OWC 10GbaseT Thunderbolt 3 Ethernet adapter review.

We’ve looked at a handful of nbaseT adapters so far including a 10GbaseT pcie add in card as well as a 5GbaseT external adapter but this is our first look at one that’s thunderbolt based and one I fully expect to perform the way it says on the box.

Unboxing and inital impressions

Tipping the scales at a full pound this certainly holds the record for the largest network adapter we’ve examined to date. Everything was well packaged and the Thunderbolt 3 cable included was of reasonable(.5 meter) length for the device.

Setup

Setup was fairly straight forward on the physical front, just plug it in. However drivers were a bit fussier than I would have liked with a download link on the product page but not that I could find any of the support pages. Knowing that this was an AQ107 chipset I had expected that windows would automatically recognize it. As an aside having to “approve” the thunderbolt device was a nice security feature and something that I wouldn’t mind seeing added to usb devices if possible.

Performance testing

On the performance side I came away with two takeaways on this device. The first is that this adapter is going to be a bit more demanding on the cpu than others we’ve looked at so far. I was only able to achieve the expected performance results when I locked my cpu to 100%, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue on a desktop or modern laptop(they’re less dependent on turbo for high clock rates and have better turbo algorithms) but my aging 6700HQ needed a kick to 100% in the power settings to push it from it’s typical 1.x ghz idle range to a 3.x ghz turbo clock in order to see the full potential of the adapter. With that adjusted I was able to see speeds as high as 9.27GB/s, It’s also possible that OBS running was causing some overhead on the cpu side, as well some systems are known to bring their pcie lanes down to 2.0 speeds in lower power modes to save power. The second was that it was nothing short of amazingly cool, before taking it apart it was barely warm to the touch in use, the aluminum heat sinking solution appears to have been well if not over engineered to meed the requirements of the adapter in question.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I was impressed with the OWC 10GbaseT Ethernet adapter, Although I tend to prefer internal adapters for high speed networking as far as desktops are concerned that’s not always an option, especially on devices like macbooks or the recently launched apple silicon mac mini. At 150USD it’s not the cheapest ethernet adapter, but if you’re the kind of person who time is money, and need to move large amounts of data off a laptop it’s hard to beat.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is a full time IT administrator at a medium sized private business former FRC coach and technology enthusiast.