This is the MacBook Pro accessory I use every day

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The 15″ MacBook Pro might be the most capable member of Apple’s laptop family, but it only has so many ports.

If you’ve got an external monitor, hard drives for backup, and other peripherals running around, it’s easy to fill those ports up fast. I was having that problem and got frustrated over how often I was plugging and unplugging things.

Finally, last fall I purchased a Thunderbolt dock from OWC (Other World Computing), and I haven’t looked back.

Like its name suggests, OWC’s dock connects to your Mac via Thunderbolt, Apple’s highest-bandwidth port. Plugging it in gives you access to five USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire800 port, 4K-capable HDMI port, mic jack, headphone jack, additional Thunderbolt port, and Ethernet port. In some cases, like USB 3, the dock just increases the number of ports you already have. In other cases, you’re getting direct access to ports that your MacBook doesn’t have built-in, like Ethernet and FireWire. Those ports were casualties of Apple’s desire to make their devices thinner, and having them again when in a desk environment feels good.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I needed this many additional ports, but quickly realised that yes, yes I did. Right now I have a Thunderbolt raid, external hard drive for local backups, Ethernet cable, flash drive, webcam, USB speaker system, USB turntable, and audio interface all plugged in at once. And that doesn’t count the 4K external display I have plugged into the other Thunderbolt port built-in to my MacBook Pro. Yes, that’s a lot of stuff, but this dock is aimed at people who want to be able to use everything at once without having to keep switching things around.

I was a little wary about buying this dock because reviews I read said it had some trouble with hard drives ejecting without warning. That has never happened to me after months of using it, and I’m constantly plugging and unplugging different things. Instead, everything works as solidly and consistently as it did when I had these devices plugged in. Even more impressive is that everything works smoothly, even when I’m using multiple peripherals at the same time. I’ve never had to worry about my webcam being spotty because I was in the middle of a large file transfer.

This dock definitely isn’t for everybody. If you only have a couple of accessories that you use, plugging and unplugging them every once in a while isn’t that big of a chore. If you’re a power user whose work is suffering because of your ratio of needed peripherals and available ports, you should definitely consider picking one.

My favourite aspect of this product is the fact that all it requires is a power cable and Thunderbolt cable. If I need to use my laptop on-the-go, all I do is disconnect one cable and I’m ready to rock. Then, when I get home, I just pop that one cable back in and all my devices are available and I can get right back to work.

OWC Thunderbolt Dock, $US219, available at Amazon

This article was originally published on 7/14/2016.

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