As the requirements for modern media production have increased the number of devices, media types and computers we use, so too have the requirements for being able to easily interface with our computers and various types of drives, media and devices. I’m a confessed fan of OWC, I own plenty of their products, but recently, I’ve been doing a lot more editing and post-production tasks with my 2020 27-inch iMac. I was beginning to become annoyed with how often I was having to stand up at my desk to reach around to the rear of the iMac to access USB ports, Thunderbolt ports and especially the SD card slot on the rear right panel of the iMac.
I began to see a need for a more efficient way of accessing the ports on the rear of my computer. I’m also planning on purchasing a 2021 16-inch Macbook Pro. I’m often running out of ports on my iMac since I’m one of those who shares an intense hatred for wireless mice and keyboards; my mice and keyboards are plugged into USB ports. I’ve tried repeatedly to get used to the wireless keyboard and mice that have come with my last few Macs, and no matter how hard I try, I end up intensely disliking dealing with them.
Why I Hate Wireless Mice And Keyboards
I constantly run into Bluetooth connection issues, the mouse or keyboard seems to always run out of power at the least opportune moment when I’m on deadlines and, generally, I simply despise using them. Call me a Luddite, but I much prefer a hardwired mouse and keyboard and those take up two of the four USB ports on the rear of my iMac. I did little research into which Thunderbolt 3 dock might be the best for my needs and discovered the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock ($349), which seemed to be tailor-made for my situation. The fact that my iMac only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports is sometimes a limiting factor as well.
Card Slot Compatibility
I own and shoot RAW video with the Canon C200, which writes its Cinema RAW Light files to CFast 2.0 cards. While the video world has largely moved on from CFast 2.0 cards to the newer CFExpress variants, OWC saw fit to create a dock with an integrated CFast 2.0 card reader in it. Right next to the CFast 2.0 slot is an SD 4.0 card slot as well, which works out perfectly as my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless cameras shoot on SD cards. Score two for card slot compatibility!
The unit also contains:
- 10Gb ethernet support! (My iMac also has a 10Gb Ethernet port as I produce live streaming and it’s handy).
- Two Thunderbolt 3 ports with up to 40Gb/s transfer speeds.
- eSATA support for multi-bay servers (who’s still using eSATA?!?).
- Three USB-A 3.0 ports for connecting peripherals, like an external hard drive or directly connecting a camera or other USB device to your computer.
The dock has a proprietary power connector that I found to be a bit strange looking, reminding me of an internal computer power board connector, but it seems to work quite well and is a high power, locking connector. The unit itself seems to have high build quality with a machined aluminum housing, an internal fan (with an on/off switch in the back) to keep things cool when your office is hot.
In short, I haven’t yet had enough time to make a final assessment of how great the Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock will be in long-term use, but first impressions are very good. The unit is well made as all of my OWC products have been, and it has a unique cross-section of functionality and ports/slots.
Since I’m planning on buying one of the latest M1 Max 16-inch Macbook Pros, I anticipate my use of this dock will only increase and I may end up with two of them, one for my main editing iMac and one for the Macbook Pro. I may even evaluate replacing my iMac Pro with the new Macbook Pro and a 27-inch 4K monitor if the new M1 Max proves to be as fast as we think it will be.
If you own a Macbook Pro as your main machine or if, like me, you have an iMac or other computer where you don’t have easy access to the rear ports, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock could be a perfect addition to make your life a bit easier and your setup a bit more streamlined. I found the fan to not be too intrusive and there’s the switch where you can always shut it off for silent functioning, depending on what you are doing and what the ambient temperature is in your office.
I like that OWC makes several dock options for Thunderbolt users. This model happened to fit my needs nearly perfectly, but you might want to check out some of their other options as well if you don’t need a CFast 2.0 reader or a 10Gb Ethernet port. It seems like the standards for computing ports are in a constant state of flux, but the Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock will help you to manage the devices you have quite nicely for the moment.
Thunderbolt 3 Pro Likes (in no particular order)
- CFast 2.0 card reader and SD card reader in one unit with access on the front of my computer!
- 10GB Ethernet Port.
- Robust Build Quality.
- The number of ports and different formats.
Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dislikes
- No HDMI, but it does have a Display port, which is better than HDMI.
- No audio port, speaker/headphone output or mic input.
- eSATA Port is useless to me, but some may need it.