Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Thunderbolt 4 Docks

Rob Mayoff:

In case you’re looking for a Thunderbolt 4 dock for your new MacBook Pro, here’s the list I made when I was shopping for one. I bought with the Kensington. It’s fine but the OWC is what I’d buy now (it’s $50 less for the same ports but wasn’t out then).


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I'm about a week into life with the OWC one and liking it quite well. I have the dock sitting on a stand under my M1 MBP - largest annoyance is that the upstream Thunderbolt port is on the front, so the cable has to go around the top. Otherwise it just works.

Great. Thanks! Do you know if it technically posible to build Thunderbolt docks-hubs with more than 4 Thunderbolt ports? If possible, is there any available?

Only one of those has HDMI. Oof. (I presume none of them have DisplayPort. That'd be fine, too.)

From my understanding, you can use a USB-C to HDMI cable instead of relying on the dock to have HDMI, so two more USB-C ports are more flexible than two HDMI ports. My external monitor is the LG 5K so I have to use a Thunderbolt 3 (or 4) cable to connect it anyway.

My requirements, specifically, were TB 4, 90W+ power delivery, at least one downstream TB3+ port, and 1G ethernet. Beyond that, I wanted as many TB/USB-C/USB-A ports as possible. I didn't care about HDMI, SD card, or audio.

I didn't find any TB4 hubs with more than three downstream TB ports. I didn't look at TB3 hubs. Based on the essential identical feature set of the Kensington, OWC, Brydge, Razer, and Sonnet hubs, my guess is they all use the same controller, and it's probably the “biggest” TB4 controller available.

I’ve kept using the Caldigit TS3 Plus with my M1 Pro MacBook. It’s been great, except, for some reason, it’s started to draw up to 15W of power when the Mac is in standby, even if the battery is full. This didn’t happen with the M1 Air nor the 2019 MBP.

I wonder if this problem exists with all these docks and is caused by the laptop. With electricity prices in Germany that waste quickly adds up.

I've been using the OWC TB dock since May this year (with my MBA M1) and I like it a lot!

There were some small issues in the beginning, though. Every time I disconnected the dock it caused a kernal panic.

So I started to troubleshoot it. Between each step I disconnected the dock.
- First I removed all connection to the dock and connected it to my Mac. It worked fine.
- Second: i connected my screen to the dock and connected the dock to my Mac. It worked fine.
- Third: I connected my first USB cable that connect my monitor (and through that monitor some other USB devices) and connected the dock to my Mac. It worked fine.
- Forth: I connected my second USB cable that connects another USB hub with some external drives, and connected the dock to my Mac: Kernel panic and reboot.

So when there were external drives involved the dock caused the kernel panic. Otherwise no problem. So maybe the OWC Dock Ejector was involved? It was a piece of software that OWC recommends you installing for the dock.

I then uninstalled the OWC Dock Ejector 1.1.4 and rebooted my Mac.
I unmounted my drives and disconnected the dock.
I then connected the dock to my Mac again. It worked fine, even though all the other cables were connected.

So my conclusion was that a combination of external USB drives and the OWC Dock Ejector software caused all my instant kernel panics.

When I contacted the OWC support about this they asked me if I used reduced security and pointed me to an article explaining why that is needed. But I never tried doing that, since the problem went away as soon as I uninstalled the OWC Dock Ejector. It's not that hard to manually unmount my drives when I need to unplug.

The second issue I had was recently when I installed Monterey (12.0.1) and I got a kernel panic on every restart. The crash report indicated it was the com.OWC.ThunderboltDockChargingSupport kernel extension causing it. So I asked the support if that extension was really needed but I didn't get any real answer back, only questions about my setup. The problem went away after a few times.

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