I’m dying to get my hands on the OWC DEC expansion product for the 2016 MacBook Pro. I expect it will be pricey, as it’s expected to sport 4TB of additional Flash/SSD storage, an SD card slot, USB 3 Type A ports for standard USB devices, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3 Type A ports for standard USB devices, Gigabit Ethernet, and more. Those who can’t afford it might consider the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.
Though it ain’t cheap either -- it will cost you about $300- the Thunderbolt 3 Dock significantly expands the connectivity options of the Mac laptop as it sports 13 ports: An SD Card Reader, five USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, S/PDIF, FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, miniDisplayPort, audio in/out, and Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports. With the included Thunderbolt 3 cable, you’ll also be able to charge your laptop and other devices simultaneously.
The Thunderbolt 3 Dock — which won the NAB 2017 Best of Show Award — is mostly plug and play (though you’ll need to download a driver to enable support for the Apple SuperDrive, Apple USB keyboard and iPad 1/2/3 charging) and offers considerable power and flexibility. You can drive two 4K displays (or one 5K monitor), connect and charge up to six USB devices, work with legacy FireWire storage, read SD cards and more — all at twice the speed of Thunderbolt 2 and all through a single cable.
The dock has three ports on the front: an SD card reader, a combo audio in/out port for headphones and microphones, and a USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port that delivers up to 1.5 amps. These are the ports that most folks will use most often.
The back of the dock includes 10 more ports, plus the DC power input from a power brick (more on that in a moment). There are an additional USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one of which is another 1.5A high-power port while the other three offer the standard 0.9A of current. There are also a S/PDIF digital audio output port, a FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Mini DisplayPort and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. One of the latter is used to connect to your MacBook Pro; the other can be used to connect a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C display and/or additional Thunderbolt devices.
All this comes in a package measuring about 9 x 3.5 x 1 inches with brushed aluminum around the sides and glossy black plastic on the top and bottom. Though the Thunderbolt 3 Dock is relatively svelte, its power brick is chunky, though that’s probably unavoidable. As soon as you plug in the brick and connect it to the dock, the Thunderbolt 3 Dock powers up. When you plug it into your MacBook Pro, a green light illuminates.
The OWC dock worked seamlessly for me. I connected a variety of Thunderbolt, FireWire, USB devices and a 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K display with no glitches. One potential concern: the OWC dock only supports up to 60 watts. That's plenty for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but the 15-inch model can draw up to 85 watts, so charging is slower than with the laptop’s own power supply.
OWC is awaiting official Thunderbolt 3 certification from Intel and Apple, so the dock isn't shipping yet, though it's available for pre-order. (I received an advance review unit).
If you’re a pro user, or simply someone who has lots of accessories that require adapters to use with the 2016 MacBook Pro, the Thunderbolt 3 Dock makes life easier. Apple’s latest laptop is limited in its connectivity options; OWC’s new product isn’t. It’s the best expansion solution for the latest Mac laptops I’ve tested so far.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★