Prepare yourself as we have potentially long one here. I mean, it’s the only way I can possibly go over every single thing that this wonderful dock does (well, maybe not every little thing). I do promise to sum things up where I can, but today we take a look at OWC’s new wonderful dock solution for today’s modern devices that carry a Thunderbolt 3 port. Chances are, if you recently spent a great deal of money on a new computer or laptop, you might just have one (they don’t come with the cheaper models typically).
Thunderbolt 3 opens so much potential for a system, including the ability to charge devices with up to 100W of power, to pass on up to 15W to various bus-powered devices, transfer at speeds as high as 40Gbps (4x the speed of USB 3.1), while also supporting USB 3.1 devices (used the same connector, although cables can vary in quality between the two), supports DisplayPort 1.2, and the ability to daisy chain devices. All of this out of a tiny little port.
This is why OWC’s new dock has a whopping 14 ports to choose from (technically 13 depending on how you look at the SD configuration, but we’ll come to that in a moment).
OWC focuses heavily on the brushed aluminum design with all (or most) of their devices, mostly theming them after Apple’s lineup of laptops and computers. Mac users are their biggest market, although they proudly support Windows as well. So despite the design, they will work with your Windows 10 setup all the same (at least they should).
The dock has a real solid design to it that and a lot of weight. In fact, it is about as heavy as your favorite iPad or a small macbook. It really gives you the impression that this dock is quite durable and has a lot of neat stuff going on inside.
Input/output locations take on the same approach position-wise as a computer, where your typical ports in the back are more for static connections (the connections you don’t mess with every single day), and the ports on the front are more for frequent use (including SD cards, headphone jack, and USB 3.1 with the ability to charge your devices with). Most of your outputs and peripheral connections go to the back of the dock (mice, keyboard, monitor, network and so forth).
On the back, there are four (4) USB 3.1 (Gen 1) inputs for all of your typical devices, covering everything from mice to printers. There is an S/PDIF connection for outpical sound coming out of it and into a receiver or speaker solution that supports it. You get a gigabit ethernet port for your wired network connections. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports to the side of that, one of which is the connection point between the dock itself and your computer. The other is for connecting another Thunderbolt 3 supported device, and the ability to chain up to 5 items in a row using such. The final connection is a Mini DisplayPort connector.
On the front, you have slots for both SD as well as microSD cards. These slots are compatible with the new SD Express cards, which is a major highlight right there since these cards make use of PCIe/NVMe to deliver some incredible speeds (the same tech you find in NVMe M.2 SSDs). There is a headset connection for both headphones and gaming headsets with microphones, and finally two USB 3.1 ports, including both Type A (Gen 1) and Type C (Gen 2). The Type A port is capable of delivering up to 85W just by itself, allowing you to charge all of your favorite devices, including today’s laptops.
Ok, so it has a LOT of ports. So who does it perform? Pretty darn good compared to some of the docks we’ve seen in the past. It really does open your connectivity up for today’s laptops since it’s popular to be thin and light (which means minimal inputs/outputs). Most everything delivers in so many ways with a few exceptions that should be noted.
Where I mentioned the ports are technically 13 depending how you look at the SD configuration, I was referring to the fact that both SD slots are controlled by the same chipset, allowing you to only use one slot at a time (they can’t both be used simultaneously). So you do have 14 slots, but two of them are technically the same (sort of)? This isn’t anything to cry about and we sure didn’t budge on our score because of this. It was just something to point out. Plus, how many times do you find yourself transfering from both slot types at the same time (unless it was from files directly from SD to microSD for whatever reasons).
Also, the video out capabilities of this dock are huge. However, we do see a handful of negative comments and reviews (from consumers on platforms like Amazon) coming in the near future. Not because the dock is terrible or malfunctions, but because of things an average consumer might overlook. This being said, this dock features the ability to supply signal to up to 2 (Two) 4K monitors, or a single 5K monitor (5K monitors do exist, look them up here if you haven’t heard of them). However, the catch is that the monitor is going to have to support DisplayPort++, else you will get a black screen. Hopefully, if you are playing around with Thunderbolt and understand what it is in general, you more than likely get it. However, a lot of consumers don’t educate themselves on this level before buying/trying. So if you try to connect an older DP or HDMI screen, it may not work. Again, not exactly something we can dock points for since evolution does require the sacrifice of upgrading your gear. It is what it is. This is just something to observe and look out for.
