Those of you with laptops know the hassle of plugging and unplugging peripherals when you need to expand the capabilities of your computer. More specifically those of you with Macintosh laptops have never had the option of an Apple made docking station. Well the engineers at OWC have designed a single cable solution to connect all of your wired computer accessories to your Thunderbolt enabled Macbook. The OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock allows you to easily connect a multitude of components and add greater connectivity to your Apple laptop in one fell swoop.
Note: Images can be clicked on to view a larger size.
The OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock has an impressive number of built-in ports: two Thunderbolt 2 ports (one to connect to your laptop and the other for daisy chaining TB devices), one Gigabit Ethernet port, one FireWire 800 port (though I would have preferred a USB C port), audio in & out ports, an HDMI port (supporting up to a 4K display), and five USB 3.0 ports. The dock is capable of a theoretical 20Gb/s of throughput, “…engineered to eliminate data bottlenecks, and effortlessly supports direct connection of up to ten devices, as well as daisy-chaining five additional Thunderbolt devices.”
In the Box:
- OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
- External power supply and power cable
- 3 ft Thunderbolt cable
- User guide
The OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock is made from high grade aluminum and dense jet-black plastic. The front of the dock has two LEDs indicator lights built into the base of the dock. The left indicates when the Thunderbolt port is connected (green LED) to a computer while the right one shows when the dock is powered on (blue LED). You can really only see these lights as a reflection off of the surface it is sitting on.
- (3) USB 3.0 Standard-A
- (2) USB 3.0 Standard-A high power
- (1) FireWire 800
- (1) HDMI 1.4b
- (1) Gigabit Ethernet
- (1) 3.5mm Mono Audio Input
- (1) 3.5mm Stereo Audio Output
The Thunderbolt 2 Dock has 5 x powered USB 3.0 ports for connecting your USB peripherals. The three “regular” USB 3.0 ports on the back are engineered to connect and power your hard drives, SSDs, or optical drives but you can also plug in your printer, scanner, etc into them as well.
The two USB ports located on the right side of the dock are “high-powered” providing up to 1.5 Amps of power meant for charging your tablets, smartphones, and other USB charged devices. A great feature is that these ports continue to power/recharge your smart devices even when your laptop is not connected to the dock.
The FireWire 800 port provides connectivity with Apple’s historic high-speed hard drive standard, introduced more than a decade ago and killed off a few years back.
The wired ethernet connection thru the Thunderbolt 2 dock does increase the download speed nearly two fold as compared to WiFi.
The dock’s flattop and always-on, 1.5A USB side ports makes for an ideal set up to charge your smartphone.
Getting everything operational and talking to my MacBook required downloading a single driver that enabled all the ports and peripherals to work as expected. Though I do have one caveat with this or any other Thunderbolt dock I have heard about, to truly daisy-chain monitors all but the last must have Thunderbolt ports. While they look the same (and most of you might know this), DisplayPorts do not get the job done in regards to connecting multiple monitors to OSX computers. You can connect one monitor via DP or HDMI but that is it. What happens (in most cases depending on your hardware) is that they mirror each other versus expanding your screen real estate. Though when I connected a DisplayPort cable from the dock to one monitor and the HDMI to the other display everything went wonky and I had to power cycle my MBPro and the OWC dock.
With its quality aluminum construction and black top, the OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock size, form and function fits in very nicely to the Zen of my multi-computer and dual monitor setup, greatly minimizing the number of cables connecting to my MacBook Pro. The dock makes connecting a multitude of varying devices quick and easy, reducing the process to my MagSafe power cord and a single Thunderbolt cable. Considering that I have my laptop on my lap 75% of the time, the added connecting/disconnecting efficiency is a definite plus. The OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock is an excellent accessory to my workspace, helping me fight the never ending battle to reduce the clutter and mayhem of my desk.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by OWC. Please visit their site for more info and check Amazon for pricing/ordering.
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Have you done any long-term testing, e.g. 1 year or more? I ask because my OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock has been experiencing a lot of hard drive disconnects in the past few weeks, to the point that it is unreliable. A number of reviewers on Amazon.com (including myself) have noted the same, and at least one other online reviewer has posted as such, as well.