If you’re a photographer, and perhaps an occasional videographer, using a modern MacBook Pro with USB-C ports you’re likely in the market for a compatible SD card reader or a dock, such as the OWC USB-C Travel Dock. Few photographers will not have heard of OWC’s multi-port docks, they are well known but these are desktop models and while excellent they’re relatively pricey. I have this model as well as the Travel Dock and it greatly simplifies my desktop.
Fortunately, as a forward-looking company, OWC introduced a small Travel Dock version which is not only purposefully small but also relatively affordable. There are now two versions, the original (available in a range of colours including silver, space grey, gold and rose pink), and the version reviewed here, in space grey only (at the time of writing). Edit; they now have an additional model complete with an ethernet port, which seems to offer even more flexibility.
While colour isn’t exactly an important consideration the latest model varies from the original by pass-through voltage – up to 100W, which means there’s enough power for your 87 W 15-inch MBP plus say an external bus-driven storage device. The original was 60W meaning if you were expecting it to power a 15-inch MBP and perhaps an external disk with it (there’s a single USB-C port for the power cable only) then forget it; it’s not likely to keep up, though it would likely serve a 13-inch MBP, but please check first.
My 2018 MPB requires 87W and with an old but reliable USB 3.0 LaCie Rugged Portable Hard Drive attached via one of the Travel Dock’s two USB 3.0 ports then it works perfectly well when positioned between charger and MBP.
A full-size HDMI port means you can add a 4K monitor easily enough. I tested it with a 32-inch BenQ SW321C and it worked well with the MBP lid open or closed, though at times the monitor wouldn’t wake from sleep and I never discovered the reason why.
However, for the most part, I use it as an SD card reader without the power cable attached, and for that it works equally well. Indeed, if I wanted to use it that way I could have just bought the original version but the option to quickly add two powered USB ports and a monitor (or camera) with power to MBP is just too tempting.
Admittedly, as a portable SD card reader, it’s a little heavy – it has a metal outer frame. It also has a rather short cable which is deliberate (as it tucks away underneath the reader), but what it does it does exceptionally well. So although it’s not perfect, I haven’t found anything I would rather have in its place.
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