OWC Thunderbolt 3 to 10 Gbps Ethernet Adapter – The Fastest Multigigabit Adapter For Your Mac

When it comes to the fastest copper Ethernet adapter for your Mac, you have only 2 options:

  • If your other half approves, get yourself an M1 Mac Mini with built-in 10 GbE port. It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • Or you can consider an add-on 10 Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt 3 adapter for your current Mac.

We will focus on the latter today.

Thunderbolt 3, not USB

While the USB-C connector might temp you to connect these adapters to a standard USB port, these adapters don’t support USB protocol. They use Thunderbolt 3 and they happen to use the same USB-C connector as USB. That’s the only thing USB and Thunderbolt have in common. Before you order one of these adapters, double-check that your computer supports Thunderbolt 3. That should be most new MacBooks, Mac Minis, Intel NUCs and similar platforms.

Which 10 GbE adapter shall I buy?

I tested two of these Thunderbolt 10 GbE adapters. One made by Sabrent, and the other by OWC. They both look alike, both perform very well, both get quite warm, and both work out of the box on macOS. Yes, no driver installation required on your part on macOS! 🎉

Mainly because of the loose Sabrent cable issue explained below, I recommend the OWC adapter. It comes with great documentation, and even the Thunderbolt cable itself is thicker and feels premium.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter OWCTB3ADP10GBE

From throughput perspective, I personally tested it up to 3 Gbps down and 3.3 Gbps up using iperf3 with default settings. The limitation is on my part, I just don’t have another 10 GbE computer I could test against.

I’ve seen reports of:

  • between 7 Gbps and 8.74 Gbps uplink speeds with default iperf3 settings
  • 9.5 Gbps uplink iperf3 speeds with Jumbo frames enabled

When I reviewed 2.5 GbE and 5 GbE adapters, this setup has become my reference I ran all iperf3 tests against.

OWC connected to an M1 MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt side
Ethernet side
Raspberry Pi 4 for scale
It supports Jumbo frames including a custom MTU setting

VLAN tagging

The OWC adapter also supports VLAN tagging. Here is my Trunk port with Native VLAN 129:

Trunk port configured on the access switch

Let’s tag all traffic with VLAN 130:

Create VLAN interface on macOS

Verify that we are indeed in VLAN 130:

VLAN 130 is being used instead of the Native VLAN 129

If you only want to use VLAN 130 (without touching the Native VLAN 129), you can disable the adapter itself. VLAN 130 virtual interface will stay up and forward traffic.

Disable the Native VLAN 129 and only use VLAN 130 for all traffic

Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 to 10 Gbps Ethernet Adapter TH-S3EA

I won’t go into the detail, but my main challenge with the Sabrent adapter was its loose Thunderbolt cable. The connection between the USB-C socket on the adapter and the USB-C connector on the Thunderbolt cable is very loose and practically pulls out just by the tension of the cable itself. It might have been just my unit, but I can’t recommend it.

Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 to 10Gbps Ethernet Adapter on the left
It almost felt like it needed some hot glue to keep the Thunderbolt cable connected

What about Windows and Linux support?

I tested the Sabrent adapter on Windows 10. It required a Sabrent driver installation and then it worked just fine. I would assume the same for the OWC.

I don’t have a Linux computer with a Thunderbolt port, so I can’t share anything on that front.

Sabrent 5 GbE Multigigabit Ethernet Adapter

Sabrent NT-SS5G is a 5 GbE USB adapter, which allows you to achieve higher throughput than 2.5 GbE adapters, and break the 2.35 Gbps barrier. It works great on Windows. If you are a macOS or Linux user, I recommend you consider other options like this instead.

The adapter itself is larger than 2.5 GbE adapters, it uses AQC111U chip, and ships with short 2 detachable USB-A and USB-C cables. USB-C port on its back connects the adapter to your computer. A metal shell protects it, serves as a heatsink, and also adds to its weight.

Windows 11

Install the driver from Sabrent’s website and you are good to go. In my tests with this Topton M6 Mini PC, I measured 2.93 Gbps down and 3.44 Gbps up with default iperf3 settings.

2.93 Gbps down and 3.44 Gbps up with default iperf3 settings

In adapter options, you can actually configure quite a few things including Jumbo frame support. Note that these are fixed values.

macOS

I can’t recommend this adapter for macOS users. It forces you to disable macOS System Integrity Protection (csrutil), otherwise it won’t work. It might be okay for a proof of concept or lab setup, but I would hesitate from using it in production.

This is how to install the driver if you were interested:

  1. Install the driver using the pkg file provided by Sabrent. It installs a Kernel Extension (kext), which drives this adapter.
  2. Enable the extension by going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > enable the extension > Reboot.
  3. After reboot, unplug the adapter and plug it back in.
  4. It should work as long as you leave the System Integrity Protection disabled.

From throughput perspective, it saw download speeds of 3.30 Gbps, and upload of 3.45 Gbps. This was with default iperf3 settings, standard 1500-byte MTU and one stream. Great results considering that this adapter’s USB interface maximum theoretical throughput is 5 Gbps.

