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OWC USB-C Dock review: Opens up a MacBook’s possibilities

Glenn Fleishman | March 18, 2016
While one port isn’t much, the first desktop-style dock takes full advantage.

Back around 1993, I had the exciting combination of a PowerBook 210 with a Duo MiniDock. It only had one port—not even a headphone jack—but an innovative docking connector meant I could hook it into a full-fledged desktop setup with an external monitor, hard drives, and network.

I flashed back to this experience when I unpacked and started to test the new USB-C Dock from OWC, designed to work with the 12-inch Apple MacBook introduced almost a year ago. It’s true, compared tot he PowerBook 210, networking speeds are more than 4,000 times faster (gigabit ethernet versus AppleTalk), the MacBook has 2,000 times more RAM, and the hard drive I picked (512GB SSD) has over 6,000 times the capacity. But it’s remarkable how much the purpose and even the rough size has remained the same.

The OWC dock has a panoply of networking and peripheral ports that come close to matching what you find on a current Mac mini model (it’s shy one monitor-capable outlet compared to the mini). Plug a short USB-C male-to-male charging-compatible cable from a MacBook to the appropriately labeled port on the AC-powered dock, and the world opens up to you. The dock works in OS X and with Windows 10 via Boot Camp.

(One note before you whip out a credit card: OWC has been making these in batches, and sold out its initial run in February. The company says current pre-orders will ship in mid-April.)

Ports a-plenty

Let’s start with the port rundown. The USB-C Dock features five USB ports, one gigabit ethernet jack, an SD card slot, an analog headphone/microphone combo jack, and an HDMI 1.4b port compatible with DisplayPort, which can handle displays up to 4K/30 Hz. The audio, memory card, and one Type-A USB port are arrayed along the front. The rest of the ports and the DC-power jack are on the back. The dock comes with a 4-foot cord attached to a power brick with a removable 4-foot AC cord.

The USB ports are divided by type and “speed:” two 0.9 amp (A) Type-A ports for charging iPhones and connecting regular peripherals; two “fast” 1.5 A Type-A ports that can also charge iPads; and one USB-C 1.5 A port for whatever you can plug in there, useful as USB-C devices continue to hit the market. (You can always use a Type-C to Type-A cable to attach Type-A devices as well.)

Recent iPhones can charge up to 2.1 A and iPads can charge at 2.1 A or up to 2.4 A with newer units. The 0.9 A and 1.5 A limits on the dock’s ports seem a little below ideal, and I think using “high-powered” with a port that delivers less than 2.0 A stretches the definition.

 

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