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I just bought the OWC 14-port Thunderbolt hub.
Did I make a mistake?
Opinions/experiences solicited...
Probably not, but who can say without knowing:
  • What computer/iPad will you use it with?
  • Did you want a portable or desktop solution?
  • Will you be connecting a desktop screen?
  • Do you need the audio connection?
  • Will you use the Ethernet connection?
Give us the expected use for the device and we can give reasoned responses.
 


Probably not, but who can say without knowing:
  1. What computer/iPad will you use it with?
  2. Did you want a portable or desktop solution?
  3. Will you be connecting a desktop screen?
  4. Do you need the audio connection?
  5. Will you use the Ethernet connection?
Give us the expected use for the device and we can give reasoned responses.
I was really asking in terms of comparing reliability to the CalDigit TS3 Plus and any other similar hubs (Akitio) since about 90% of the features are similar if not identical. But to answer your questions as specifically as I can:

1. 2018 MacBook Pro 15"​
2. Desktop solution, but I'm likely to take it with me to Mexico when I go for 2-3 months​
3. I'll be connecting up to 3 additional monitors​
4. I haven't had a need for audio connection but I'm intrigued by the S/PDIF connection and have looked into making use of that port​
5. As long as it's there, why not?​

Although right after I set up the OWC dock, loading as many ports and devices as I can to check reliability under load, I've had a very flaky internet day with many dropouts and recycling of modem and router and am wondering if there is a connection or just sheer coincidence?
 


I just bought the OWC 14-port Thunderbolt hub.
Did I make a mistake?
Opinions/experiences solicited...
I purchased the 12-port version this time last year and have been using it with a 2018 MacBook Pro 13". The only issue I've had is it will occasionally not wake from sleep in clamshell mode with an external keyboard. I'm not sure if the problem is a dock or macOS issue.
 


I purchased the 12-port version this time last year and have been using it with a 2018 MacBook Pro 13". The only issue I've had is it will occasionally not wake from sleep in clamshell mode with an external keyboard. I'm not sure if the problem is a dock or macOS issue.
Don't forget the possibility that it's a keyboard issue.
 


Note the company's warning about a Thunderbolt bug in Apple's new Mac Mini computers:
Mac mini (2018) Users ONLY: Bus-powered Thunderbolt 3 solutions like the Envoy Pro EX may experience intermittent disconnects when attached directly to one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the Mac mini. To avoid this issue, we recommend connecting your Envoy Pro EX through another wall-powered Thunderbolt 3 device in a daisy-chain. These intermittent disconnects only occur when connected directly to the Mac mini (2018) and are not seen on other computer models. This issue has been reported to Apple for resolution.
It is understandable that OWC would want to shift the focus to Apple, but I wonder if this 'issue' has something to do with the Envoy Pro EX itself. I have a Mac Mini (2018) and for almost a year I have had a (bus-powered) Samsung X5 attached directly to one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports, and I have never experienced any sort of disconnects.
 


I just bought the OWC 14-port Thunderbolt hub.
Did I make a mistake?
Opinions/experiences solicited...
I like OWC and own many of their enclosures. I will buy more from them in the future, I am sure. That being said, I had bad luck with the 14-port Thunderbolt dock. It just stopped working for me.
 




It is understandable that OWC would want to shift the focus to Apple, but I wonder if this 'issue' has something to do with the Envoy Pro EX itself. I have a Mac Mini (2018) and for almost a year I have had a (bus-powered) Samsung X5 attached directly to one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports, and I have never experienced any sort of disconnects.
It's on OWC in my opinion. I have always experienced the random disconnects on my 2018 Mac Mini. With my recently purchased 2019 15" MacBook Pro, I'm experiencing those same exact disconnects. Regularly. (On my late 2017 5K iMac, curiously, I do not.)
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
It's on OWC in my opinion. I have always experienced the random disconnects on my 2018 Mac Mini. With my recently purchased 2019 15" MacBook Pro, I'm experiencing those same exact disconnects. Regularly. (On my late 2017 5K iMac, curiously, I do not.)
Have you contacted OWC support about the issue?
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Yes. It works fine most of the time, but usually not after a long delay from putting it to sleep. (i.e. next day)
I don't know if it's related, but a Contour mouse becomes unresponsive with a 2017 iMac 5K (running macOS Sierra) after an extended idle period, and it has to be unplugged and replugged into the USB socket to rouse it from its stupor.
 


I like OWC and own many of their enclosures. I will buy more from them in the future, I am sure. That being said, I had bad luck with the 14-port Thunderbolt dock. It just stopped working for me.
Paul, what was the timeframe when it just stopped working? Within the "2 Year OWC Limited Warranty" period? Or after? (Actually I'm not sure it's been out for 2 years...)
 


Have you contacted OWC support about the issue?
To follow up on this, Ric. I received an email from OWC about the issue with my 2019 MacBook Pro 15". According to the tech support rep who responded, the 2019 MacBook Pro has not been "certified" to work with the Envoy Pro. He also acknowledged the disconnect issue with the 2018 Mac Mini. What is really weird in his response is that he suggested turning off WiFi to see if that solves the issue. What?

I responded by asking him what WiFi has to do with an external Thunderbolt 3 device and random disconnects....
 




I had bad luck with the 14-port Thunderbolt dock. It just stopped working for me.
Ok, I just looked back at my notes, and I was wrong. It was the 10-port dock that failed, not the 14-port. I bought it in 2016, and it stopped working in 2018. I had the 14-port but gave it to a friend.
 


I have always experienced the random disconnects on my 2018 Mac Mini. With my recently purchased 2019 15" MacBook Pro, I'm experiencing those same exact disconnects. Regularly. (On my late 2017 5K iMac, curiously, I do not.)
According to the tech support rep who responded, the 2019 MacBook Pro has not been "certified" to work with the Envoy Pro. He also acknowledged the disconnect issue with the 2018 Mac Mini. What is really weird in his response is that he suggested turning off WiFi to see if that solves the issue. What?
See my previous post-7654 on the topic...
... After reading your earlier post, and as I stated, it was time to do a little experimentation.

Well, after a weekend of said experimentation I can report back that my iPhone 11 Pro Max was the culprit with the OWC Thunderbolt 3 drive. Using both the Mac Mini, which spontaneously disconnected regularly, and my MacBook Pro, I experienced not a single disconnect of the external drive after I placed my iPhone in a different area of my office. Not a single one! Once I placed the iPhone next to either the Mini or MacBook Pro, the drive spontaneously disconnected.

Which begs the question: why? Improper shielding of the Envoy Pro X? Sunspots? Lunar activity? :)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Which begs the question: why? Improper shielding of the Envoy Pro X? Sunspots? Lunar activity? :)
It would be interesting to try different cables to see if that might be a factor. But moving 40 Gbits per second is a tricky business electrically, as is cellphone and WiFi radio. It would also be interesting to try different iPhone modes - Airplane mode, WiFi on/off, cellular data on/off, Bluetooth on/off.

I've long wanted to do some serious Thunderbolt data integrity testing - before putting Thunderbolt into production - but haven't been able to get the the time to do it (and have just given up a 2018 MacBook Pro, though I still have access to a 2017 iMac with Thunderbolt 3).

I did encounter the problem once while briefly testing a Dell Inspiron laptop with a Samsung X5.
 


It would be interesting to try different cables to see if that might be a factor. But moving 40 Gbits per second is a tricky business electrically, as is cellphone and WiFi radio. It would also be interesting to try different iPhone modes - Airplane mode, WiFi on/off, cellular data on/off, Bluetooth on/off.
Unfortunately, Ric, the Envoy Pro has a non-detachable cable, i.e. it's permanently affixed.

Before I purchased the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I had an iPhone XS Max which I used to keep on my desk next to my other devices and had those same disconnects.

I might experiment further as you wrote above, time permitting.
 


Unfortunately, Ric, the Envoy Pro has a non-detachable cable, i.e. it's permanently affixed.
Maybe try an experiment surrounding the cable with a sleeve of household aluminum foil. I've seen this done in laboratory settings. I'm no expert, so no promises or explanations.
 





Interesting. Even more interesting because I keep my iPhone 11 Pro Max right next to the Envoy Pro. Time for some experimentation. Thanks, Ric.
I have my phone in a Qi charging stand and also a 2016 MacBook computer with Wi-Fi close to a few Thunderbolt 3 cables to monitors and docks. So far no issue with Glyph drive, Akitio RAID3 dock and drive, and LG 34wk95 monitor, along with Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt 2 monitor, a USB 3 hub and whole bunch of cables to boards that I debug.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I have my phone in a Qi charging stand and also a 2016 MacBook computer with Wi-Fi close to a few Thunderbolt 3 cables to monitors and docks. So far no issue with Glyph drive, Akitio RAID3 dock and drive, and LG 34wk95 monitor, along with Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt 2 monitor, a USB 3 hub and whole bunch of cables to boards that I debug.
The phrase "leading a charmed life" comes to mind....
 


The phrase "leading a charmed life" comes to mind....
This seems to be pointing to problems of electromagnetic compatibility, which can be resolved, but not necessarily easily. If your equipment doesn't have captive cables, your best bet may be to get "high performance", hence high-priced, cables.

You can also check the power and signal grounding system associated with your overall setup. You could try covering your desktop with a very well grounded copper or aluminum sheet that is insulated from you, in case of mishap. Remember that at these high data rates, any effective grounding is more like a wide strap or braid than a wire.

Generally speaking though, there is very likely a vendor quality problem that should have been revealed in their pre-production quality testing. Portions of the problem may be shared by several vendors.
 


Just got a MacBook Pro 16" with Catalina 10.15.2. When connected to an Akitio Thunderbolt 3 Dock with a dual drive in RAID0, it will always crash during sleep when the sleep is for several minutes. The crash occurs even when the drives are ejected before sleeping. I have unchecked put hard disks to sleep when possible and enabled power nap in the Energy Saver preferences, but it still crashes.

This issue did not occur on a 2016 MacBook Pro 15" with Mojave (10.14.6). OWC states this is a problem with Catalina that has not been resolved. To prevent crashes, they recommend to disconnect the dock before sleep.
This is not a new problem. I've been having a similar issue for years with an OWC Thunderbolt 2 Mini RAID with 4 SSDs. I have permanently disabled sleep on my 2014 iMac 5K (running Mojave), which minimizes the problem. But it still occasionally occurs when the computer is unattended (not sleeping). I come back to a "your computer has restarted due to a problem..." message. This happens every few days (3 - 5). The system log always points to the Thunderbolt Mini box. I also have a full size OWC Thunderbolt 2 RAID with four spinning drives and never had a problem with it. I just shut my system down when not used to try and minimize the problem. It's a pain.

Every once in a while the crash corrupts something on the RAID Mini. Usually, SoftRAID can fix it, but two months ago I needed DiskWarrior to rebuild the RAID to get it working again (a solution which I found in the SoftRAID forums).
 


The phrase "leading a charmed life" comes to mind....
I did find that I am having bluetooth interference issues with my Apple Magic Trackpad when I use 2-meter Thunderbolt 3 cables.... The trackpad has erratic jumps and starts, until I replace the 2m cables with the 6-inch Thunderbolt cable. Too bad those are too short, so I am using a USB cable connection to the trackpad...
 


The 22Gbps limitation is a limitation of the Thunderbolt controllers so far, not Thunderbolt protocol. There has only been one implementer company so far, [not] multiple implementers with perhaps differing design choices....
As far as I can tell (because there's no public specification published and no official statements), the 22 Gbps PCIe limitation on Thunderbolt 3 is entirely a protocol specification limit. The most pertinent technical details are contained in the Thunderbolt 3 Technology Brief, which has been referenced several times on this forum. Right off the bat, the brief confirms that Thunderbolt 3 attaches to only 4x PCIe 3.0 lanes, so that's a maximum of 31.5 Gbps that could be allocated to a PCIe connection through Thunderbolt. But that doesn't explain the difference between 31.5 Gbps and the 22 Gbps data limit that Thunderbolt 3 imposes. After looking into this 3 or 4 times now, I finally found this unsourced comment that claims the missing 10 Gbps is reserved for uninterrupted USB operation on the 2nd port. I don't know if that's true or not, but the 22Gbps speed limit is real, as has been borne out in all external Thunderbolt 3 storage benchmarks.
USB 4.0 adopts the base Thunderbolt networking protocol. That is a huge assumption that it is going to be better than the other Thunderbolt controller implementations on the first-generation implementations of USB 4.
USB 4 is going to try to route (encode and tunnel) three protocols, not just the two of Thunderbolt up to now. That isn't going to make low-latency tolerance for DisplayPort traffic get any better than what the Thunderbolt controllers have had to do.
So, the USB4 specification is actually available for download here. It's very dense and technical, and it's kind of crazy that I had to read this document to get the info we're looking for, instead of finding some accurate summary on the web somewhere. In any case, Section 2 gives a nice architectural overview. There is a "USB4 Gen 3x2" operating mode defined which gives the full 40 Gbps performance to the USB4 protocol (2.1.1.4.1). DisplayPort is mandatory, but PCIe is optional (2.1.1.5). Thunderbolt 3 backwards-compatibility is optional (2.1.5), so when it's operating in USB4 mode only, it will not be hampered by the Thunderbolt protocol restrictions I outlined above.

USB4 uses 128b/132b data encoding (4.3.2.1), the same as USB 3.1 Gen 2, whereas Thunderbolt 3 uses 8b/10b encoding, so USB4 only has a 3% protocol overhead vs. Thunderbolt's 20% overhead.

In scanning through the spec, I was unable to find a clear indication of how USB4 handles bandwidth allocation and prioritization, but everything I've read indicates that it's much more flexible than Thunderbolt. I think that when a USB4 Gen 3x2 external drive is connected to a USB4 Gen 3x2 host, that a data-only connection (with no DisplayPort or PCIe traffic) will be able to achieve near the 38.8 Gbps effective transfer rate. That means a PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD in a USB4 Gen 3x2 enclosure would be able to achieve its full speed compared to a Thunderbolt 3 drive (probably about a 25% speed increase). And a PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD in a USB4 enclosure would probably be almost 75% faster than a Thunderbolt 3 drive.

It might also be faster/cheaper for someone to create a USB4 SSD enclosure that attaches directly to the PCIe tunneling of USB4, rather than going through a PCIe-to-USB4 bridge inside the enclosure. But then they'd lose backwards-compatibility with USB 3.x and 2.0 hosts. And, of course, PCIe support is optional on USB4 hosts.
 



Of course, Thunderbolt 3 devices fail to work with USB-only ports, despite sharing the same Type-C connector, so does this change with USB 4?
No, Thunderbolt 3 backwards-compatibility is optional in USB4. So, for a Thunderbolt 3 device to work, it'll have to be connected to a Thunderbolt 3 host or a USB4 host that includes Thunderbolt 3 backwards-compatibility.

Since PCIe tunneling is optional in USB4, I suspect that any USB4 host that doesn't support PCIe tunneling will also not support Thunderbolt 3. I imagine that once Apple adopts USB4, all Mac USB4 ports will support PCIe tunneling and Thunderbolt 3 backwards-compatibility.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I've long known about Thunderbolt having various integrity/bug issues, but here's an interesting new example:
Tom's Guide said:
Nearly all ThinkPads have defective USB-C ports: What to do now

... ThinkPad laptops from 2017 to 2019 reportedly contain defective USB-C ports. First reported by Notebookcheck, the problems are widespread enough for Lenovo to post a support page titled "Critical Intel Thunderbolt Software and Firmware Updates."

Based on that document, the USB-C ports in more than a dozen ThinkPad laptops are experiencing serious issues. Lenovo posted a list of symptoms customers could encounter if they own a defective device:

Lenovo ThinkPad USB-C problems
  • USB-C port not working
  • Intel Thunderbolt controller not visible in the OS/Device Manager
  • USB-C or Thunderbolt docking stations not visible or having connectivity problems
  • HDMI output not available
  • System battery not charging with a USB-C power adapter connected to the USB-C port
  • Intel Thunderbolt pop-up error message
  • Intel Thunderbolt safe mode error message
  • BIOS Thunderbolt communication error or hang during POST
 


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