Thunderbolt is gradually going mainstream this year, and OWC was one the first companies to launch a suitable dock to take advantage of its capabilities. With laptops getting thinner and ditching the expected array of ports, we expect options like the aptly-named Thunderbolt 3 Dock to finally received some attention. Granted, if the initial shock of sticker price doesn’t turn away normal consumers.
If the aspect of using the interface for gaming isn’t enough, business and content creators should be well-acquainted with Thunderbolt docks, especially if they’re existing MacBook owners who need uncompromising utility. However, Windows users will feel the strain soon enough as their variety of port are slimming down, and USB-C/Thunderbolt are poised to do everything in one interface versus the trails of existing cables you have laying around.
In terms of appearance it’s a dock—for connecting things. On the outside there really isn’t much to say and it’s tough to dress this up visually besides choosing between either silver or space gray trim. It’s brick-like with a rounded corner motif and constructed of a glossy black plastic top, surrounded by an aluminum band to cleanly tie everything together. The aesthetic is clearly meant to compliment Apple products almost religiously, but still unique enough to stand on its own if you’re pairing this with a windows laptop. Speaking of which, this thing does have a presence with physical dimensions of 1”x 9.1”x 3.5” (HWD) and 1.2lbs, but that is nothing compared to the included power supply which has the similar proportions but is 180 watts and weighs a hefty 1.9lbs by itself.
However, all that mass is necessary when you see how many options there are for all those ports you sacrificed for portability. You get five (yes five) 5Gbps USB-A ports, 10Gbps USB Type-C 3.1 (2nd Gen), a Gigabit Ethernet (1000Base-T) port, a Mini DisplayPort, two SD card slots for regular and MicroSD form factors, and both a hybrid 3.5mm and S/PDIF output for audio. That’s a lot of inputs for personal users but it’s reliant on Thunderbolt 3 and you do get two of those, they provide impressive speeds and one of them is even capable of monitor output if you do have a compatible display (or have enough money to mull it over). Whatever you do with this dock, you probably won’t be complaining if you do need to hook up something specific.
Supplemental charging is another perk of most Thunderbolt docks and OWC was considerate to include an 85-watt capacity that should make MacBook Pro and some Windows users happy. It’s enough to not only juice up your workstation but still maintain other peripheral loads feeding from it. All of this is possible thanks to that brick of a power supply, but it is the Thunderbolt 3 Dock’s biggest hindrances outside of work. You’ll be able to live with it inside a backpack but it does weigh things down when traveling.
For people just now getting into the Thunderbolt game through Windows machines, OWC remains solid with their Thunderbolt 3 Dock. Dedicated Mac users already know the value that a hub like this can provide (admittedly by forced necessity), and the typical prices one is expected to pay. Fortunately, this is one of the more robust, yet better priced options out right now if you need both connectivity and respectable charging for full-sized laptops. Keep in mind that this is a premium dock and you’ll still be paying a considerable amount for the privilege, but nowhere near what the competition is asking, which is always good.