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OWC Drive Dock: Thunderbolt + USB3 Connectivity Using Dual Bare Hard Drives or SSDs

Last updated 2015-12-05 - Send Feedback
Related: Accessories, how-to, Storage, SSD, USB, USB3, Thunderbolt
OWC Drive Dock

Update 15 September 2016: the OWC Drive Dock is now available in a USB 3.1 Gen 1 version at at about $75, as compared to the about $240 price of the Thunderbolt + USB3 version. Performance is expected to be similar for both versions when using USB—fast.

The OWC Drive Dock at about $245 offers a convenient Thunderbolt or USB3 solution to utilizing bare 2.5" or 3.5" bare hard drives or SSDs.

Dual slots accept two SSDs, two hard drives, or one SSD and one hard drive. The OWC Drive Dock can also be used for one drive at a time, and each drive can be powered on/off independently using the switches on top of the unit.

OWC has had various iterations of the NewerTech Voyager drive dock for years, but the Voyager line took a single drive and lacked Thunderbolt. The OWC Drive Dock arrives as a higher grade offering with both USB3 and Thunderbolt 2 ports. The OWC Drive Dock can be daisy-chained with other Thunderbolt devices, crucial for some workflow setups on Macs that have only two Thunderbolt ports.

Bare hard drives and fast high-quality bare SSDs are the least expensive way to expand storage, since there is no enclosure (case) or power supply or cabling involved. With the OWC Drive Dock, just insert the bare drive and go, swapping drives as needed. For example, inserting two bare 6TB HGSG Desktar NAS hard drives into the OWC Drive Dock delivers 12TB of capacity at low cost. Swap more drives as needed.

With two slots in the OWC Drive Dock, it’s possible to do a dual simultaneous backup (make a RAID-1 mirror of the pair), or stripe the drives for double the speed (RAID-0 stripe). Or use each drive separately.

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Key advantages

In total, the OWC Drive Dock offers a key set of advantages that in combination beat out any prior alternative for bare drives:

  • Accepts one or two hard drives or SSDs in either 2.5" or 3.5" size, making it possible to download and SSD from a video shoot or similar, and backup to a high-capacity hard drive, simultaneously.
  • Works in a Thunderbolt or USB3 setup.
  • Internal power supply, so no clunky external power brick; easier to pack and travel with, say for video professionals downloading/capturing/backing-up video shoots.

Performance

MPG tested (via Thunderbolt) the performance of the OWC Drive Dock using the very fast OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 1TB SSD as well as a pair of HGST Ultrastar He8 8TB hard drives and the Micron P400e SSD. The OWC Drive Dock delivered full performance with the SSD used by itself and full performance with simultaneous hard drive access. With dual SSDs, performance was limited to to that of the single-SSD. Operation was flawless with the OWC Drive Dock, and there is no driver or software to install—excellent.

The OWC Drive Dock has one performance limit which is a function of the chipsets available for dual-bay solutions as of late 2015: throughput maxes out at about 530 MiB/sec. Thus it is not a device for getting maximum perrformance from a dual-SSD stripe or similar. But it is a tremendously useful and flexible external solution for swapping bare hard drives or SSDs.

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OWC speaks to the design and cost parameters

For the design of the OWC Drive Dock we utilized the latest Thunderbolt 2 Chipset and the best USB 3 chipsets available and certified for use within a Thunderbolt solution design of this type. The result is a Dual Drive docking solution with interoperability on Thunderbolt or USB 2.0/3 systems that also provides the highest possible performance in its category providing these two interfaces.

In the majority of production utilization applications, the performance provided exceeds that of the either the drives that will be used, requirements of the application, other comparable solutions, or all of three of these things.

The Voyagers are single bay and USB 3 only. Thunderbolt is preferred by many, but supporting USB 3 (3.1 gen1) (a necessity for many with multiple systems and/or PCs in their Mac midst) is the main reason the Thunderbolt speed is hung at at a peak of roughly 520MB/s. The chipsets that enable support of both in a solution of this design result in this ‘limitation’ with respect to having USB 3 and Thunderbolt on the same solution.

One of the reasons for a Thunderbolt solution demand where the peak performance is only moderately better than USB 3 is because Apple’s support of Thunderbolt as far superior and as an interface type, Thunderbolt has far better stability and is a more robust, mission critical trustable interface on the Mac vs. USB 3 experiences which can vary.

In addition to the higher costs to support Thunderbolt on a device, additional cost in the Dock solution also are due to it having an integrated power supply (which costs substantially more than an external ‘brick’ type for this application), dual Drive bays and also independent power switches for being able to independently power and de-power drives in each bay.

Cycling

Example use case — upgrading a computer’s startup drive

Here’s an example of how handy the OWC Drive Dock can be.

To upgrade the internal hard drive of an older MacMini, it was desirable to clone the old hard drive to a new SSD. See also How to upgrade your system/boot drive.

To clone the internal hard drive on the MacMini with either USB2 or Firewire would have been very slow, and the internal hard drive needed to be extracted and replaced anyway.

So instead, the MacMini was opened up, the old hard drive was extracted, then both drives were inserted into the OWC Drive Dock attached to an iMac via Thunderbolt, in order to clone the geriatric hard drive to a new 400GB SSD. When the clone was done, the new SSD was installed into the MacMini, which was booted up—job done.

Cloning an older system hard drive to a new fast SSD

Manufacturer description

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.
Storage Wishlist…

The Ultimate Drive Dock

Drive Dock is the ultimate, high-performance bare drive access tool. For creative workflows, backup, or other tasks requiring constant access to multiple drives, Drive Dock delivers a compact, easy solution with the exceptional performance of Thunderbolt™ 2 technology.

An Essential Workflow Solution.

OWC Drive Dock is the fastest way to access bare SATA drives. Hot swap, read multiple drives simultaneously, or boot from bare drives, all at the speed of the Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 interfaces. For video and audio content pros working with multiple bare drives on big projects, Drive Dock delivers extreme transfer speeds with amazing flexibility and convenience, making it an indispensible drive tool.

Designed to Accommodate Your Life

Drive Dock's unique design makes hot-swapping a breeze. Two drive bays accommodate both 2.5" and 3.5" drives and can access a drive in each simultaneously. Each bay features its own independent power switch, eject button, and LED activity monitor. Dual Thunderbolt 2 ports deliver extreme-speed data transfers, and support daisy-chain expansion with up to five additional Thunderbolt devices. Drive Dock also includes a USB 3.0 port for versatile compatibility and the auto-switching internal power supply is compatible with any dual prong cable.

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Customized Flexibility

Drive Dock is flexible enough to use on almost any system. It works perfectly as an on-location backup solution, or for industry professionals using multiple bare drives. Featuring rugged aluminum construction, quiet, fanless operation, and complete with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables, the OWC Drive Dock is an essential component to any high-demand workflow.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

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