OWC Thunderbolt Dock

Mike Lawson • Technology • December 6, 2017

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It was with great regret that I found myself giving up my early 2009 MacBook Pro 17” machine.

I had removed the optical drive some time ago, adding a second hard disk drive, and a year or so later, I removed that and put in a 1TB and 500GB SSD drive into the laptop, making for a pretty good amount of storage in addition to a nice speed boost. However, being a 2.66gHz system, it was no longer suited for the latest OSX operating system. If I were only using it for basic word processing and surfing the Internet or looking at cat videos on YouTube, I’d no doubt have gotten a few more years out of it. The port connectively was starting to age on top of the newest OS. Demands of the various audio production and video editing apps that I run these days, apps that once were relegated to desktop-land when a portable computer was not something one seriously undertook real audio production on, let alone video, need power, speed, storage, and most of all, updated connectivity.

I struggled with justifying the update when the December 2016 MacBook Pros with the new Touch Bar were introduced. Apple had long since done away with the 17” screen, which I thought I would miss a lot more than I do. I had invested in a 27” Mini Display Port Apple Cinema Display. The new MacBook Pros came only with this new version of Thunderbolt, essentially a USB3-type connector. How was I going to connect my stuff? My monitor? My audio devices? Charge my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch. Yes, I am an Apple fan boy.

The options were dongles. My new MacBook Pro was destined to look like an octopus with tentacles hanging off each side to connect my devices. Not only unsightly, but unwieldy going from laptop to a docked-to-monitor desktop configuration. I mean, I can handle the dongles when I travel and I’m in a hotel room, but not at home. My desk is a mess as it is.

Other World Computing, aka MacSales.com, has for many years been my most-trusted source of upgrades, peripherals, memory, and other Mac-specific third-party add-ons. If they release a product, I feel really good about it doing what it is designed to do. Frankly, it was their announcement of the OWC Thunderbolt dock which was the tipping point for me that made me order the 2016 TouchBar Mac- Book Pro. I ordered the 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM, which was the “slowest” of the offered 15” models, but I sold a kidney on the black market to add on the 2TB SSD drive. It is a dream machine for mobile computing and this thing rivals and in some instances, excels my aging but also souped-up six core Mac Pro 5,1 tower in my home recording studio.

The day I ordered the MacBook Pro, I pre-ordered the OWC Thunderbolt Dock. This small-footprint docking device had everything I needed to keep the old working with the new. It featured Thunderbolt 3 with 13 Ports, USB 3.1 Gen 1, Gigabit Ethernet, Mini Display Port, FireWire 800, SD Card Reader, even Digital Audio and a headphone jack.

From the OWC marketing literature: The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock takes full advantage of the cutting-edge performance of Thunderbolt 3 technology with throughput up to 40Gb/s of bandwidth and allows users to realize the maximum utility of Thunderbolt 3 equipped Macs. The 13 ports offer the capability to charge mobile devices, connect one 5K or two 4K displays, add external storage (including legacy devices such as FireWire drives), import photos and videos from SD cards, access wired networks via Gigabit Ethernet, and enjoy pristine audio – all through a single Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Because Thunderbolt 3 delivers phenomenal bandwidth, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock can be the foundation of a perfect custom display setup, providing the ability to drive the latest- generation 5K displays, two 4K displays or a combination of 4K, HD and other displays with the Mini DisplayPort (mDP) with DisplayPort++ support, and additional Thunderbolt 3 port.

For professionals working in the creative industries, there is typically a highly detailed workflow complete with specialized and legacy ports such as FireWire and digital audio. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock supports FireWire 800 and S/PDIF digital audio, as well as an SD card reader and analog stereo audio. All that and the 2-year OWC limited warranty: OWC is proud to provide a superior level of support and warranty coverage to our customers. With OWC, the possibilities are endless.

I didn’t want this thing. I needed this thing. And I needed it both to work, and for work. And then it happened — delay after delay. OWC was great at updating their Facebook page, but I was growing desperate. Finally, after several delay announcements, I just canceled my order and bought a bunch of dongles. And the experience of using them to connect my MacBook Pro to my display and other desktop items became a nightmarish spaghetti factory of a mess. It was such an un-Mac-like experience. I’d set the machine in my metal arching stand and have this world of cables hanging out of each side. And USB3/Thunderbolt connections are not always that snug, so sometimes things would work their way out. No fun.

About the time I’d had enough, OWC finally released the Thunderbolt Dock. When their PR person sent around the press releases and offered a demo, I jumped at the chance. I guess good things come to those who wait. With all the kinks worked, this dock rocks! It is really a wonderful experience. I connect my Bose audio speakers on the desk, the Mini Display Port for the Apple Cinema Display. All of the already-connected USB items in the back of the monitor instantly worked, the USB charger for my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, plugged in and waiting, cables nicely hidden. This is a true-docking-experience. No charger to connect, so I didn’t need an extra charger, because the new MacBook Pro charges via the Thunderbolt port.

It Just Works

So now, when I need to sit at my desk and work, I just walk into my office, sit the MacBook Pro in its stand, plug in one Thunderbolt cable. When I connect to the OWC Thunderbolt Dock, all of my peripherals just work. Clichéd, no doubt, but it just works. Everything I plug into it. Every time. My Bluetooth keyboard wakes it up from “clamshell mode” and my Magic Mouse comes to life, and suddenly I am working at a state-of-the-art workstation. The digital audio output works great. The analog audio connection to my now-old Bose speakers works great. Everything works great.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, or by some bizarre chance your district actually springs for a new MacBook or MacBook Pro, and you need to connect all of your still-working-great legacy peripherals, the OWC Thunderbolt Dock will make your life with them and your new laptop a pleasant, hassle-free experience. I love this thing.

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