Cables, Adapters, Devices For A Brave New Mac World

The announcement of the new MacBook Pros which only have USB-C ports will begin a frustrating, but needed transition to new devices that are USB-C capable. There’s a lot that USB-C can do, but it won’t be covered here. Here is one article I did find insightful by Stephen Foskett. I won’t try to guess how long this transition will take, but the prospect of having to only use one cable for connecting and powering devices is really exciting even if there is some initial confusion.

The purpose of this post is to get you to think about what you might need to transition with a spreadsheet linked at the end with links to the cables, adapters, and devices in question. Just note, that I have not tested and may not get to test all the devices I’ve linked in the spreadsheet. Prices may vary as well. The goal was to try and get the best value for functionality. I am also not affiliated with any of the vendors and sellers that I’ve linked to. With that all said, let’s get to the questions you should be thinking about.

One thing to be aware of is that USB-C can power devices, but it can also transfer data. Essentially, not all cables will necessarily be the same which explains why some may be priced so differently.

Monitors

At my current job, we have a bunch of Apple Cinema Displays and Thunderbolt Displays along with monitors from other vendors that come with HDMI, DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt. From what I’ve read, the Apple Thunderbolt Display will allow you to charge your MacBook Pro through the Thunderbolt cable which means you would only need a USB-C/TB3 to TB2 cable to continue using the old display. But for non-Apple displays, we’ll need to obviously find a way to get those to work with the new MacBook Pros. That’s why we’re looking at mutli-port USB-C adapters that don’t require external power sources (great for traveling and for the desk as well). We’ll also want to start looking at monitors that support USB-C in some fashion. I couldn’t find too many as of today, but I suspect overtime we’ll start seeing a lot more.

EDIT: After finally getting a chance to test the new MacBook Pro with a Thunderbolt Display and an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, we found that it does not indeed charge.

Keyboards & Mice

We then have to consider the peripherals that connect to these laptops that are typically docked with their lids closed. For example, we use the Magic Mouse 2, Magic Touchpad, and Magic Keyboard, but they come with USB-A to Lightning cables for charging. The current wired Apple keyboard also comes with USB-A. I suspect for sometime we might have USB-C to USB-A Female adapters similar to those old USB-A to PS/2 Female adapters (there’s one for south park’s memba berries: do you ‘memba ps/2 keyboards?). At least until Apple release new wired keyboard/mouse options that utilize USB-C (sure, it’s overkill, but if the hardware you sell doesn’t come with USB-A anymore, you have to release new peripherals that do connect to them, right?).

Phones

If you got a new iPhone 7, you cannot connect it to your new MacBook Pro for charging because it also comes with a new USB-A to Lightning cable. But what if you’ve got another phone which uses micro-USB?

Printers

What about if you’ve got a printer that uses USB? Depending on the printer, it will be using a USB-B female port that’s either USB 2.0 or 3.0.

Storage

If you’ve got flash drives, you’ll need to start moving the data off to new ones that handle USB-C only or that do both USB-A/USB-C. If you’re accustomed to reading SD cards, that is no longer a built-in feature with the new MacBook Pros. There are also external SSDs to consider. There are too many to list, but I’ve always found NewEgg’s sorting feature along with its catalog of devices to be a good place to start looking. I do not have any specific external SSDs on the spreadsheet at the time of this post.

Charging

The new MacBook Pros no longer have MagSafe built-in. Some vendors are making magnetic USB-C cables which is great because these will be usable in not just MacBook Pros, but also any other device that can charge via USB-C. However, if you want what Apple is offering, just be aware that they’ve split up their accessories. The new MacBooks will no longer come with the long extension cable. If you buy a replacement power charger set from Apple, you will need to get the 87W USB-C power charger ($80), the USB-C charging cable ($20), and optionally the long extension cable ($20). That’s an increase from the price of the old 85W MagSafe 2 charger which was only $80. To their credit, the USB-C cable is pretty long so you may not need that extension power cable for the extra length, but since it’s a power brick, it might take up 2 outlets on a power strip compared to the extension cable.

There are also some other considerations to keep in mind regarding charging your MacBook Pro as noted by Apple:

-Your MacBook Pro only draws power one power supply, even if more than one is attached—so using multiple power supplies will not speed up charging.

-If you connect multiple power supplies to your MacBook Pro, the one that provides the most power will be used, regardless of the order in which you connected them.

-You should not connect any power supply that exceeds 100W, as it might damage your Mac.

-Using a power supply that doesn’t provide sufficient power can result in slow or delayed charging. It’s best to use the power supply that came with your Mac.

-MacBook Pro can receive a maximum of 60W of power through the Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter or USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. For the best charging performance on MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2016), connect the power supply directly to your Mac.

Other devices?

If you’ve got Firewire only devices, you might want to start moving data off those devices as soon as possible. There will be certain things that USB-C just can’t do and this is the one that comes to mind immediately. You will most likely end up chaining quite a few adapters together (assuming it even works): a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter connected to Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 adapter.

The spreadsheet

I suspect overtime, some of the prices will change and some vendors may not even make those devices anymore as USB-C becomes more ubiquitous. Not only that, but you won’t have much of a need for this spreadsheet as USB-C becomes more common and all Apple products make use of USB-C. But at least this should get you started if you’ve to start buying new MacBook Pros pretty soon. If you’ve found a category that I’ve left out and/or haven’t thought of please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post or the spreadsheet. And lastly, please do your own research, testing, and review (and get ready to RMA where necessary). This is only meant to get you started.

Spreadsheet link: https://goo.gl/ZyjdCr

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