The OWC T3 Dock first caught our attention while we were reviewing the 2016 MacBook Pro. You see, Apple took away all ports except a headphone jack and 4 Type-C ports. Although, there are many Type-C products, both Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C, now, at the end of 2016, there were not. This made it a bit difficult to do much testing with the ports of the MacBook Pro. We were forced to use a multitude of adapters and subpar peripherals we had around already — namely the GoPro HERO5 Black. Although not avaliable to buy yet, we started a conversation with OWC to get this new Thunderbolt 3 Dock in for review.
The Dock Details
From a single Type-C port on the 2016 MacBook Pro the OWC T3 Dock expands that one port in to 13. On top of powering the computer you gain five USB 3.1 gen 1.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort, two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports, a gigabit ethernet port, a S/PDIF output only port, a SD 3.0 media card reader, a hybrid 3.5 millimeter headphone and mic jack and lastly a FireWire 800 port. Short of workflow specific ports, the OWC T3 Dock gives you everything you need, plus a Firewire 800 port. We found the Firewire 800 port to be unnecessary, but we’re sure it’ll be the main reason some people buy the T3 Dock.
Short of workflow specific ports, the OWC T3 Dock gives you everything you need, plus a Firewire 800 port.
Outside of making sure all of the ports work, what do you test with a dock? After considering that a bit, we thought it would be helpful to know if there was any performance loss when using the Dock for data transfer. Using AJA System Test Lite, we transferred data from a Samsung T3 SSD through each port via both USB Type-C and USB 3.1 Gen 1. We tested with a one gigabyte file of 16-bit RGBA 5K Red footage. When transferring directly to the computer, not using the dock connected via USB Type-C, we experienced 417 megabytes per second write and 436 megabytes per second read speeds. This is our control. We then connected the Samsung SSD through the T3 Dock via USB Type-C, just as we did to the computer and saw a drop in performance with 392 megabytes per second write and 428 megabytes per second read speeds. That’s six percent slower when using the Dock. The performance was even lower when using USB 3.1 Gen 1 with 281 megabytes per second write and 347 megabytes per second read speeds.
When connecting to the MacBook Pro with a USB Type-C adapter, we tested SD Card read and write speeds. No matter the connection, the two SD cards, a Lexar 1800X SD HC II micro SD card and a Sony SDXC I SD card, averaged 72 megabytes per second write and 88 megabytes per second read speeds.
When using the Ethernet port we found our five gigahertz wireless connection to perform better than connecting to the same network wired. Using speedtest.net the ethernet port performed 36 percent slower downloads. However, their upload speeds were the exactly same. When connected to our 2.4 gigahertz connection, the ethernet connection spanked the wireless one offering: almost 70 percent faster download speeds. No matter the connection, the upload speed stayed constant. It’s likely that if you have a wireless connection that's fast, a gigabit Ethernet port won't help you much, but those who need an ethernet port will get good performance from the one on the T3 Dock.
The Real World
All tests aside, when used day in and day out as a solution for connectivity, we experienced no poor performance. Outside of knowing that the numbers say different, read and write speed losses weren’t noticeable. An option we would have liked to see is, having the computer power the Dock rather than it powering the computer. Its doubtful if that’s even possible with this many breakout ports, but nonetheless, it would make it more attractive on the desk with fewer cords.
When the 2016 MacBook Pro arrived at Videomaker, there wasn’t many solutions for getting your ports back outside the OWC T3 Doc. But with time, demand has given us options. Here are two: one more expensive than the OWC T3 Dock, and one less.
The Kensington SD5000T is 400 dollars. It has the same number of Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports. It also has DisplayPort and gigabit Ethernet connections. The Kensington offers a USB Type-C only port but has three fewer USB 3.0 Type-A ports than the T3. It lacks a S/PDIF port, SD Card reader, FireWire 800 port and headphone/mic input. This doesn't seem to be a better product on paper, especially since it costs 100 dollars more than OWC T3 Dock.
Next is the CalDigit TS3 Lite for as little as 180 dollars or as much as 240 dollars, depending on what cable length you choose. It has the same number of Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports, offers a USB Type-C only port, but has three fewer USB 3.0 Type-A ports. There isn’t a S/PDIF port , SD Card reader, or FireWire 800 port, but it does have audio in and out. If you don't need these ports, you'll be happy because it’s 120 dollars less than the T3 Dock.
Summary and Recommendation
The OWC Dock is what it says it is. It gives you the ports that Apple took away. Is it cheap? No. However, it’s a good value considering its options. There are better priced options out there, but you get less. There is a small performance decrease when transferring data through the T3 Dock, but not enough to notice when in use.
- Tons of connection types
- Easy to use
- Firewire 800 likely unnecessary for most
If you have a 2016 MacBook Pro, you need your ports back. The OWC T3 Dock gives you 13 ports from one. We had a slight performance loss in our read write speeds with the T3 Dock, but it wasn’t noticeable during normal usage.
- 2016 MacBook Pro owners
- Mac: OS X 10.12 or later
- PC or Boot Camp: Windows 10 or later
Hardware: Any Mac or PC with a built-in Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port
Available Port Types
- (2) Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports
- (1) mini DisplayPort
- (4) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Standard-A ports (rear)
- (1) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Standard-A port (front)
- (1) Gigabit Ethernet port
- (1) S/PDIF port (output only)
- (1) SD 3.0 media card reader (front)
- (1) Hybrid 3.5 mm headphone / mic jack
- (1) FireWire 800 port
Display Support: Thunderbolt 3 ports support video pass-through, up to 4K @ 60Hz, mini DisplayPort 1.2 port supports 2K or 4K @ 60Hz, Support for (1) 5K Thunderbolt 3 display
Power: External UL-listed universal auto-switching power supply
Dimensions: H 1.0 in (2.5 cm) X W 9.1 in (23.0 cm) X L 3.5 in (8.9 cm)
Weight: 1.2 lbs. (.54 kg)
Chris Monlux likes to wear hats, so he doesn't have to comb his hair. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.