Gigabit networks, 4K monitors, the ability to charge connected laptops and phones or tablets at the same time, support for SD Express and so so so much more–makes this a HOT ticket item for professionals and enthusiasts looking to get their hands on this level of connectivity.
It functions quite well when you throw a lot at it. It doesn’t seem to require any drivers when used in a Windows 10 environment. The moment you plug it in, Windows starts dinging away as it recognizes the features plugged into it. Mac however needs you to install drivers before using the dock–available here. There is no surprise here and it looks like you simply choose “Thunderbolt 3 Dock – 12 Port” from the list as it’s the same driver/link as the TB 2 option, therefore it most likely is the same for this model as well. That and nothing else is listed to select from. Either way, you should be able to hit the road running in no time with either OS environment. I’d mention the supported OS versions, but when working with modern technology, it is already assumed that you should be using a modern version of your OS in order to get proper native support without any surprise curve balls thrown into the mix.
Your ability to put out to 4K monitors (or 5K single monitor) will weigh heavily on the performance of your system of course. This isn’t going to replace a powerhorse video card. Always something to keep in mind.
What’s inside the box?
The power cable it comes with does include a brick. With power comes…brick. The brick comes close to matching the dock in both size and weight, so this is a sacrifice to acknowledge. This is definitely a dock solution you won’t be traveling all over with. Something for work or home that will remain on the desk you set it up on. Not exactly a show stopper, but it’s enough to boggle your mind a little.
It does come with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, although it is a bit short in length. Really short, thus you won’t be using this for more than a laptop without buying a longer cable (and a good cable for TB3 will run you a lot more than a basic USB Type-C cable. You want to make sure you buy the right one due to the amount of power you can pass down the cable so the dock will work properly.
There is also a card that walks you through the various ports and connectivity. Very limited reading instructions, however all you need is a heads up about drivers for Mac users and a few in and outs about a couple quirks (some of which we mentioned above, like the SD cards sharing the same chipset).
This dock is absolutely amazing. Gigabit networks, 4K monitor support, the ability to charge connected laptops and phones or tablets at the same time, support for SD Express and so so so much more–makes this a HOT ticket item for professionals and enthusiasts looking to get their hands on this level of connectivity. It is quite expensive at a launch price of $299. I mean, this is a huge price for a dock. However, TB3 does not come easily when you consider the cost (in general). Although this dock is quite pricey, you will find that most of your TB3 docks carry a heavy price tag (some of them reaching higher numbers than this one, although it is rare). The cable it comes with is too short for tower systems but perfect for laptops. So those looking to connect this dock to a tower (for whatever reasons), you will have to buy a longer TB3 compatible cable. In the end though, this dock has a lot going for it and it greatly expands on your ability to do all sorts of things and connect all sorts of equipment. Chances are if you are looking for something this capable, you are likely already prepared for how much it might run you. It earned a fantastic score of 8.5 from us.
|Buy from Amazon | Buy from OWC
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
Mac Drivers: Click here
- macOS 10.12 or later
- Windows 10 or later
- Any Mac or Windows PC with a built-in Thunderbolt 3 port
- High-power USB support is required for compatibility with the Apple SuperDrive and Apple USB keyboard, and is required to enable high-speed charging for Apple iPad, iPhone, and other higher-power capable devices. To enable high-power USB support, an easy software update is required, including restart following this installation. Download macOS Driver
- (1) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port – compliant with Battery Charging 1.2 spec
- (1) USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port – power delivery 5V up to 3A (15W)
- (1) Hybrid 3.5 mm headphone / mic jack
- (1) SD 4.0 media card reader
- (1) microSD 4.0 media card reader
- (1) Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) dedicated power delivery port supporting up to 85W
- (1) Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) port
- (1) Mini DisplayPort 1.2 (supports DP++)
- (4) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports – with one port compliant with Battery Charging 1.2 spec
- (1) Gigabit Ethernet port
- (1) S/PDIF digital audio output port
- Supports up to one 5K display at 60Hz or two 4K displays at up to 60Hz
- Thunderbolt 3 port supports video up to 5K at 60Hz via a native Thunderbolt 3 display or 4K at 60Hz via a Thunderbolt display or a USB-C display adapter
- Mini DisplayPort 1.2 port supports up to 4K at 60Hz
- External UL-listed universal auto-switching
- AC input: 100 ~ 240V, 50/60Hz
- DC output: 20V, 9A
- Height: 1.0 in (2.5 cm)
- Width: 9.0 in (23.0 cm)
- Depth: 3.5 in (8.9 cm)
- 1.2 lb (0.5 kg)
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.
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