I am convinced that the powers that be in the corporate ivory towers of large tech giants are dead set on keeping us constantly confused and/or in the dark about all their latest technological achievements and breakthroughs. Take Intel’s Thunderbolt™ technology. Is it a cable? A technology? A standard? (The answer is “yes.” Sort of.) And what’s up with Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 looking like USB-C? (In case you missed it, we covered the differences before). In short, Thunderbolt 3 / 4 is a protocol and USB-C is a type of connector and cable specification.
Today I want to address some of the specs of Thunderbolt 4 and how OWC takes advantage of them in their lines of docks and hubs.
3 Things You Need to Know
1. Power Supply
Thunderbolt 4 docking stations supply more power than hubs. Among other features, this can add to the cost. Thankfully, the folks at OWC have implemented dynamic power in their docking stations. This allows them to supply additional power to your computer, but only when it’s needed. It also allows the power supply on OWC docks to be smaller than what you might see elsewhere, and unless you’re running a half-dozen or more bus-powered devices at once, you won’t see any power drain on your computer. That, my friends, is working smarter.
2. Multiple “Hubbing”
One of the long-anticipated features of Thunderbolt 4 is the ability to add multiple Thunderbolt devices to one dock, creating up to three independent chains. This is new to the Thunderbolt spec because Thunderbolt 3 didn’t allow for this.
3. Consistent standardization
Perhaps the most important improvement with Thunderbolt 4 is the fact that now both Macs and PCs have consistent and standardized speeds. Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 on the Mac provide 40Gb/s (which means that aside from the hubbing capabilities mentioned above, Mac users won’t see any performance difference between Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4). Prior to Thunderbolt 4, if a PC user connected a Thunderbolt 3 device, throughput speeds could vary between 20 and 40Gb/s. Now, all Thunderbolt 4 users can enjoy the same speeds.
Docks vs. Hubs
There is one other issue I feel compelled to address. That is docks vs hubs. Unfortunately, understanding the difference between the two has gotten worse because a lot of online retailers have resorted to calling everything hubs.
If you’re in the market for a device that allows you to connect multiple other devices to your computer, you not only have to determine between Thunderbolt and USB-C, but you have to decide between a dock vs a hub. Let me make it easy for you:
- If you need to simply expand the number of available Thunderbolt ports for external drives or other devices, you can do fine with a hub. The OWC Thunderbolt Hub is a great choice and can deliver up to 60w of power.
- If you need something with more gusto, can provide more power, and has lots of different connection options like headphones, SD card readers, and USB-A ports, go for a docking station. OWC has several options that can deliver up to 90w of laptop charging power.
So, there you have it. A quick primer on hubs vs docks, Thunderbolt 3 vs Thunderbolt 4 on Macs and PCs, and some key insights into the power and performance advantages of OWC’s latest line of Thunderbolt 4 docks and hubs.