Come with me, back to a simpler time. It’s 2015, and Apple’s MacBook Pros are on the top of the world. The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro was one of the best notebooks anyone could ask for. It had everything–USB-A ports, Thunderbolt 2, an SD card slot. Everything was great, until—smash cut to late 2016, when Apple did a major redesign of the entire Pro lineup.
Suddenly, USB-C and Thunderbolt were the only ports for charging and input, throwing users into an awkward spot. Even in 2018, USB-C isn’t completely sorted out and remains contentious for many despite providing fast Thunderbolt 3 speeds to devices and a reversible plug that can’t be put in wrong.
If you’ve been forced to take a one-way ticket to Dongletown to make your MacBook Pro work with the accessories you already own, OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock is worth a look. This desktop docking solution was designed with pro users in mind; it has more ports than average users would likely need.
When you connect it to your MacBook Pro, the most important thing the OWC dock adds is USB-A. If you have a bunch of peripherals, hard drives, and other stuff you routinely plug into your MacBook Pro, this desktop dock provides you with no less than five of the traditional rectangular USB 3.0 ports.
This adapter also delivers in the aesthetic department. This long, slender box packs all of its 13 diverse ports into something you’d be proud to display on your desk alongside your shiny, premium MacBook Pro. Whether your laptops has the darker Space Gray finish or just boring old silver, the OWC dock has a matching ring of anodized aluminum around the device so you can make everything match just right.
Practically Perfect Ports
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the plethora of other ports you get from this device. Thunderbolt 3 is designed to daisy chain, which means you can plug a total of six devices in series to one TB port on a laptop. To that end, this dock has two TB3 ports, one in and one to connect to the next device in the chain. Wired networking fanatics will love the inclusion of a gigabit Ethernet port. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Mac professional with FireWire hard drives still lurking in your workflow, then guess what? This dock has Firewire 800! Need to output digital audio through an optical cable? Not to worry—S/PDIF is also along for the ride.
Along the front of this adapter, there’s a handy-dandy headset jack and, much to my delight, a full-sized SD card adapter. For a photo enthusiast like me, it’s a godsend to have a place to plug in a memory card, and it’s well-positioned for frequent use.
I think getting all these functions from one connection interface is part of the promise of USB-C, and the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock delivers. There are a few snags that might not make this the absolute perfect solution for some. First, the $300 price is more like an investment. You’re gonna want to use this adapter for years to come in order to get your money’s worth. OWC includes a Thunderbolt 3 cable in the box, but its somewhat short half-meter length make it inconvenient to use in some desk setups. The power brick is surprisingly big and unsightly, and it would have been awesome if it were incorporated into the elegant box of ports instead of dooming it to spend eternity on the floor.
But, as a way into the brave new world of Thunderbolt 3, this dock gives your MacBook Pro (or PC with TB3) the ports you rely on today. High price tag aside, the utility this offers is so awesome, and getting all those ports, plus charging, over one cable fulfills the promise of Thunderbolt.