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OWC's Upcoming Thunderbolt Hub Adds More Thunderbolt 3 Ports to Your Mac

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Apr 12, 2001
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OWC has announced that its upcoming Thunderbolt Hub will be compatible with all Apple M1 and Intel Macs equipped with Thunderbolt 3 ports and running macOS Big Sur, offering users the ability to expand the number of available Thunderbolt ports.


The OWC Thunderbolt Hub connects to a host computer over a Thunderbolt 3/4 port and provides three additional Thunderbolt ports (which are also compatible with USB-C) and one USB-A port. Each of the three downstream Thunderbolt ports can host its own daisy chain of peripherals and support transport speeds of up to 40Gb/s, subject to the overall limit of 40 Gb/s for the connection from the host computer.


The upstream Thunderbolt port can provide up to 60 watts of power to the host computer, which would be enough for a MacBook Air or a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but wouldn't be able to fully support a 16-inch MacBook Pro. The downstream ports can provide up to 15 watts for bus-powered Thunderbolt peripherals.



The OWC Thunderbolt Hub is priced at $149.99 and is available for pre-order now ahead of an early December launch.

Article Link: OWC's Upcoming Thunderbolt Hub Adds More Thunderbolt 3 Ports to Your Mac
 

Marvelous Patric

macrumors newbie
Jul 17, 2018
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so, here's a question i have... is there going to be a hack for any of these things to add a 3rd display? It seems unlikely, but also the holy grail.
 

ambronet

macrumors newbie
Jul 8, 2020
5
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OWC sells two different versions of this product, one for Windows laptops and another one for Macs, I wonder if they aren't cross compatible.
 
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dguisinger

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2002
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I always wondered what it was about the hub technology that made it TB4 exclusive.... apparently its not. I always assumed it would represent itself to the system as a Thunderbolt to PCIe bridge, with another Thunderbolt controller attached to the PCIe. Not sure if thats how they implemented it, but it seems I was right in that there was no physical host change required.

Apart from that, iFixIt showed Apple is using TB4 "Retimer" (repeater) chips from Intel. I'm assuming from the description these are the chips used in active cables, they must be cleaning up the signals right before it hits the ports.... I would assume the $2 part is also much cheaper to repair than the M1 if its sent in for static damage. I would assume that TB4 retimer drives the ports in the way Intel requires for the TB4 spec, so I would expect longer passive cables to work....

So what exactly are they missing at this point for TB4?
Is it the secure DMA memory access?

Or are they just unwilling to put it through certification now that TB3 is included in the USB4 certification process?

Or maybe certification required them handing over M1 macs to Intel before they unveiled what they were doing and they just decided not to bother?
 

jent

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2010
776
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The description references Thunderbolt 3 and the images are labeled with Thunderbolt 4.
 

dguisinger

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2002
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The description references Thunderbolt 3 and the images are labeled with Thunderbolt 4.

Because electrically there is no difference between TB3 and TB4. TB4 is more of a certification, it requires full TB3 feature set in the host, along with secure memory access which wasn't present in older host controllers. They added hub support, but apparently there wasn't anything preventing it before in the protocol.
 

adamw

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2006
350
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More Thunderbolt ports is a welcome addition for M1 Mac users. Thanks OWC!
 

deconstruct60

macrumors G3
Mar 10, 2009
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OWC has announced that its upcoming Thunderbolt Hub will be compatible with all Apple M1 and Intel Macs equipped with Thunderbolt 3 ports and running macOS Big Sur, ....
The downstream ports can provide up to 15 watts for bus-powered Thunderbolt peripherals.



The OWC Thunderbolt Hub is priced at $149.99 and is available for pre-order now ahead of an early December launch.

Article Link: OWC's Upcoming Thunderbolt Hub Adds More Thunderbolt 3 Ports to Your Mac


The video talks about how Apple has always done the "right thing" with Thunderbolt on the Mac. Right up until the M1. The M1 systems can't be Thunderbolt v4 certified because they don't pass the 4K video out on every port test. The Mini M1 goes backwards in video out support. That's way Apple uses the phrasing "Thunderbolt 3 /USB4".

The bigger variants of M1 ( e.g., something like a "M1X" ) probably will have a less gimped GPU output stream and perhaps will get TBv4 certification. But Apple's track record of always doing the right thing.... got superseded by their desire to probably share the M1 die with the A14X (and iPad Pro).


One significatn use case for needing more TB ports is that were going to have to toss one away to hook up one or two mainstream "Video Monitor" ( with no TB ports). That works here only with a single monitor. ( you would loose a "data access' TB port on host system. )
 

dguisinger

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2002
815
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The video talks about how Apple has always done the "right thing" with Thunderbolt on the Mac. Right up until the M1. The M1 systems can't be Thunderbolt v4 certified because they don't pass the 4K video out on every port test. The Mini M1 goes backwards in video out support. That's way Apple uses the phrasing "Thunderbolt 3 /USB4".

