Review: OWC's Updated Thunderbolt 3 Dock Adds 85W Charging, 10 Gbps USB-C Port, and microSD Slot

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Nearly a year and half ago, OWC was one of the first companies to launch a Thunderbolt 3 dock, offering over a dozen ports of various types to support a variety of accessories. While I loved the sheer number of the ports offered on the original version of the dock, there were some shortcomings, including a lack of any 10 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports and only 60 watts of charging power, which may not be enough for 15-inch MacBook Pro users.

    Users for whom those two concerns are dealbreakers will be glad to hear that OWC is launching an updated version of its Thunderbolt 3 dock in just a few weeks, addressing these issues.


    The new OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is exactly the same size and shape as the original, with a horizontal design constructed of an aluminum band (in silver or space gray) wrapping all the way around the sides and glossy black plastic on the top and bottom.

    All ports are clearly labeled in white, and there is an OWC logo and "Thunderbolt 3 Dock" branding printed on the front of the dock. The dock measures in at a hair over 9 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep and an inch tall. It weighs about 1.2 pounds, although as a desktop dock you're not likely to be moving it around very often so weight shouldn't be much of a factor.

    Because OWC's new dock is so similar to the original version, I'm not going to walk through all of the features, and I'll instead focus on the differences. But rest assured, the new version continues to have five USB-A ports running at 5 Gbps, a pair of Thunderbolt ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Mini DisplayPort port, and S/PDIF output and combo 3.5 mm audio ports. Two of the USB-A ports (one front and one rear) offer 1.5A of power for faster charging of connected devices.

    New version on top, original model on bottom

    As for new additions, OWC has added two additional ports on the front of the dock: a microSD card slot that complements the SD card slot from the original version, and a new 10 Gbps Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. Both of these are great additions that many users will find handy.

    New version on top, original model on bottom

    I tested out the new 10 Gbps USB-C port on the front of the dock using a fast CalDigit Tuff external SSD, and I saw solid speeds coming in at over 500 MB/s read and 480 MB/s write. Speeds when connected to one of the 5 Gbps USB-A ports came in at around 350 MB/s read and 325 MB/s write, which typical for this drive over that type of connection.

    Speed test using 10 Gbps USB-C port and external SSD

    One connectivity option you'll find missing compared to the original version of the dock is a FireWire 800 port, which was formerly located near the center of the dock on the rear. It's not a particularly surprising omission given the continuing decline in use for the standard and the fact that OWC had previously dropped the port from its main Thunderbolt 3 dock lineup. The loss of the port won't be an issue for the vast majority of users, but if you happen to still need FireWire connectivity you'll need to look at other dock options.

    If you're a 15-inch MacBook Pro user, you'll be glad to hear that OWC has bumped up the charging capabilities in the new dock to 85 watts from the original 60 watts. That'll be enough to charge up your MacBook Pro at the same speed as from Apple's power adapter, and it'll keep your machine powered up even under heavy loads.

    135-watt power brick from original version (left) vs. 180-watt power brick for updated model (right)

    It's a very welcome improvement, but it does come at the cost of a larger external brick needed to support the increased power. The power brick included with the new dock is 180 watts, up from 135 watts in the original version. That increases the brick's size fairly significantly, but in most cases you'll be able to tuck it away somewhere and not have to worry about it.

    Overall, the new Thunderbolt 3 Dock from OWC is one of my top picks among all of the docks I've tested. CalDigit's TS3 Plus has been my go-to dock since its release, but OWC's dock now gives it a run for its money with the array of ports and full 85-watt charging power that put it just about on par. OWC's dock will be priced at $299, which is competitive with other high-end Thunderbolt 3 docks, some of which can run up to $350 or more. OWC says the new dock will be available from its online store at and at other retailers starting in early November.

    Note: OWC provided the Thunderbolt 3 Dock to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.

