[Disclosure: I haven’t tested this, I don’t own it and OWC has not asked or paid me to write this.]
Last week, OWC announced Mac compatibility and certification of its new OWC Thunderbolt Hub. Previously certified for Thunderbolt 4 PCs, the OWC Thunderbolt Hub is now available for new M1 Macs and all Thunderbolt 3 equipped Macs once they upgrade to the new Apple macOS 11 Big Sur.
This is actually a really big deal. Let me explain why.
NOTE: Read OWC’s press release here.
The big benefit to Thunderbolt 4, for Mac users, is the ability to hub Thunderbolt. What this means is that a single Thunderbolt port can be split into multiple ports without daisy-chaining. What impresses me the most about this hub is that this doesn’t require buying a new computer with Thunderbolt 4. Instead, this works with any Mac that can upgrade to Big Sur AND that has Thunderbolt 3.
In all versions of Thunderbolt before version 4, you could connect multiple devices to the same port – called “daisy-chaining” – by looping from one device to another. Essentially this connected a single “wire” from the computer through every device until the end device. This worked fine for storage, but required a loop-through connection on every device. Expensive storage devices have them, connectors and inexpensive drives, don’t.
For example, on my iMac, I have two Thunderbolt 3 ports. One is used to connect a series of external RAIDs, and the other has a converter cable to connect an external HDMI monitor. However, this converter doesn’t have a loop-through port, so it occupies the remaining Thunderbolt port on my iMac.
But, I also need to use another converter cable to provide 10G Ethernet, and still another converter to add a second HDMI monitor, or an external control surface, or, maybe, a small, portable drive.
You get the idea – I’m short ports.
THAT is where the new OWC hub comes in. Converter cables don’t provide loop-through, which means each cable needs its own port. The new OWC hub has one cable that goes to your computer, with four Thunderbolt 4 ports (which are backwards compatible to any Thunderbolt device) that you can connect stuff into. One port connects to the computer, while the other three are available for whatever devices you need.
On my iMac, that takes the default 2 Thunderbolt ports and expands them to four! Reading the specs for this device:
NOTE: The name: “ClingOn” for their method of securing a Thunderbolt connection makes me smile every time I read about it.
(Image courtesy of OWC.)
ONE OTHER THING
Any dock, including this one, is only as fast as its connection to the computer. This dock uses Thunderbolt 3, which means that the speed of that single connection gets spread to all the different ports on the dock. However, very, very, very few devices today can fully saturate a Thunderbolt connection. Most of the time, the massive bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3 is way under-utilized. Which means that most of the devices plugged into a dock like this will run at full speed. The good news is that now, they can do so all at once.
The OWC Thunderbolt Hub is available now for pre-order for $149.00 and will begin shipping in early-December. Website: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/owc-thunderbolt-hub
As Apple continues to remove ports from portable Macs, the need for a hub grows as we need to connect more and more external devices. This HUB is an important technological advance and I wanted to let you know.
NEW & Updated!
Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.