Review: OWC USB-C Dock for MacBook

The 12″ MacBook is a remarkable computer. It’s incredibly thin, amazingly light, and an all-around solid machine for most tasks. Unfortunately, to make the device so incredibly sleek, Apple stripped it of any connectivity, with the exception of a headphone jack and a single USB-C port. This has caused many would-be MacBook owners to shy away from the device.

The need for a plethora of dongles to use the MacBook with other USB devices, SD card readers, ethernet or a monitor makes it all the more daunting. Fortunately, thanks to the fine folks at OWC, there is now a dock that expands your MacBook’s single port into a collection of ports and connections to make it a more versatile machine.

Overview

The OWC USB-C Dock for MacBook (starting at $127.99 on MacSales.com) is a multi-port dock, allowing you to extend the connectivity of your 12″ MacBook, 2016 or newer MacBook Pro, and other PCs with USB-C connectivity. The USB-C dock offers you multiple USB ports (4 type A, 1 type C), an SD card reader, audio in/out, gigabit ethernet, display out, and the ability to charge your USB-C computer.

For my testing, OWC sent me the HDMI variant of the dock, allowing me to connect an external monitor (up to 4K resolution) via a single HDMI port. OWC also offers a Mini Display Port model, depending on what your setup requires. Regardless of which video port you need, the dock comes in 4 colors, designed to match the look of your MacBook or MacBook Pro. Personally, a gold dock seemed like it might be a little flashy, so I definitely prefer the Space Gray model, but knowing that option is there is a great selling point for some.

From a functionality standpoint, the USB-C Dock is extremely versatile. After getting my MacBook in 2016, I picked up a 4 separate dongles to allow me to connect various things to the computer, or charge the computer while also using a USB device. Having the OWC Dock has made all of those dongles redundant when I’m at my desk. Having a single USB-C cable going into the MacBook is incredible convenient when the other end is host to a plethora of ports.

When out and about, the OWC Dock is much less convenient. Unlike most dongles, which require no external power, the USB-C Dock needs it’s own power, complete with a a giant a hefty converter box. Not only that, but the dock and power block are both quite thick, especially in comparison to the incredibly thin MacBook.

The biggest perk of the USB-C dock, in my opinion, is the pass-through power, which is rated to 80 Watts. That means that if you’re using a 12″ MacBook, or the 13″ MacBook Pro (with or without TouchBar), you’ll get full power delivery in addition to all the expansion. If you use a 15″ MacBook Pro with TouchBar, you’ll get near full charging power (based on rated 85W). Many other USB-C adapters with similar connectivity deliver much lower power, leading to extremely long recharge times. With the OWC Dock, I saw recharge times equal to that of the Apple-provided charging block and cable.

The only complaint I have with the dock is the length of the included USB-C cable. At roughly 18″, it is very limiting on where I can position the dock, forcing me to leave it residing on my desk, instead of tucked away, out of sight. Currently, there are some standards issues with USB-C cable and device designs that can restrict cable length somewhat, but something in the range of 3′-6′ would have been much more accommodating of keeping a tidy desk space.

Verdict

[Rating: 4.5/5]

The OWC USB-C Dock is a great option for MacBook owners looking to get more out of the single port on their device. Whether you’re looking for HDMI or Mini Display Port, the USB-C dock comes in multiple colors, and offers the same flexibility for extending your workspace. The lack of portability, and the incredibly short USB-C cable are minor sticking points, but not critical flaws by any means.

Pros

  • Extends a single USB-C port into 10
  • 2 Display options, each in 4 Apple-matched colors
  • Sturdy and reliable
  • SD card slot and headphone jack on front for easy access

Cons

  • Included USB-C Cable is very short
  • Dock power adapter is very bulky

If you are the owner of a 12″ Retina MacBook, or a new MacBook Pro, the OWC USB-C Dock is a great option for extending the port(s) of your device to make it more versatile. Head over to MacSales.com to grab the configuration you need, or check out their new Thunderbolt 3 version for 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro.

from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Interface: 57. How Much is Somebody Worth?

http://interface.fm/57

On the face of it, $10/month seems like a great deal for unlimited movie theater tickets. That is, until you realize that there is a hidden cost to seeing every new Marvel or DC movie to hit the cinema – incessant advertisements in your email promoting every new action figure, poster, video game, kids toy, or special Spiderman themed food item at Walmart. In reality, you are subsidizing your movie habits with personal information that advertisers are buying at a premium, just to get their marketing in front of your eyes.

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Interface: 56. Etsy for Things in Development (S2E02)

http://interface.fm/56

Ian pledged $50 to get a glorified selfie stick, but only half of it has been shipped. Chase spent $100 on a video game that may or may not actually be made one day. A combination of physical and phycological factors lead to successful campaigns on crowdfunding platforms, but sometimes even the most convincing sales pitches turn out to be much less impressive – so what makes people willing to hand over their money?