    Article Link: Review: OWC's Updated Thunderbolt 3 Dock Adds 85W Charging, 10 Gbps USB-C Port, and microSD Slot
  2. -Garry- macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2005
    Manchester, UK
    Would it be possible to connect two 4K displays to this dock and then just use a single cable to my MacBook to drive both displays and provide power? Or am I asking too much?
  3. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Darn, no more FireWire...

    (Yes I use FireWire on some older hard drives)
  4. mdriftmeyer macrumors 68030


    Feb 2, 2004
    Pacific Northwest
    Most Mac users don't have TB3 systems. Give us a TB2 port to connect to our 2015 Macbook Pros and we'll gladly buy one.
  5. Marx55 macrumors 68000

    Jan 1, 2005
    Is there any Thunderbolt 3 dock (or duplicator/splitter) with more than two Thunderbolt 3 ports? I mean, to increase the total number of functional Thunderbolt 3 ports on Mac. Much as can be done with USB ports. Any technical problem with that? Intel limitation?
  6. Kobayagi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 18, 2012
    Damn. Spend so much on a new laptop and then spend even more to get (some) ports that previous models had.
    Business wise, it's perfect. But it's far from customer friendly.
  7. WBRacing macrumors 65816


    Nov 19, 2012
    Ports, pah! Ancient technology. That's like having a floppy disk, apparently.

    Am I doing this right? :rolleyes:
  8. dumoore macrumors member

    Nov 30, 2017
    I own the first release OWC 13 thunderbolt 3 dock and my main reason was to connect 2 4k screens with a single cable. And while yes, it does do that, they would often connect at 30hz, or lower resolution, and a lot of the times the screens would just say no-signal. Extremely frustrating. Over time it's better and I'm not sure if it's the MacBook or the dock as I only have one dock, but I was disappointed for sure in the setup. A PITA.
  9. dragje macrumors 6502a


    May 16, 2012
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    I’m still waiting formsuch a device as described above PLUS a 10Gb ethernet connection.
  10. Val-kyrie macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2005
    Yep, everyone else is plugging it in wrong! It takes courage to buy a dock.:D
  11. ruka.snow macrumors regular


    Jun 6, 2017
    It could do with having CFExpress even CF on it, especially considering it seems to be aimed more at pro's... who send not to have SD.
  12. jonnysods macrumors 603


    Sep 20, 2006
    There & Back Again
    I have a startech usbc dock, its pretty killer. The only thing I wished it had was an SD card reader.
  13. nateellis22 macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2018
    Has the Henge Docks "Stone Tethered Dock" ever been mentioned on this site? I ask because I know it's been out for over a year, provides full 85watt charging, looks nicer, and is only $200. Has anyone here ever tried it?
  14. OldSchoolMacGuy Suspended


    Jul 10, 2008
    We still see a lot of complaints about the lack of multiple connection types on the new MBP. Those people have never had one and a dock.

    It's sooooooo nice to be able to sit down at my desk, plug in just 1 cable and have power, multiple monitors, numerous peripheral, hard drives, network, and more, all from just one cable. Previously that required a couple minutes of plugging in cables then a couple more minutes every time you wanted to take your laptop and leave. Just 1 cable for everything is a game changer and well worth the price of a hub. Those that complain about needing dongles are doing it wrong.
  15. geolee11 macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2018
    Which dock? For some of the docks there, the website doesn’t mention Thunderbolt so I suspect it’s just a USB-C dock. The ports are the same but the bandwidth is different.

