You can’t be too rich or too thin, or have too many USB 3.0 ports, especially if you rely on a MacBook Pro for editing and post.
Even if you own a Mac Pro cylinder, those four USB 3.0 and six Thunderbolt 2 ports get populated before you know it.
There are multiple drives to connect, maybe a backup. Perhaps, too, a USB thumb drive to offload. SSDs and SD cards to download. A DaVinci Resolve USB dongle to attach. That fast Thunderbolt RAID 0 you use as an editing scratch disk. Possibly even a Thunderbolt 2 display to connect.
In the summer of 2013 I shot and edited several projects that involved both 4K and uncompressed HD – huge files, in other words. Desperate to accelerate transfer and backup tasks on my 17” MacBook Pro, I drove all the way from location in Connecticut to B&H in New York to snap up one of the first Belkin Thunderbolt Express docks, heedless of paying list price as an early adopter. (Price subsequently fell.) It was my only option at that time.
Now two years later, several manufacturers offer docks that expand connectivity via Thunderbolt 2.0, successor to the original Thunderbolt. At a blazing 20 Gbits/s, potentially twice as fast as the original, Thunderbolt 2.0 retains cable compatibility too. What’s not to like?
So, for a number of months I have been testing Other World Computer’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock under the most extreme of battlefield conditions: my desktop.
Why months? Many devices work fine out-of-box only to reveal quirks or symptoms of failure when used heavily over time. You buy a Thunderbolt 2.0 dock, in this case, wishing to add speed and versatility to your workstation set-up. You may not, at the outset, appreciate that critical to enhanced efficiency and connectivity is reliability — not the sexy topic that bit rate or bus speed is, but no less consequential. Does the Thunderbolt dock sleep or crash at inopportune moments? Does it disconnect your drives? Does it overheat? Do you have to re-boot it from time to time?
Hence this longitudinal review.
Other World Computing, long respected as a source of innovative Mac memory, processor, and drive upgrades, also designs and manufactures their own brand of high-performance, competitively priced Mac peripherals. Their Thunderbolt 2 Dock, introduced earlier this year, is more compact than the Belkin original yet graced with more ports: five USB 3.0, two Thunderbolt 2.0, a single HDMI 1.4b (for up to 4K display at 30p), a legacy FireWire 800, one Gigabit Ethernet for networking, and a pair of 3.5mm audio jacks for I/O.
In my set-up, I use one of the Thunderbolt 2.0 ports to connect the dock to a cylindrical Mac Pro, so that I can attach and detach USB 3.0 peripherals several feet away from the Mac Pro, a spot more convenient while sitting. In the photo above, you’ll notice that the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock is upside-down. Due to the layout of my workstation, I position the dock to my left in order to provide direct, easy access to all five USB 3.0 ports. (One port at the end of the dock hosts a DaVinci Resolve dongle in this photo.) This flipped-over orientation is one that OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 dock, with its flat surfaces, is perfectly happy to accommodate.
About all I can report after several months of constant use is that OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock just works. It organizes my connections like a patch bay. It permits me to daisy-chain to other Thunderbolt devices. It has become indispensable.
That’s about the highest rating I can think of.