Other World Computing doesn’t just dabble in Mac accessories — it’s one of the most popular third-party Apple RAM and SSD vendors, and sells some of the only Blu-Ray drives marketed at Mac users. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that OWC had developed its own Thunderbolt 2 Dock ($228), entering an accessory category that was simultaneously worthwhile and fairly stagnant. Almost all of the best Thunderbolt 2 docks have the same core features and design elements, mixing silver aluminum, black plastic, an external power supply and a bunch of ports together to make one-point connectivity hubs for Macs. OWC’s design is similar, but it’s functionally unique.
Measuring 9″ wide by 3.5″ deep by 1.1″ tall, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is the largest such accessory I’ve seen, looking like an elongated Mac mini with a glossy black top. The right side has two always-powered USB ports, while the back includes a collection of 10 additional audio, video, and data ports, plus wall power. That means OWC’s design is both the biggest and most capable Thunderbolt 2 dock out there, but does that also make it the best? From my perspective, that depends on your Mac’s needs…
OWC ships the Thunderbolt 2 Dock with only one pack-in: a large wall power supply that separates into a cabled box and a detachable wall power cable. Like some of its rivals, you’ll have to buy a Thunderbolt 2 cable separately, or purchase a bundle for $31 more with a 1-meter cable included. (A shorter 0.5m cable can be purchased separately for $25.)
The single most standout feature of OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is its collection of USB 3.0 ports. Two of them are on the unit’s right side, and guaranteed 1.5A of wall power even when a computer’s not connected — a boon for keeping iPads or iPhones fueled no matter what. Three more are on the back with regular charging capabilities, alongside separate 3.5mm headphone and microphone ports, a FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a 4K-compatible HDMI 1.4b port, and a wall power port.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no other Thunderbolt 2 docks on the market with 5 USB ports, which is the single biggest difference compared with Elgato’s same-named accessory (shown above); the FireWire 800 port provides compatibility with Apple’s old high-speed hard drive standard, introduced in 2003 and effectively discontinued in 2014. Of the Thunderbolt 2 docks I’ve seen, the only other one with FireWire support is Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock.
Speed-wise, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock worked as expected. I saw no obvious degradation in USB 3.0 performance relative to a direct connection, with 208MB/second read and 155MB/second write speeds. But like some of the other docks I’ve tested, I noticed a small fall-off in write speeds using Thunderbolt 2 — consistent 370MB/second read speeds, but only 280MB/second write speeds, down from 317MB/second speeds through a direct connection to the Mac. The extent to which speeds are compromised may depend on how many devices you’re simultaneously connecting to the Dock, though the speeds mentioned above remained the same even when there were multiple USB devices, an HDMI monitor, headphones, and a Thunderbolt drive connected and being used at the same time.
As mentioned in my Best Thunderbolt 2 dock for your Mac guide, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 isn’t the only “best” option out there, but it’s one of several top picks. Its large size and matching collection of ports makes it a particularly good pick for Mac users who need lots of USB and optional FireWire 800 compatibility, though at a modest price premium, while Elgato’s version sells for less and takes up less room, and Akitio’s version gives up A/V connectors and ports to achieve an even smaller form factor. Go with the one that best suits your personal needs and budget.
Other World Computing
$228 / $259 (with cable)
Mac with Thunderbolt 2
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This is the dock I bought and I’m very happy with it. None of the others had the number or type of ports I wanted so I had been waiting some time to get a Thunderbolt dock. I could do without the Firewire 800port though as it has been many years since I had a FW 800 drive. They were screaming fast at the time though. :-)
I bought an Elgato, sent the first one back when it died the following day. The next one suffered from flakey USB 3.0 transfers. Bought the OWC TB2 dock when it came out after my Elgato experience… couldn’t be happier, as I need FW800 for my audio interface and many HD’s. Having a wired internet connection is also great.
i wonder why there’s no THUNDERBOLT-hub that’s actually a thunderbolt-hub with several thunderbolt-ports … i would already be happy with two instead of one
Thunderbolt is a serial protocol.
Does anyone know if this one will power a Superdrive?
Yes it does. You need to install a software driver update though. You can find it on the OWC website. This dock rocks.
Can it drive 2 external 27″ monitors? One using the Thunderbolt port with a DisplayPort connection, and the other using the HDMI port? That’s the biggest gripe I have with all existing Thunderbolt hubs: If you want dual displays, you can only drive one with the hub and you still have to connect the other directly to the Macbook.
I just bought a Surface Pro 4 which has an external hub that drives two 4k DisplayPort monitors. I don’t understand why this little Surface Pro hub can drive 2 DisplayPort displays, but equivalent functionality still doesn’t exist for my powerhouse MacBook retina.
No it cannot run 2 monitors. Also you can’t use it with Windows. Only Mac OSX
I need to correct my previous statement. You can use the HDMI port for a second monitor. Only not 4k@50fps, which the Tunderbolt port can run.
thunderbolt’s huge bandwidth allows it to be daisy chained
if you have 2 apple thunderbolt displays you can plug the first into your mac and the second into the first screen.
and even if you didn’t want to do that this dock has two thunderbolt ports.
My problem is that most thunderbolt hubs are built with two thunderbolt connections and most thunderbolt devices are built with only one, so they can’t be daisy chained. I have an Elgato thunderbolt dock with a thunderbolt display with a thunderbolt toaster hard drive at the end. I’d like to add a thunderbolt audio interface, but now I have to add another dock! Makes a daisy chain configuration difficult when everyone wants to be the last one in the chain.
The dock is a thunderbolt audio device at its own. Or you can choose USB 2 or 3 for audio interfacing. I don’t see the need to use Thunderbolt for audio because of its relatively low bandwidth compared with network, monitor (4K) and external storage media.
Not when you are planning to record multiple channels at 192kHz ;)
I have a MacBook Air with Thunderbolt (not TB2); will this device work on my Mac?