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Interface: 55. A Thumb Drive Full of Cat GIFs (S2E01)

http://interface.fm/55

Don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been here for months! That’s the song that introduced me to hip-hop, and I listened to my mp3 of it over and over before the bitrate degraded too much for WinAmp to play it anymore. It was my copy, but every time I put it on a new hard drive it got a little fuzzier. I don’t know why I’m explaining this; you know how DRM works. Eventually I farmed out enough spare CPU cycles that I could afford another copy, but by that time (of course) I was just buying the rights to the song anyway.

Destroy before sharing (or is it just improving?)
The rarest digital video game
DRM sucks!
S H I T P I C S
Spotify has a lot of users
Hang out with your buddies in VR

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Review: Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo

Apple’s AirPods have quite possibly been the most hyped headphones I can recall. They’re fully wireless, they recharge in their case, they allow you to talk to Siri, and they offer surprisingly decent audio quality. But some say they look stupid, and if your ear isn’t perfectly shaped, they have a tendency to want to sneak out of your head. Then there’s the issue of backorder. Nearly 6 months after their release, they’re still perpetually shipping in 4-6 weeks.

The Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo, on the other hand, claim to offer many of the same features and functions of the AirPods, comes in $30 cheaper, and they’re available with 2-day shipping on Amazon Prime. But can they compete?

Overview

The Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo ($129.99 on Amazon) earbuds are tiny. Unlike the AirPods which have a little stem for the battery and mic, these are as discrete as an earplug.

Rowkin took a more traditional approach When it came to using their EarBuds. Unlike the AirPods, which have no physical buttons, each Bit earbud has a physical multifunctional button on the back, which is used to pair them both to each other, and to your device. After a failed attempt to pair, left me with only 1 of these connected to my phone, I consulted the directions – something I’ve never needed to do with a pair of headphones. Pairing requires pressing both earbuds button, waiting for them to connect to each other – indicated by little white lights – and then connecting via the Bluetooth menu on your device.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the magic of the AirPods, but this was a mediocre experience at best. I’m guessing the average person would find this pretty frustrating.

If I had to compare the sound quality of these to something, I would equate it to the speaker of an iPhone 3G, piped straight into your ears. These are $130 earbuds – mind you, they are wireless – but I have $9 wired earbuds that offer notably higher quality sound. The Rowkin Bit earbuds offered almost no perceivable bass, and seemed to distort quickly on the high end of the EQ. Both music and spoken audio were disappointing.

Fit wise, the Bits are a little better than AirPods. Because of their design, they actually fit into your ear hole, so they stay in place much more solidly. While running and working out, I didn’t need to adjust them a single time to make sure they were staying in place. The same is NOT true for AirPods.

Another disappointment is how the headphones interact with one another and your device. Rowkin reference the idea of primary and secondary earbuds in their pairing guide. When everything is connected, the primary earbud blinks a single white light. The secondary blinks twice. This may seem unimportant on the face of it, but becomes important when using your devices digital assistant or making phone calls.

Only the primary earbud can communicate with Siri or handle phone calls. Unlike the AirPods which can act interchangeably, the Rowkins force you to be attentive to which earbud is which. A single tap on either earbud will pause or resume playing audio, but the symmetry ends there. Double tapping the button on the primary earbud will activate your devices assistant. Double tapping the button on the secondary earbud does nothing.

Once you’ve activated Siri – or Google, whatever – the audio responses only come through that same primary earbud… the other one is just there for decoration. An overpriced earplug, if you will.

Of course, when you resume audio, both earbuds return to pumping disappointing sounds into your ears. That is, until you use them while moving. Take, for example, my walk from my car to my desk at work. In the 500 foot walk, the secondary earbud dropped connection or stopped playing audio a whopping 6 times. Each time, after a few moments, it slowly faded back in as if to pretend it was there the whole time.

Whatever technology they are using on these is not worth $130. In fact, the only part of the entire box that felt useful was the charging case for the earbuds, and that’s because the 2100 mAh battery can double as an portable battery for your smartphone. Just plug in to the USB port, and give your device a little boost.

Verdict

All-in-all, the Rowkin Bit Charge earbuds look very compelling online. They’re small, wireless, and actually fit INTO your ear. Unfortunately, their Bluetooth signal is weak, their audio quality is weak, the charging case is probably a little too bulky for your pockets, and functionally, almost any other pair of Bluetooth headphones or earbuds that I’ve used are a better option.

Pros:

  • Secure fit
  • Case doubles as external battery

Cons:

  • Poor sound quality
  • Poor Bluetooth signal
  • Bulky case
  • Confusing Siri/Phone call experience

For $159, the AirPods are incredible. If those don’t work for you, try the $149 Beats X (Certified Refurbished for under $130) because the Rowkin Bits are bad.

 

Disclaimer: The Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo earbuds were provided to me at no cost, for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast