Thunderbolt 3 has been an extremely popular way for vendors to offer add-on 10Gbe ethernet capabilities to both Mac and Windows machines. As of this writing, we have several vendors that have produced a solution and one or two we have had the chance to review. In this article, we will add another to that list as OWC has recently announced and released their own solution and we have it in house today.
The OWC solution is simply titled "Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter" no fancy name needed. At the heart of this adapter, we have an Aquantia AQC107S which seems to be one of the most popular 10G ethernet controller in use today. This solution supports 100 BASE-T through the 10GBASE-T operation with an RJ-45 copper interface, and on the opposite end, we have a captured Thunderbolt 3 cable with black aluminum enclosure.
Compatibility includes Windows 10 with a driver and macOS 10.13.4+ natively. MSRP comes in at $149.99 with a one-year warranty.
Packaging follows the blue on white we see from everything branded OWC. An image of the device can be found on the front with marketing and features listed below.
The back goes into more detail with a full specification list.
Scope of delivery includes the 10G Adapter and reading materials.
Seen above, we have the RJ-45 port and legend to the right.
Opening up the adapter, to the right you can see the Thunderbolt cable fits into a Type-C plug, so it is possible for you to change the cable if you wanted a longer one or if damage occurred. In the center, we have the Aquantia controller.
For testing, we used a direct connection to a secondary 10Gbe adapter. As you can see as we start with 1Gbe, performance overhead will gradually become further away from the designated speed. For instance, 1Gbe gives us 951Mbps, 2.5Gbe offers 2350Mbps and 5Gbe offers 4756Mbps. At 10Gbe we see peak performance reach 9500Mbps.
Having now three of these portable 10Gbe adapters in house, I can certainly say the OWC unit has one of the largest footprints on the market, and while that might seem like a bad thing, once you use one you will quickly realize just how much heat they put out.
In several cases, I noted the OWC unit reaching over 40c which makes it warm almost hot to the touch. To combat the heat OWC created a fully milled aluminum enclosure with a heat sink design that is also aesthetically pleasing.
Performance of this unit was on par with any 10Gbe solution used to date both Thunderbolt 3 and PCIe equipped. Driver installation is painless in Windows and gets you a fully functional 10Gbe adapter that can move the data you need and then be unplugged when you don't need it.
As far as pricing goes, the OWC unit does come in $25 higher than competing solutions like the SanLink while at the same time staying under products like the Akitio Thunder3 or Qnap adapter.
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime Z370 (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i3 8350K (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 32GB 4x8GB DDR4 3200 (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro H115i (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Corsair Air 540 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Samsung 960 EVO 250GB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM850x (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
- Wi-Fi NIC: ASUS PCE-AC88 (buy from Amazon)
- 10Gbe NIC: ASUS XG-C100C (buy from Amazon)
- Thunderbolt 3: ASUS Thunderbolt EX3 (buy from Amazon)
The Bottom Line
OWC furthers its portfolio adding a cost effective way to add 10G ethernet to your Thunderbolt 3 machine!