without Ethernet, the original is available on Amazon for $54.99. Read my review of it to learn more.

Comparable products

This USB-C hub faces quite a bit of competition. Here’s few of the more interesting rival options.

And, of course, there are many more.

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.