The bigger variants of M1 ( e.g., something like a "M1X" ) probably will have a less gimped GPU output stream and perhaps will get TBv4 certification. But Apple's track record of always doing the right thing.... got superseded by their desire to probably share the M1 die with the A14X (and iPad Pro).

Ah, yes, thats what the difference is. I knew there had to be something that was preventing the TB4 designation.

That said, I've been pretty disappointed Intel didn't actually increase TB speeds in the TB4 spec.... everything they are doing is standing still over there....
 
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sfwalter

macrumors 68000
Jan 6, 2004
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Dallas Texas
The video talks about how Apple has always done the "right thing" with Thunderbolt on the Mac. Right up until the M1. The M1 systems can't be Thunderbolt v4 certified because they don't pass the 4K video out on every port test. The Mini M1 goes backwards in video out support. That's way Apple uses the phrasing "Thunderbolt 3 /USB4".

The bigger variants of M1 ( e.g., something like a "M1X" ) probably will have a less gimped GPU output stream and perhaps will get TBv4 certification. But Apple's track record of always doing the right thing.... got superseded by their desire to probably share the M1 die with the A14X (and iPad Pro).
What do you mean by "they don't pass the 4K video out on every port test."?
 

christophermdia

macrumors 6502a
Sep 28, 2008
773
175
I am confused, are use both Mac and windows systems for work at my desk. If I wanted to pre-order this which would be the best one to get. I have the new M1 MacBook Pro ... but many times I need to access my windows PC to access network files from work. I am all out of ports and need more.
 

deconstruct60

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Mar 10, 2009
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Thunderbolt v4 is a bit skewed toward Intel. Not too surprising. Their gen10 and gen11 U series processors with integrated TB controllers have a four DisplayPort v1.4 stream attached so meet the spec. ( also all get a clean switchedd x4 PCI-e v3 feed also) . But it is also more uniform. If it is a TBv4 system then it doesn't matter which port you choose it will always have a video signal present. ( so you don't have pull out your USB4 symbol decoder ring to find out which feature is on which port on which system. ). TBv4 is largely about not having to worry what part of the optional parts of the USB4 specification the system implementer skipped.


There was a recent posting the seemed to indicate that Apple's integrated TB controller has the baseline ability but just isn't fed the four streams from the internal iGPU. So the M1 comes up short probably based on having a limited iGPU.
Insert a more capable iGPU into the Apple Silicon die and then Apple could get the TBv4 label ( if they bother to go through certification process ) .
 

Quu

macrumors 68040
Apr 2, 2007
3,009
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This is a really neat product, might pick one up actually.
 

smithrh

macrumors 68030
Feb 28, 2009
2,519
1,166
You know, I really like what they've done with the option to secure the cables with a screw.

Kudos! That's a freakishly bad thing about these connectors, they can come out far too easily.
 

deconstruct60

macrumors G3
Mar 10, 2009
9,428
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Thunderbolt has been out for like 9 years. Can someone explain why all of these hubs are still so expensive?

Ever price a 10Gb/s Eithernet switch?

In part it is the bandwidth handled. It has been a daisy chain so the switching is narrowed but have 40Gb/s throughput. How much do other double digit Gb/s switches cost?

Of note devices that are "dead ender" (end the TB chain) typically cost less in part because there is nothing to switch. Data coming in/out is just for that device.

In part it is the other alternative modes that have to also interoperate on. Being able to decode DisplayPort and put it on the "other" port. With TBv3 if plug in some USB device now need to handle that. Thunderbolt hub tend to have relatively higher power output norms. In short, have to dot several i's and cross several t's and implementing that typically has been a handful more chips and design.

Finally, in part because Thunderbolt certification has generally kept out "race to the bottom" vendors who take lots of short cuts to reduce pricing. That is a bit of a dual edged sword because lots of vendors who do past muster are looking to have a product in their portfolio that doesn't have super razor thins margins on it so they can actually make some money at lower risk.

Thunderbolt v4 is about not skipping the optional parts of USB4. Skipping optional stuff is a pretty good way of lowering costs. That isn't the objective with TBv4.
 
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deconstruct60

macrumors G3
Mar 10, 2009
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What do you mean by "they don't pass the 4K video out on every port test."?

That is part of the Thunderbolt v4 certification criterion. Someone tried to link in the table graphic above but more clearly. ( see line 5. Minimum PC video requirements. )






P.S. In contrast the USB standard is put together by the USB-IF committee . That committe has a significant faction on it that is biased toward keeping prices lower and implementations more "flexible" (more corners to cut. New USB standards will have lots of sizzle ( faster speeds , etc. etc.) but very often only a narrow subset of the new stuff is required to get the new label. Lots of optional stuff. ( e..g, A host system can qualify for USB4 branding and not implement Thunderbolt at all. It isn't required, but can market USB4 as a feature. Somewhat oddly the USB4 Hubs are the only ones required to have Thunderbolt present. But the rule is inconsistent between the full range of devices. Peripherals with just one USB4 port can skip it also. ).

USB-IF compliance and interoperability testing is just plain much weaker. That enables lots more "race to the bottom" devices to get the USB labeling.
 
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