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OWC Thunderbolt Hub: MacBook Air’s Perfect Companion

OWC Thunderbolt Hub on an M1 MacBook Air

I love my M1 MacBook Air! It thrills me when it zips through some process that would have my Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro sputtering. The one complaint I have is that it only has two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. OWC’s new Thunderbolt Hub (available in February 2021 at $149.00) adds three more Thunderbolt ports and one USB-A port to any Apple M1 Mac, any Apple ‘Intel’ Mac with Thunderbolt 3, or any Thunderbolt 4 PC.

Thunderbolt Hub Capabilities

The Thunderbolt Hub stands out from the moment you open the box. It has a sturdy feel that is a welcome change from the cheap, unpowered Thunderbolt hubs I’ve reviewed before. The OWC hub comes with a power supply that plugs into the back of the unit, providing 60W of power for charging your MacBook. OWC notes that the Thunderbolt Hub works with any Mac with an available Thunderbolt 3 port running macOS 11.1 Big Sur.

There’s a Thunderbolt port on the front of the unit that is perfect for the connection from your MacBook to the hub. On the back are three more Thunderbolt ports, all of which operate at a max throughput of 40Gb/s. I found the hub perfect for connecting to the 27-inch LG 4K display on my desk.

The Hub can actually support two 4K displays at one time, or one 5K/6K/8K display. Devices may also be daisy-chained to the Hub, as in this image from OWC:

Devices daisy-chained through the OWC Thunderbolt Hub from a Thunderbolt-equipped PC. Image via OWC.
Devices daisy-chained through the OWC Thunderbolt Hub from a Thunderbolt-equipped PC. Image via OWC.

Bus Power for Up to Three Drives

Since the Hub is powered, up to three bus-powered drives can plug right into it and run at full speed. That gets rid of a limitation that OWC described perfectly:

In the past, daisy chaining external storage required you to place it as close to the front of the chain for the fastest and most reliable performance. Placing bus-powered drives first in the chain was impossible as they had to be placed last, and the chain was limited to just one bus-powered device! Now you can connect multiple bus-powered drives directly to the OWC Thunderbolt Hub and unleash their performance.

Macsales.com website

Thunderbolt Hub Physical Dimensions and Weight

I mentioned the sturdy feel of the Hub earlier. It’s made of aluminum with a polycarbonate top and bottom, and weighs 8.7 ounces (246.4 grams). If you’re planning to take the Hub with you, the power supply adds another 17.7 ounces (501.8 grams) of weight. The Hub is perfect for office use, where it can be plugged in to peripherals and power, then attached to the MacBook when needed.

Size-wise, the Hub measures 4-5/8 x 2-7/8 x 11/16 inches (11.75 x 7.3 x 1.75 cm). It doesn’t take up a lot of desktop real estate.

Function

Once plugged into the power supply, the Hub is connected to your Mac via the included Thunderbolt cable. From there, it’s up to you what to connect. I connected a USB-C bus-powered drive, that LG 4K display I was referring to, and a regular USB-A bus-powered drive. As expected, there were no hiccups!

This is strictly a hub. That means that it does not have ports other than the Thunderbolt and USB-A ports. Do you need an HDMI or other connector to hook up to a display or projector? A USB-C dock with that feature is probably going to work better for you.

Review overview

Price10
Durability10
Expansion Ports8.5
Size of Power Supply5.5

The Pros

  • Durable
  • Turns one Thunderbolt port into three
  • LEDs indicate a good connection
  • Well-respected manufacturer

The Cons

  • Power supply is huge!

summary

8.5For an M1 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, the OWC Thunderbolt Hub is an excellent and relatively inexpensive way to add a few more full-speed powered ports to your device. Perhaps OWC can look into using GaN technology to product a much less bulky power supply.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the publisher and editor of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!