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Wednesday December 19th 2018


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REVIEW :: OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

With a nod to the future and a wink at the past, OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock will satisfy users needing connectivity options beyond the stock offerings of their new MacBook Pros (2016 and later), all the while keeping them soundly connected to legacy devices and interfaces. With — count them — 13 ports, you’d be hard pressed to find an external gizmo you can’t hook up via this dock.







(Figure 1. OWC’s Front Panel is all Business with
SD, Headphone and USB 3 Ports)


My first Dock experience was almost five years ago when an aging “cheese-grater” Mac Pro went teats up. Thanks to a Thunderbolt 1 Dock (state of the art at the time), I was able to run two monitors and power multiple input/output devices with a lowly MacBook, all via the Air’s single Thunderbolt port. In short, I know first hand how important a hardware-expanding dock can be for one’s workflow.


Did I mention that the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock boasts 13 ports? All the usual suspects make an appearance: on the front you have an SD card reader, a headphone jack and a USB 3.1 port, pretty much everything you need for those quick, temporary, on-the-go hookups. 

On the back (figure 2) OWC gets down to business with port options galore. See those two Thunderbolt 3 ports? One will be occupied by the cable running to your Mac, leaving you with the one additional Thunderbolt 3 port to handle other high bandwidth tasks. It can also drive one 5K monitor or two 4K screens. Keep in mind that each Thunderbolt 3 port can daisy-chain six devices. In other words, you’re not going to be stressed by that one extra Thunderbolt 3 port on the backside.


Count in to the 6th port from either left or right and you’ll find a Firewire 800 port. If there is one thing to make OWC’s dock stand out in the Thunderbolt dock arena, it’s probably this kindly salute to an important Mac connection protocol from years ago. Many creative and business pros have archived files sitting around on Firewire drives. OWC acknowledges your needs and has you covered. 


OWC takes a novel approach to Power-On and Data indicators with down facing LEDs under the front edge of the dock. This work fine (and is actually somewhat elegant) on light colored desktops but could be difficult to monitor when the Dock is used on darker surfaces.






(Figure 2. OWC Sports 10 output ports plus DC input)


  • For those seeking legacy hookups — can you say, Firewire — the OWC Dock will give you that much-needed connection with a handy Firewire 800 port. And of course, if you’re basking the deep past, you can use a Firewire 800 to 400 adaptor to accommodate drives and scanners dating back to 1995 (good grief, that’s the same year I met my wife)!
  • Solidly built and unlikely to slide about your desktop
  • Can drive one 5K or two 4K monitors
  • Handy front ports for SD card reader, USB-3 port and headphone jack
  • S/PDIF digital audio
  • 2-year warranty


It’d be nice if a Micro-SD Card readers were included but a simple Micro SD to SD adaptor massages that issue. Some users might object to the dim, power and data LEDs that are aimed down at your desktop. Personally, I find this a welcome change from overly bright status lamps that are mild distractions at best and downright irritating (as in “desktop lighthouse” irritating) at worst.

Finally, though identical in shape, remember that the included mini DisplayPort is not the same as Thunderbolt 2. Sure, it can be used to drive your mini DisplayPort monitors but if you need to hook up real Thunderbolt 2 hardware, you’ll need a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor.


  • late 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros and newer
  • mid 2017 iMacs and all future Macs
  • not for the 12” MacBook (that’s equipped with only USB-C) nor the MacBook Air with its Thunderbolt 2


With a plethora of competent Thunderbolt 3 Docks hitting the market (the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock and Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD might be on your radar), your decision-making should be based on brand reliability and a feature set best matching your particular needs. For most users, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock will excel on both and we at Photo Trash Talk are pleased to grant our Coveted “Howdy Doodad” award to this connectivity-problem-solving solution from Other World Computing.

Price: $299

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