OWC USB-C Travel Dock, hands on: Connectivity in a small, neat package
The Surface Go is a great little PC for travelling with — until you’re in a meeting and realise you can’t plug in a USB stick with files on for the presentation you’re about to give, and you can’t plug into the display in the meeting room because it needs HDMI. One USB-C port isn’t quite enough to connect up all the peripherals you need.
Surface Go users aren’t the first to discover this, so if you don’t want to hunt for something specifically branded for Surface, check out the USB-C adapters made for MacBook owners, like the $50 OWC USB-C Travel Dock.
The black plastic top and base and the rounded corners of the silver metal case match the look of the Surface Go surprisingly well, and the unit is small (about 3 inches/76mm square), neat and not too heavy (3.2 ounces/91g). And having the USB C cable built in to the unit is convenient (although it’s short and does stick out a bit when you put it in a bag or packet). The tiny indicator light on the top of the case is enough to check it’s plugged in and getting power, but shouldn’t keep you awake if it’s plugged in near your bed.
The OWC USB-C Travel Dock measures about 3in./76mm square and weighs 3.2oz/91g.
The twin USB 3.1 Type-A ports bring the Surface Go up to the port spec of most ultrabooks, and there’s one on each side of the case so you don’t have to worry about a bulky adapter or dongle blocking the second port. There’s a full-size SD Card slot — the Surface Go has a Micro-SD slot, but there are still plenty of digital cameras that use full-size SD cards. And the HDMI port supports up to 4096 by 2160 resolution at 30Hz and 24-bit colour: that gives you 4K in a meeting room or on a hotel TV — just remember to carry an HDMI cable with you.
The dock can take power from your USB-C port; it draws 1.5W and we didn’t find much impact on battery life from having it plugged in, although the more devices you power from it, the more of the Surface Go’s battery you’ll be using to run those devices. The single USB-C port on the dock is a 60W passthrough charging port; that means you can use it to charge a phone from your PC or use it to charge your PC from a wall adapter or PD (Power Delivery) battery, and can still use the USB-A ports, SD card and DisplayPort adapter while you’re charging.
There’s only one USB-C port on the dock, and it’s only a power port; if you have any of the rare USB-C external drives or thumb drives, you’ll have to take the dock out to connect them.
Because it can accept power from a USB-C host, we were even able to use it to give the Surface Go a top-up charge from a second-generation Surface Book — which you can’t do just by connecting the two with a USB-C cable. (A Surface Book 2 can charge over USB-C and we were able to charge it from the OWC dock with a PD battery.) On the other hand, while we sometimes managed to charge a phone through the dock if the PC was also plugged into the mains, mostly the dock tried to use the phone to charge the Surface Go (in a real emergency, that might even be what you want).
The other slightly disappointing thing is that there isn’t an Ethernet port on the dock. That means the dock can’t completely replace the USB-C adapter we carry that has an Ethernet port and three USB-A ports. OWC does make docks with Ethernet and more ports, but they’re not as small and neat as this.
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