One of the biggest professional gripes about the new MacBook Pro — dongle issues aside — is its lack of upgradability. Apple made the decision to solder the storage onto the logic board (just as it does the RAM), making it impossible for users to upgrade past the capacity they choose at time of purchase.
Image: Christina Warren/Gizmodo
Fortunately, longtime Mac accessory maker and storage maker OWC has a solution. Dubbed the OWC DEC, this is a solution that will add additional storage and ports to your MacBook Pro. Unlike other docks, this one actually is a dock. The MacBook Pro will sit on top of machine-milled aluminium that houses the NAND flash storage and additional ports.
Although most people will probably use the DEC on their desk, it's fully portable. The DEC will make the new MacBook Pro about the same thickness as the old 2012 MacBook Pro with an optical drive. It also adds some weight, but OWC says it should still weigh 85 to 110g lighter than the 2012 optical drive MacBook Pro.
I had a look at an early (but working) prototype model without ports and was impressed. Yes, this adds thickness and weight, but it also makes the MacBook Pro an actual pro machine.
In addition to up to 4TB of additional storage, the DEC will also include:
- SD card slot
- 3 USB 3 Type A Ports
- Gigabit Ethernet
OWC told me they are also looking at offering mini-DisplayPort in certain configurations and may even look at adding an additional battery.
Although you can't upgrade the RAM (something no Apple laptop has allowed since 2012), this is probably the closest solution you'll get to returning your Touch Bar MacBook Pro to what Apple used to offer back in the day.
The downside to all of this is price. OWC isn't announcing pricing — and the volatile nature of NAND memory chips made it difficult for them to give me an estimate — but expect it to be expensive. I was told that the 4TB model would cost less than what Apple charges to go from 256GB to 2TB on the MacBook Pro. Apple charges $2240 for that privilege, so prepare to spend serious money.
I can't fault OWC for its pricing structure though. This is a problem Apple brought upon itself when it decided to continue its evolution of turning professional tools into turnkey appliances. If you want to a seamless way to upgrade the storage on your MacBook Pro and you want legacy ports, this is one of your few options.
This story originally appeared as part of Gizmodo's CES 2017 coverage.