OWC Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock full review

A docking station enables you to transform your slim laptop into a high-powered desktop workstation with external monitors, wired Internet access, and storage solutions, through just one cable.

We have tested the best Thunderbolt 3 docks, and they come in all shapes and sizes - well, we haven’t find a spherical one yet – for different functions.

Just as a laptop is portable, some people require their desktop setup in more than one place. Rather than buy two desktop docking stations, what works best in this situation is a portable laptop dock.

The Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock from OWC (Other World Computing) works with Thunderbolt 3 (T3) laptops only. USB-C laptops, such as Apple’s original 12in MacBook, require a USB-C dock. Thunderbolt 3 laptops, such as all the newer MacBook Pro and Air models, can use a USB-C dock but will lose some of the bandwidth benefits of T3: T3’s 40GBps vs 5Gbps or 10Gbps for USB-C.

The OWC Mini Dock is a 5-in-1 adapter that can connect one or two 4K displays, two USB-A  devices and wired Internet via Gigabit Ethernet.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock Ports

  • No PD charging 
  • Up to two external displays (4K at 60Hz)
  • Two HDMI 2.0 ports 
  • Integrated Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) port to host laptop
  • One USB-A 3.0 (5Gbps) port
  • One USB-A 2.0 (480Mbps) port
  • Gigabit Ethernet port

Three screens including the laptop’s own, with the external displays either extended or mirrored.

With Thunderbolt 3’s bandwidth, it can run at the highest 60Hz quality so is great for gaming and action video.

The two USB-A ports aren’t at the top-rated 10Gbps. One is USB 3.0 (5Gbps) and can handle some light device powering, but the other is the more lowly USB 2.0 (480Mbps).

The dock is bus-powered - so takes its power from the host laptop - so you will need to charge your laptop separately. You also need this option if running the two external screens with the laptop closed.

Few laptops have an Ethernet port these days, so the inclusion of Gigabit Ethernet on the dock means you can connect via fast wired Internet access and not be subject to the vagaries of Wi-Fi

The aluminium Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock is small and lightweight (145g; 5.1 ounces), and has its own integrated 7.2in T3 cable so you don’t have to carry anything except the dock when between home and offices.

OWC’s Dock Ejector software can safely disconnect drives connected to the dock in a single click, ensuring all data is written before disconnection.

It works with both Mac and Windows PCs.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock

Price and competitor portable T3 docks

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock costs £119.99, which is equivalent to our recommended portable Thunderbolt 3 dock, the Caldigit Thunderbolt 3 miniDock.

The Caldigit miniDock (reviewed) has the same features, but is available in either dual-HDMI (like the OWC Mini Dock) or dual-DisplayPort, although the dual-DisplayPort model has just one USB-A port rather than two.

We also like cheaper Twelve South’s StayGo portable dock, but that’s USB-C so T3 users will lose some bandwidth and the one 4K screen (via HDMI) works at 30Hz rather than 60Hz, which isn’t as great for gaming graphics performance. That said, it does have two 5Gbps USB-C ports and three 5Gbps USB-A ports and an SD Card reader on top of Gigabit Ethernet.

Verdict

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock is a lightweight and portable dock for Thunderbolt 3 laptops that boasts two HDMI 2.0 ports, wired Internet and a couple of USB-A ports - most of what you need to create a powerful desktop setup.

It stacks up well on the near-identical competition on price and features.

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