In my view, you might be better off buying a 2.5 GbE adapter, which can push 2.35 Gbps up and down consistently and with no driver installation needed. I tested one here. Alternatively, a 10GbE Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter is even faster choice, but more costly, and larger form factor. Or, if your other half approves, treat yourself to an M1 Mac Mini with built-in 10 GbE 😉

Linux

I tested this adapter on 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS running on Raspberry Pi 4. Although the default driver distributed in Linux Kernel 5.15 works, it doesn’t even deliver symmetric 1 Gbps.

Sabrent connected to Raspberry Pi 4
Upload speeds well below 1 Gbps
Default aqc111 driver details

Let’s download the latest driver from Sabrent’s website. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be able to compile for 64-bit OS. I tried compiling on 32-bit Raspberry OS, to no avail. If you have any ideas, please do let me know.

So, on Linux, a Realtek RTL8156B based 2.5 GbE adapter might be a better choice for you. Here is the one I tested.

Plugable 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet to USB 3.0 Multigigabit Adapter

Plugable makes this inexpensive 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet USBC-E2500 adapter. It is based on Realtek RTL8156B chip. On Windows and macOS it works out of the box. If you want to use it on a Linux machine like WLAN Pi Pro or Raspberry Pi 4, expect some troubles along the way, but good performance when you get there.

The USB-C to USB-A adapter is allows you to use it with a MacBook (USB-C) or Raspberry Pi 4 (USB-A)
The adapter itself has a plastic shell and is very lightweight

Windows 11

When they say “update the driver using Windows Update first”, they mean it. Windows 11 will recognise the adapter and you can start using it, but the default driver distributed with Windows 11 significantly reduces this adapter’s performance.

727 Mbps down and 2.34 Gbps up with default driver

Now, let’s use Windows Update to download the latest driver.

Don’t forget to update the driver using Windows Update

As you can see, download throughput (from iperf3 server to iperf3 client) has dramatically improved.

1.78 Gbps down and 2.35 Gbps up with updated driver

Although the box suggests Jumbo frame support, Windows driver settings don’t give me any option to edit the MTU size. So, I assume Jumbo frames are not supported.

MacOS Monterey

On macOS, this adapter works out of the box with no additional driver installation required. That’s a very nice surprise. And performance is great.

Symmetric 2.35 Gbps throughput on macOS

Auto-negotiation worked just fine. If you want to configure speed or MTU manually, you can, but Jumbo frames are not supported on macOS either.

Jumbo frames are not supported

Linux

Now the bad news. If you are considering to use this adapter on a Linux machine, the default driver cdc_ncm is a trouble as it only supports 2.5 Gbps Half duplex. Setting Full duplex manually using ethtool command doesn’t work either.

Default driver only supports Half duplex

As you might expect, with the default driver and Half duplex, throughput is very poor.

1.22 Gbps down and 704 Mbps up with the default cdc_ncm driver on WLAN Pi Pro

On WLAN Pi Pro and Raspberry Pi 4 running 5.15 Linux Kernel I managed to fix the duplex issue by the steps listed below. But I hit new auto-negotiation issue between the Plugable adapter and Cisco Catalyst WS-C3560CX-8XPD switch. It took the adapter to eventually negotiate 2.5 Gbps Full duplex around 15 minutes of constantly flapping the interface. Forcing speed and duplex on the Plugable adapter by ethtool did not work. Certainly not ideal, and definitely worth testing before you commit to the Plugable adapter. With other multigigabit adapters, the Plugable had no negotiation issues.

1.7 Gbps down and 2.09 Gbps up with r8156 driver on WLAN Pi Pro
1.91 Gbps down and 2.06 Gbps up on Raspberry Pi 4 using the correct r8156 driver
Raspberry Pi 4 also known as WLAN Pi Community Edition

How to force Linux to use the right driver

To enable Full duplex capability, we need to tell Linux to use Realtek r8156 driver instead of the default cdc-ncm.

  1. Download the latest driver from Realtek’s website
  2. Unzip it and copy the 50-usb-realtek-net.rules file to your Linux machine
  3. On the Linux machine copy this file here sudo cp 50-usb-realtek-net.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/
  4. Reboot by sudo reboot
  5. Verify that the adapter negotiated 2.5 Gbps Full duplex and is using the Realtek r8156 driver.

Add Outlook.com account to Mail and Contacts apps on Mac OS X as Microsoft Exchange Account

Microsoft has recently updated their free Outlook.com to Exchange Server backend (Office 365 infrastructure), which means that we can now use it as a fully functional Microsoft Exchange account. No more hassle with IMAP, POP3, SMTP or even Hotmail Connector for Outlook. And Mac users can finally see and edit their Outlook.com contacts in Contacts app on Mac OS X!

Add Outlook.com e-mail and contacts to Contacts and Mail on Mac OS X

1. Open Mail app > Mail > Add Account…
2. Select Exchange
3. Enter your Outlook.com username and password
4. Click Sing In
5. Use outlook.live.com as Internal URL and External URL
6. Now select to sync E-mail and Contacts
7. Click Done, give Mail and Contacts apps a minute or two to sync

add-outlook.com-as-exchange-account-on-mac

Any questions or comments, please let me know.