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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.

The UHS-I 40 MBps SD Card slot can accept cards up to 2TB, but it underperforms. Using a 45 MBps-rated SDHC card that outside tests confirm handles nearly that rate, I measured 17 MBps writing to the card and 20 MBps reading. However, using a generic card reader plugged into the MacBook directly via Apple’s USB-C to Type-A adapter, the card wrote at 27 MBps and read at 36 MBps.

I discussed this with OWC, and they don’t have an explanation; they’ve tested identical cards and hit the bus-limited 40 MBps maximum performance. Because the card reader shares the USB bus, they would expect potentially diminished performance if other heavy-duty tasks (like ethernet networking or hard drive transfers) were underway, but my testing happened in isolation. In practice, that slight difference will be unnoticeable.

The monitor connection worked perfectly fine with three I tested: a 2014 Asus 1080p display and two HDTV sets (720p and 1080p) with HDMI input. Gigabit ethernet tested out at its full rate, above 940 Mbps. (OWC offers a free downloadable ethernet driver that keeps the dock on the network even when the MacBook is sleeping.)

The gestalt is part of what makes the dock worthwhile, and its $159 list price seems perfectly reasonable given the set of ports, capabilities, quality of design, and OWC’s reputation and history of hardware manufacture and customer support. If you own a MacBook already and need a fully fleshed-out desktop environment, the OWC USB-C has the current status of being the only option and a very solid one.

If you haven’t purchased a MacBook yet and can wait, it’s worth looking at Apple’s next laptop releases. Thunderbolt 3, which will use USB-C as its connector type, is due out later this year and is already announced for a special Dell developer edition laptop model. Apple’s roadmap is unclear, but it’s likely we’ll see a revised MacBook at the March 21 event or in April, as the first model appeared just over a year ago; it’s just possible it’ll have Thunderbolt 3 included. Other MacBook models will likely see updates this year, too, and Thunderbolt 3 is a natural for the Pro.

And a separate issue is that while the OWC USB-C Dock is first to market designed for the MacBook and checking off all the useful adapter boxes, you may be able to get a higher-performance dock in the next few months—but also at a higher price—that includes higher-amperage (faster) USB ports, more USB-C ports, and native DisplayPort or multiple monitor jacks.

Bottom line

If you’re ready now or the feature set meets or exceeds your needs, there’s no reason to wait: The USB-C Dock neatly extends a MacBook to act like a desktop.

 

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