Don’t you hate it when you have an old drive kicking around that you don’t know what to do with? Or extra drives that need a home but you don’t quite want to open the computer up to install it? Even better, you’d love to use it as a backup drive for, but all you have is an internal bare drive.
No matter the excuse, you can easily turn that drive into a backup solution or gigantic USB drive to transfer things between systems with. In fact, you can easily connect any bare-bone drive using this simple solution. The solution is to use an external drive dock. If you have a large collection of (insert whatever’s in your head here), and your friend brings over a spare drive because he wants a copy of it–no sweat. Slide that into your fancy drive dock, clone it over and off your friend goes, skipping away with his/her new data. I can go on all day with examples, but I think you get the idea.
Drive docks can range from “hey, I can afford that!”, to “whoa, I think this must be signed by someone famous!”. It all depends on the type of use, how frequently you need to depend on it, and how many drives you want to work with at once. The typical solutions will gain you one to two bays to work with. The larger solutions that go beyond this are typically for enterprise/commercial use for high-volume activities.
Today’s example, is OWC’s solution that features both Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3.0 connectivity. The OWC Drive Dock. This one falls in the middle somewhere as usable by just about anyone, but carries a price tag that isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. However, it seems to share the best of both worlds: a user-friendly experience mixed with enterprise-grade durability.
We have come across a number of drive bays ranging from cheap knockoffs targeted for consumers on a budget, to recognizable names that feature six or more bays. Most of the ones that fall within this price range or less (especially as you get way down there in price), feature cheap parts (thin plastic shells) and sometimes unreliable performance. The latter of the two, we see all the time–sadly. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case this round.
OWC’s drive dock features what appears to be an aluminum-plastic mix throughout it’s construction. It is surrounded by a sheet of aluminum with a nickel powder coat finish (paint). The top and bottom are plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap to the touch. Even the trap doors for each bay feel sturdy enough to last quite a long time through heavy use. Nice rubber feet on the bottom to keep it from sliding around, and a good deal of weight (just over two pounds) that should be more than enough to do that job well enough on its own.
The top of the dock features the two drive bays as well as a power button for each one (which I should point out are the only two items in the dock that feel a little cheap in our opinion). Nothing else beyond a logo and LED lights. On the back side are all of your connections, including an AC for power, USB 3.0 and two Thunderbolt 2 connections.
It can be connected to your computer either via the USB 3.0 connection or one of the Thunderbolt ports. If you opt for the USB 3.0, the one cable will carry both drives with it and both drives need to be unmounted before you take either drive out. If you opt for Thunderbolt 2.0, then each drive bay will act independently of the other, allowing you unmount and remove one drive while the other is still connected and in operation. The second Thunderbolt port allows you to daisy chain to another TB device.
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Once it is plugged into your computer (PC, Mac or Linux), you can insert whatever drive(s) you have laying around. You would then flip the switch on the back of the dock and then power on each bay via the buttons on the top (by holding them down for a few seconds). If the drive is not formatted, you will have to format it as you would installing the drive internally. If the drive is already formatted, then it should pop up just like a normal external hard drive (or thumbdrive). From here you can transfer, format, clone to your hearts delight.
Drives can be easily swapped or removed by making use of the power buttons. It is always advised (and it does mention this with emphasis in the instructions as well) that you unmount whatever drive is in use before powering it down and removing it (yes, don’t forget to power it down as well before yanking it out).
It was quite easy to test these docks since we have drives laying around all over (literally). In fact, we used to actually use a bad one as a door stop for a month or so until the joke wore itself out. From HDD to SDD, it takes only a few seconds to grab a test subject and slap it in.
We found that the drives fit snuggly in their slots without fear of disconnect (unless you pull on it of course). We found mixed results depending on the drive used and connection we mounted it with (big surprise right? No? Ok, maybe for most readers, I didn’t have to point that out). Surprisingly, we weren’t able to get the max speeds OWC promises on their site. We tried many scenarios, but found we got pretty much the same results cross platform/variables.
Average fastest write speeds fell around 175MB/s (175-182MB/s to be more precise). Although a few SSD options delivered around 210MB/s. Read speeds were obviously higher, but this is to be expected. We tried to get the write speeds listed on their site, but just couldn’t find the sweet spot. Small files, large files, HDD, SSD, USB 3.0, TB 2, ports via add-on cards/cables or motherboard integrated, etc. Averages speeds maintained themselves throughout (with some small fluctuations in some instances).
One thing that really caught our attention was reliability. We formatted, we copied, and we clones. At no point did we ever lose connectivity or communication to the dock or drives within. Nothing ever failed in its task and this is important. A lot of the docks that fall below the price of this one, have experienced odd hiccups with loss of communication in most scenarios. One specifically, that I won’t mention (cough, cough, StarTech…oop), kept disconnecting and reconnecting every 10-30 seconds–this obviously made completing just about any task, impossible. Some other docks would sometimes vanish from the OS after long uses where temperature became an issue (along with other odd experiences). This is obviously a show stopper that results in nothing else but a return. So that is why it is very important that we never witnessed this with the OWC dock (aka, brownie points). We honestly tried to get the dock to fail, but couldn’t.
It comes with both cables inside, so you won’t be forced to have to add to your order unless you need something longer to reach further away from your tower (or laptop). The power cable is just a cable, which means no bulky power bricks laying about. Instructions are clear and to the point and only take a few moments to absorb.
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We could easily recommend this dock. The price is a bit high compared to some of the competitive options, however it is also much more durable and feels like it will last you much longer than these alternatives. The power buttons on the top for each bay feel a bit cheap, but the rest of the dock feels like a tank. It has a great look to it which would go great with Mac setups or some of the newer PC laptop solution that mimic the same theme. This is by far one of the more durable and reliable solutions out there. It may be a little expensive, but it most likely won’t let you down.
|Buy from Amazon | Buy from OWC|
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- OS X 10.10 or later
- Windows 7 SP1 or later
- USB 3.0
- OS X 10.6 or later
- Windows XP or later
- Linux Kernel v. 2.6.31 or later
- Driver not required for OS X
- Driver required for Windows over a Thunderbolt connection
- Thunderbolt connectivity for OWC Drive Dock is not supported in Boot Camp.
- Mac or PC featuring Thunderbolt or USB 2.0 interface
- Recommended (Best Performance
- Mac or PC featuring Thunderbolt 2 or USB 3.0 interface
- Thunderbolt: OS X 10.10 or later
- USB: Any Mac that supports booting via USB
UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) Compliant
- (2) Thunderbolt 20Gbps
- (1) USB 3.1 Gen 1 (ASMedia ASM1153E)
- (2) 3.5″ SATA 6Gb/s drives
- or (2) 2.5″ SATA 6Gb/s drives
- Power Supply
- Internal UL-listed universal auto-switching
- AC input: 100 ~ 240V, 50/60Hz
- DC output: 12V, 6.25A
- Adapter plugs for international use sold separately.
- Thunderbolt only
- Environmental (Operating)
- Temperature (°F) 41° – 86°
- Temperature (°C) 5° – 30°
- Environmental (Non-Operating)
- Temperature (°F) ?4° – 122°
- Temperature (°C) ?20 – 50°
- Relative Humidity (Operating)
- 8 – 90% (non-condensing)
- Relative Humidity (Non-Operating)
- 5 – 95% (non-condensing)
- Height: 3.3 in (8.4 cm)
- Width: 6.3 in (16.0 cm)
- Length: 5.8 in (15.0 cm)
Weight (Without Drives)
- 2.15 lb (0.975 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.