    That said, I feel dumb for buying the old version of the OWC dock before they released the 85 W version. Guess I’m probably going to buy this for home use and then bring the old dock to work since my work laptop also has a Thunderbolt port.
  16. djbuddha macrumors 6502


    Aug 7, 2011
    Works on my Caldigit .. :)

    I’m sure it will work on this one. But one thing I gotta ask. I had the one from last year, and it was great. Except it didn’t handle dual displays as well as the Caldigit does. I’d love to see a comparison video!
  17. x86isslow macrumors 6502a

    Aug 10, 2003
  18. liberte1776 macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2014
    Should have added 10-Gbit Ethernet on this version!
    --- Post Merged, Oct 10, 2018 ---
    Not needed, just use Apple's TB2 <> TB3 adapter with the TB3 dock. Problem solved.
  19. advancewarsbest macrumors regular

    Mar 28, 2013
    I got the first one thinking it would be more like the second. Glad they fixed it, but kinda sucks they didn't do it like that in the first place. The biggest let down is not being able to daisy chain multiple monitors through it. This explains why it doesn't charge Macs sometimes.
  20. brbttyl macrumors member


    Apr 21, 2010
    Will anyone ever make a true thunderbolt hub? Is it even possible? I'm not talking about a port multiplier or an outboard perhiperals card like this and every other one on the market. I'm talking about a device that plugs into one or two thunderbolt 3 ports on the host and offers, say 4 useable ports on the device, with true TB3 speeds, not USB.
  21. djbuddha macrumors 6502


    Aug 7, 2011
    You know that TB3 uses direct PCI lanes in the host machine (to accomplish 40gbit speeds). So in order to do this, you’d need the hub to have basically it’s own CPU. And As far as I remember, intel has the exclusivity on TB3 as a host.

    Not to mention- you’re not going to magically have 2 devices running at 40gbit/ second off one port. The port is limited to 40gbit.
  22. ikir macrumors 65816


    Sep 26, 2007
    Dock station has always been there and they are very handy if you continue to plug & unplug your notebook. Thunderbolt 3 is only much more better than previous solution. I wan to plug one cable to have everything connected since I do it 3-4 times a day. I would buy this solution but I have even a better suited one with Mantiz Venus eGPU for my needs: 1 cable to have power, display, GPU power x10, 5 USB, ethernet and SATA.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 10, 2018 ---
    --- Post Merged, Oct 10, 2018 ---
    You can plug anything on Thunderbolt, so you don't need to split ports, like this dock can give so much with just a port. You can daisy chain Thunderbolt like you did with Firewire.
  23. awer25 macrumors 65816


    Apr 30, 2011
    This is really missing the point of the complaint. There were plenty of USB hubs prior to Thunderbolt 3, and in the situation you described you always could have sat down to your docking station and plugged one cable into the computer to connect multiple devices (ok, maybe two if you need power as well).

    The complaint is that when you're on the go, you now have to buy and carry a ton of dongles to connect peripherals which previously connected directly to the laptop.
  24. Janichsan, Oct 11, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018

    Janichsan macrumors 68000


    Oct 23, 2006
    You don't have to spent $300 for a TB3 dock, unless you really need the bandwith for either more TB3 devices further down the line or multiple 4k displays on the same port (or you really want to).

    I would say that about 95% of all users would be perfectly fine with an USB-C dock, which costs a fraction of the TB3 dock discussed here, and still offers pretty much every port you need, from 4k HDMI, to ethernet, SD card slots and multiple USB-A.
  25. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    If it took you a couple of minutes to plug/unplug, say, 3-4 cables (Magsafe, USB, display, Ethernet) then you were doing something wrong.

    I had a nice setup with my old MBP - 3 cables at work (Apple LED cinema display), 3-4 cables at home - took about 10 seconds - only thing I needed to carry day-to-day was the MBP itself and a VGA dongle for presentations that rarely left the travel bag. When the 2016 MBP came out, I worked out that I'd need to spend about $500 on docks and dongles to get the same end result - i.e. only needing the Laptop itself for the daily commute (plus new USB-A/VGA dongles for road trips). Saving a few seconds plugging in 1 cable rather than 3 - so what? As others have pointed out - docks with USB/network/video have been around since the Thunderbolt 1 days.

    Its improved a bit since then - more choice/cheaper/better hubs and dongles - but the basic issue is till there: TB docks have turned from a "luxury option" to, for many people, a necessity.

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