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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.

OWC built USB 3.1 Gen 1 into all five of its USB connections, which handles a 5 Gbps rate. It’s effectively USB 3.0 with a few minor improvements. The 10 Gbps Gen 2 isn’t widely in the market yet, and the MacBook only handles Gen 1.

The headphone jack appears as external named input and output sources, so plugging in headphones doesn’t automatically switch the Mac to play audio through the dock—you have to make a manual selection.

The dock is eminently self-explanatory with one exception. While there are two USB-C ports, one is designated for the MacBook. It’s labeled with a relatively large white silkscreened laptop icon above it. If you plug into the other USB-C port, the Dock doesn’t work. On a couple of occasions, despite that icon, I plugged into the wrong port and thought something was wrong with the dock or peripherals. In practice, I expect most users will keep the host cable plugged into the dock, and only plug and remove the MacBook, making this a moot point.

The dock measures 7.9 x 3.5 x 1.1 inches, allowing you to tuck it at the feet of a monitor. It’s just 0.9 pounds, making it reasonable to stick into a bag, especially if you keep the slim box that it and its power adapter come in to keep it manageable.

Where the dock comes up short is with the 18-inch host cable required to attach it to a MacBook. This is almost comically short, especially since it has to reach from the MacBook to the back of the dock. A 3-foot or even 4-foot cable should have come with it, and that’s a tricky thing to replace because not all USB-C cables are rated for passing more than 15 watts (W) of power. The MacBook’s own adapter runs at 29 W, and the cable Apple ships can carry that. OWC may be trying to minimize cost here, but it’s the wrong place to shave dollars. You can buy from OWC a 3-foot cable for $19 or a 6-foot cable for $29.

Although the ports in the back are the ones you’ll use less, the combination of a short cord and the placement of the sole USB-C peripheral jack there makes the dock a little more awkward than it needs to be.

Worth the price

I tested the dock’s ports, connections, and data transfer rates, and it’s all very much in keeping with my experience in testing individual devices or multi-port adapters with the MacBook over the last several months. For instance, with a WD My Passport Ultra hard drive, the dock passes 90 MBps while reading and writing, which is about 20 percent off the speeds seen when CNet tested this drive, but that’s identical to the performance I can get out of other adapters, such as Apple’s own multi-port digital and analog video connectors. (In contrast, the MacBook’s internal flash memory tested at 120 MBps for writes and 300 MBps for reads.)

 

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