The quality of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock is unquestionable with a solid metal case and premium build. Getting started is easy, plug a Thunderbolt 3 cable between the dock and computer, and you're ready to connect multiple other devices to your Mac or PC. In use the performance is solid, there's no noticeable performance difference for connected hard drives when compared with plugging directly into the machine, and only disk speed desk highlights a small read and write speed drop. It may be expensive but when it comes to quality and ease the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is without rival.
- High-quality build
- 9 port options
- Fast transfer speeds
- Requires external power
What is the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock?
Ever been lost for a port to plug-in a card reader, hard drive, scanner or additional monitor? Then it would help if you had a dock.
A dock is a simple way of adding more USB, Thunderbolt, Display and Network ports to your computer through a single connection. There’s plenty of options out there, but most were designed for office workers who simply need a way to dock into their work stations with their laptops.
While these standard docks are convenient and will suit the needs of most office workers, they’re not tuned to the demands of the creative. For example, it’s rare to find Thunderbolt 3, the latest card readers and sufficient cooling and speeds to keep up with high-end image and video editing.
OWC (Other World Computing) have had years as Mac Specialists and understand the needs and demands of creative individuals more than most.
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock is the latest in their line-up of premium docks, and once again highlights how far ahead this company is when it comes to an understanding creative professionals needs.
As standard, the dock comes with a variety of ports that enable ultrafast network connection to your machine, a variety of USB, display, eSata and card slots that show this dock is all about performance as well as convenience.
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock isn’t the only dock out there with this volume of ports, and to be honest, they’re available for a much lesser price. The question is, is it worth paying all this money for a Dock that has a premium build over a much cheaper plastic dock? The answer is a big and resounding yes, but why? Let’s take a look.
The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock is all about speed. Unlike some other portable docks, the OWC version is designed to be left in situ at your workplace, home office or studio. It’s bigger than most measuring in at 210 x 108 x 30mm and weighing in at 790g without the large power adapter and cable.
But then the OWC isn’t just about the convenience it’s about speed and reliability. Those key features are instantly apparent with the full metal build and quality of the cables supplied.
As with other high-performance gear, there’s a fan option on the back, so if the dock is under load, then you can flip the switch to increase the docks cooling. This fan option might seem like a small feature, but the effect that heat can have on the performance of your machine is huge, so the metal design with vent and fan is there to keep heat in check.
Thunderbolt 3 lends its name to the dock, and this enables fast transfer speeds of up to 40/GB/s and is fully Thunderbolt 2 backward compatible.
On the front are two card slots for CFast 2.0 and SD 4.0 these enable transfer speeds of up to 370MB/s more than enough when downloading files from a days shoot.
Alongside the two card slots, there’s also a USB 3.1 port to enable the quick plugging in of devices and peripherals.
The back of the dock is where most of the ports reside with eSata for connecting to multibay external drives, two USB 3.1 ports, 10Gb ethernet, a 60w Thunderbolt 3 for charging, a 15w Thunderbolt 3 devices and displays, a DisplayPort 1.2 again for an addition 4K display and a secure power connection that clips and locks in place.
Other features are the fan switch for additional cooling and a standard security slot if needed, and some installable software, Dock Ejector.
Build and Handling
Solid and heavyweight, there’s nothing cheap about the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock. The brushed black full metal design with logo and brand in white on the front looks classic and understated.
Connecting really couldn’t be easier, pop all your cables in, including the monitor and then connect a single Thunderbolt cable to your computer. In this test, I’m using a MacBook Pro 2018 15-inch which features 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports.
This means that once connected you still have 3 Thunderbolt 3 ports as power, monitor, peripherals and displays all go through the dock.
As you can imagine this means that plugging in and setting up in the mornings is a quick process, and doesn’t require the usual rummaging around on the desk following cables to ensure you plug-in the right ones.
While the OWC keeps your desk tidy, it does take up space being roughly the size of a standard single drive external HD. I found that it happily sat by the side of my monitor.
One aspect that quickly became apparent was that the premium build and weight made it much easier to handle when plugging in additional devices into the front USB port or popping in cards. Usually, with the older doc that I use, you have to hold it down; otherwise, it just slips across the desk. Herewith the OWC while you still need to rest a finger on top to stop some slip the weight and grip of the feet hold in much more securely in position.
Another feature that doesn’t come into play with the dock on my desktop, but would if used in the studio, is the power cable lock. Rather than just being a standard push-fit, it’s the same type of connector used on computer power supplies. This means it clips in, so no worries that tripping over the cable will sever the connection to your computer and hard drives.
Disconnecting an HD when in use can easily destroy them, so this is a great feature.
Another feature that OWC includes with all their docks is a piece of software called Dock Ejector. I hadn’t come across this feature until I used the dock, and this makes it worth all the money in one.
Essentially it’s an installable application that disconnects everything connected to the Mac, HD’s etc are all ejected with a single rather than multiple clicks. It’s a time saver and seemed to work on the MacPro exceptionally well.
What’s in the performance of a dock and what should you be looking out for?
In this test, I’m looking for reliability, ease of use and speed.
As the blue OWC logo illuminates the device comes alive, hard drives flicker and monitors show my computer starting up.
Powered on network cable, hard-drive, Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro and monitor all plugged in and everything is worked as if each device were plugged directly into the computer.
One issue that I’ve come across with other docks is that after some intensive use, especially with 4K video these units can get hot.
Hear the OWC kept a decent temperature through-out a seven-hour shoot and was constantly on and working with one or all of the devices plugged in.
The performance is impressive, and testing the disk speed for the external drive showed consistent performance. Plugged directly into the computer it registered 480MB/s write and 520MB/s read, while through the OWC I recorded a write speed of 470MB/s and read of 510MB/s, a small drop but nothing in real terms.
Using the two card readers on the front of the dock also proved that the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock provided ultra-fast download times for memory cards and in every case far exceeded the transfer speeds of my usual USB card reader.
On top of the speed, two other features stood out. The first is that due to the Thunderbolt 3 connection, I can use the link between the computer and dock to both carry power and data, so essentially it replaces the standard power adapter from Apple.
The other feature is software, alongside the dock is the OWC Dock Eject, and this quick install enables you to eject everything from your machine in one click. It’s a real timesaver, especially when you have multiple devices all plugged into one machine.
There’s no getting over the price of the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock, at £300 it is expensive. But, as more of us work from home and move from one location to another, the Pro Dock starts to make sense, especially for professional work.
The first thing to note is the high-quality build; this is a proper professional piece of kit, it’s solid full metal build makes it by definition robust and keeps it cool even during intense multi-day use.
The design makes it quick and easy to set-up and now that the review is over I’ll start to scribble cable reminders on stickers and pop them in place. In the month-long test, the OWC Dock has more than proved itself, it’s made things easy and the performance has been consistant.
It is bigger than the small hubs I’ve been using, but now as long as there’s the power to link into the OWC Dock will be in full use.
For many a dock of this type will be far more than they need, an eSATA connection is really only found on ultrafast multi drives so for me it’s handy, but few other people outside of the video world I know use them.
The read/write speeds through the dock are ideal for photography and video, and the power pass-through is another handy feature although not uncommon.
But it’s not just the Hardware that has impressed me it’s also the software applications. They’re perfectly integrated, stable and do the job.
If you find you’re a creative hotdesking and need a dock that’s reliable and fast then the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock is an ideal choice. Photographers and videographers working in a studio will also benefit from the additional ports and outstanding performance.
I use docks and switchers as a matter of course, and I have to say the features, weight and quality of the OWC far exceed anything else I’ve used. I’m impressed with the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock and now it’s in now a standard part of my everyday set-up.