No one asked if I care that laptop computer makers have removed DVD/CD drives, Ethernet ports, HDMI ports and the multiplicity of USB-A and SD card ports on laptops. Well, I did notice and I do care. But, time marches on and new technology offers improvements worthy of changes. Once we accept the changes, we usually benefit from them.
Manufacturers often listen to their audiences. Consumer pushback has resulted in some makers adding back some of the missing ports, but we will always need more.
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Removal of ports is not a new phenomenon. It started about 10 years ago. Now, we’re supposed to pay more for some computers and get less! And if we want those ports restored and if we want a DVD/CD drive, the solution is to get an external device called a “Hub” or “Dock” that have multiple ports through which other external peripherals may be connected.
It is now easy and inexpensive to add an external CD/DVD drive/burner costing a whopping $23 like this one. I bought three to have for different Macs and Windows computers. They are plug and play.
Modern computers have funny little USB-C ports that are NOT all the same. They may look alike, but there are significant differences. Know thy computer’s ports lest ye be disappointed!
Newest computers’ Type-C ports may be Thunderbolt 4. Yes, the ones that look like USB-C are increasingly Thunderbolt 4 ports. Last year’s computer Type-C ports and some new ones are Thunderbolt 3. These lookalike ports and the differences in technology inside are significant. If you’d like to know more, read here,here and here.
Modern desktop and laptop computers with these new ports, especially Thunderbolt 3 and higher can act as HDMI, USB-A and Ethernet with the proper other end or adapter. One end is the Type-C. The other is whatever you need. In this way, these computers may still connect to Ethernet, external monitors, and any other devices as before.
Many multiport powered adapters, called Docks, are available. One of two types will meet your needs today and for the next three or four years or beyond.
The first one is for computers with a power supply that connects with a conventional looking round plug or uniquely designed plug that is NOT USB-C.
The other is for computers powered by adapters connected in a Type-C port. The latter is the most modern.
Docks for conventionally-adaptered power supplies do not need and cannot use a Thunderbolt 4 power supply. They do not take the place of the original power supply, yet they connect to one of the computer’s USB-C ports. All the dock’s ports become immediately usable, but, again, they do not supply power to the computer.
Docks that can connect to the computer’s USB-C and take the place of the original power supply are more versatile. This type can be used with modern MacBooks and PCs and have what is called USB PD, or Power Delivery. I like these docks to have abundant power not only for the computer, but for peripherals that can be connected. I plug in, power and charge an iPhone and Apple Track Pad, a few headsets, as many as five external, portable hard drives, Bluetooth dongles for keyboards and mice, SD cards, and on and on. I even have Type C-connected hubs with still more USB-A ports so I am never, repeat never without an available port to plug a device into and through which to supply power. Period.
After looking at so many docks for my new MacBook Air M1, I chose what I know will work now and into the future, and can provide power to spare for anything, any peripheral I wish to connect and use. This includes connecting a 4K HDR monitor in addition to an external keyboard and mouse.
For PC users with conventional power supplies, not in need of PD, I still recommend Thunderbolt 4 Docks, fully backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 computers. I also suggest you make sure the selected dock will charge what is plugged into it even with the computer disconnected or OFF. This is referred to as Standalone Charging.
A Thunderbolt 4 dock as above future-proofs you unless your next computer might have a Type-C power supply. Then what? You lose. Nevertheless, for those insisting upon not being future proof, I like docks that come with substantial power supplies to supply power to the computer as well as all the other plugged in devices.
Unpowered “Hubs” add ports without providing power other than what the computer’s power adapter supplies OR pass-through power from the computer’s own power supply. They are often not electrically powerful enough to run peripheral devices and I do not know why anyone would buy one except for simple ones to connect very low-power devices including keyboards, mice and, at most, one external portable drive. They rob power from the computer’s power supply if no external pass-through power is connected.
I just know you are confused, and that is the point. It’s not simple to figure out. If you need portability and ports for travel, to connect USB sticks, streaming sticks, an external HDMI port for presentations and Ethernet, you might get by with this or this, and a plug-in high-power wall charger such as this $50 96W model. The hubs referenced have PD pass-through and the few added ports for road warriors.
My previous Mac was a 2017 MacBook Air, with a single USB-C port. Clearly, that was NOT enough. My choice for that MacBook was a $249 OWC USB-C Dock.
For my new MacBook Air, the technology is better and allows (theoretically) faster data transfers. The M1 MacBooks are not compatible with the older dock. As Apple and other computer makers transition to new tech and the Thunderbolt 4 standard, OWC is there. I waited for a few months until this new product was available. My wait was amply rewarded.
For the ultimate, no compromise solution that I use with my new MacBook and recommend to anyone, get this OWC Thunderbolt Dock for Macs and Type-C powered PCs. I rely on this device. There is nothing to equal or best it. Equipped with a 135W power supply to pass through 90W of charging power to the connected computer through a supplied USB-C power cable. In other words, it is self-contained and plug and play. There is nothing I cannot connect and power. I love using a 27-inch 4K HDR monitor connected from the M1 MacBook Air. It’s quite a setup. It does not disappoint or ever let me down, and I push this rig hard almost every day.
See the OWC Thunderbolt Dock manual.
I like the OWC Thunderbolt Dock so much that I gifted one to a friend who just received a new HP work laptop. Similar to my MacBook, his HP came with a USB-C power supply, which I swapped out for the one supplied with the OWC Thunderbolt Dock. Do not mistake this for other OWC Thunderbolt docks. This is the newest, baddest on the market, and in high demand. It is well worth the $279 cost and comes with free shipping. My friend has connected it to a 32-inch 4K Viewsonic display. It looks just great! Unexpectedly (to him), he can now do as I and connect all his peripherals that he did not know would be possible.
**WHAT’S IN THE BOX**
- OWC Thunderbolt Dock OWCTB4DOCK (manufacturer direct sales)
- Power supply
- USB-C power cable
- Warranty and information pamphlet
Plug, play, install the free OWC Dock Ejector software. Start connecting everything and neatly routing all those wires! Be sure to plug the computer, dock, and almost everything else in the setup through an outstanding surge suppressor to protect everything plugged in. All those devices add up to what would otherwise be an overloaded outlet. Though there could be a dozen or more powered items, the amount of current draw is unlikely to overload the outlet’s circuit.
Plug EVERYTHING except printers into a device like this that I use and recommend. Since 1982 I have bought and trusted Panamax surge suppressors. I rely on them to protect my connected equipment. My original Panamax surge suppressors are still working perfectly. Today, get these 8-outlet devices that carry an industry-leading lifetime warranty and $5,000.000 lifetime limited connected equipment protection policy. Buy ONLY through authorized retailers listed here.
The other brand that I buy, trust and recommend for equipment protection is Tripp-Lite. These 10-outlet surge protector strips also carry a lifetime warranty and $100,000 insurance against failure of equipment plugged in to the strip.
**PUT TO THE TEST**
This is easy! The OWC Thunderbolt Dock. Just. Flat. Works.
If your work or play on a modern computer necessitates a veritable plethora of connectivity ports, this is the one to get that I know will make you smile. If you value your time and, like me, have been confused by all the dock choices, this will be your best friend.
OWC Dock OWCTB4DOCK is covered by the manufacturer’s two year warranty.