Rapid Review: Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Image: Other World Computing

Now that USB-C has become a standard feature on most portable computers, finding a docking solution that lets you connect an external display, hard drive and other peripherals has become far simpler. Gone are the days of proprietary docking stations. Now, one cable can link you to a cavalcade of ports. The Thunderbolt 3 Dock by Other World Computing, lets you connect your Windows or Mac system is a dozen external ports through a single cable.

What Is It?

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock delivers a slew of ports for connecting almost every device you can imagine. It's compact and, through a single USB-C connection (there's a cable in the box), provides access to almost every connection you need.

Specifications

Dimensions 29 x 9 x 3cm
USB-A ports Five USB 3.1 ports (four on the rear, one on the front)
USB-C ports Two Thunderbolt 3
Other ports SD Card reader and 3.5mm analog audio on front, S/PDIF, Gigabit ethernet and Mini DisplayPort on rear
Image: Other World Computing

What's Good?

In the past, if you wanted to dock a computer you needed the manufacturer to offer a bespoke solution. That's because the ports of yesteryear weren't capable of carrying the data we need. USB-C and Thunderbolt change that.

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Through that one connector, with the right cable, it's possible to carry multiple data streams between devices. The Thunderbolt 3 Dock lets you connect external displays, hard drives, memory cards and other peripherals quickly and easily. Although I tested it with a Mac, it also works with Windows.

With my MacBook Pro, it was just a simple plug and play to have my external display, a 24-inch Samsung screen, an external hard drive, speakers and scanner ready to use in a few moments.

With displays, Thunderbolt allows you to connect either a pair of 4K or HD screens or a single 5K monitor.

Image: Other World Computing

With USB-C cables still tricky to buy - as manufacturers seem to be creating a confusopoly between cables that are good for data, charging smartphones and charging laptops - it's good that the Thunderbolt 3 Dock ships with a USB-C cable. In my case, that cable is not only delivering data to and from my external devices but also charging my laptop.

In short, the Thunderbolt 3 Dock does what it says on the box and reduces the number of small dongles and adaptors I might otherwise need.

What's Bad?

There's one big omission on the Thunderbolt 3 Dock - HDMI. I'm not sure why, but OWC, who make the Thunderbolt 3 Dock, have stuck with Mini DisplayPort rather than ditching it for the ubiquitous HDMI that almost every modern display now offers. It means I need to use an adaptor to connect my display to the Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

Also, the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the front. While that makes sense if you're using it for headphones, I'd have preferred the port to be at the back as I have it connected to a set of speakers.

Should You Buy It

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to hook your computer up to a bunch of different devices and want to escape the dongle hell that USB-C has foisted upon many of us, the Thunderbolt 3 Dock from OWC will fit the bill although the lack of a direct HDMI connection is a serious omission in my view.

It comes in either silver or space grey and can be purchased locally from MacFixIt for $449.

That's a hefty price tag and I suspect, not one everyone will need to pay. I can get by with a less expensive Satechi USB-C adaptor as I only need to connect a pair of USB-A devices and a display over HDMI. But if you need to connect more then the heftier price tag may be worth paying.


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