OWC Thunderbolt Dock 3
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Plugging into one of your Thunderbolt 3 ports via the new USB Type-C connectors, the OWC port replicator provides full-bandwidth access to multiple devices in the studio ranging from audio interfaces to storage systems to additional displays and more. Although you could attach the device to an older generation Mac’s Thunderbolt 2 port via Apple’s $40 Thunderbolt adaptor, you won’t be able to take advantage of many of the Thunderbolt 3 Dock’s advanced capabilities and throughput. We recommend purchasing the Thunderbolt 2 Dock for your older systems instead.
Here’s a look at OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 2 docking stations:
* Both docks support USB 3.1 Gen 1, but the Thunderbolt Dock 3 also supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 via the Thunderbolt/USB-C ports.
What’s hard to see from the chart is the expanded video capabilities of these devices. Displays can be attached to the Thunderbolt ports, not just the mini DisplayPort or HDMI ports. In the case of the Thunderbolt 3 Dock, it can power one 5k display, two ultra HD 4k displays, or a combination of additional displays when also using the dedicated mini DisplayPort port. The Thunderbolt 2 Dock doesn’t support 5k displays, but supports Ultra HD 4k displays, and offers an HDMI interface instead of mini DisplayPort.
We also connected our PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 AI mixing board to the Mac via the FireWire 800 port. For most studios, backwards compatibility with FireWire devices is necessary, and thankfully, OWC includes one FireWire 800 port on both versions of the port replicator. The inclusion of USB 3.1 ports on the Thunderbolt D3 Dock is great for studios using audio interfaces that take advantage of the latest, fastest USB interface.
For direct audio connections, the Thunderbolt 3 Dock has S/PDIF output, while the headphone jack serves double-duty as a microphone input should you be in need of a simple podcasting solution.
The Thunderbolt 3 Dock is completely plug-and-play. Just hook it up and it works flawlessly. The inclusion of an SD card reader was a welcome extra. And, we also appreciated having one front-facing USB 3.1 port that provided ample power for charging our Apple and Samsung mobile devices. Our only complaint? We wish the Dock had one more Thunderbolt port for us to avoid daisy chaining devices. Granted, this is partly psychological trauma we need to move beyond from years of working with other interfaces that experienced degraded performance when daisy-chaining devices.
Given that there aren’t too many port replication devices on the market, it’s refreshing to know that OWC continues to build such reliable and high-performance expansion products. If you’re upgrading your studio with the latest Apple Macintosh technology, consider this $299 device a necessary purchase.
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