USB-C and the New MacBook Pro

by Colin Berkshire

It’s time to start thinking about USB-C. A couple of years ago I wrote about USB-C and I predicted that it would take over and become a major new standard. Its taken a lot longer than I would have guessed, but I didn’t predict that Apple would become so lethargic so quickly…taking years and years to upgrade its laptop line.

But USB-C is here on Apple computers and many Windows computers too.

USB-C is nice because it is a single connector that does just about everything. It can attach disks and mice and memory sticks and monitors. You even plug your laptop power supply into a USB-C connector. So it really is the only connector your laptop needs.

But one of the problems with USB-C is that not every connector has all of the capabilities. And, there is no real way to know what it can do. On Apple’s new MacBook Pro 13” line the USB-C connectors on the left side can do things the ones on the right-side of the computer cannot do. There is scant documentation on this, and absolutely no markings to help. So an external monitor may work when plugged into the left side but not work when plugged into the right side.USB-C

We need some sort of a pop-up or tool that can be pulled up and that shows what each USB-C is capable of on any given device.

I’ve had a USB-C-only laptop for a few weeks and a couple of trips now. I like and hate it. Here are some specific thoughts:

I miss not having an HDMI port on my computer. I used to be able to just plug it into any TV and be able to give a presentation. Or, to be able to watch a movie in a hotel room. Now, I must plan ahead and bring a USB-C HDMI adapter. Since I hive a lot of spontaneous presentations I am constantly needing to carry this big dongle.

People hand me USB memory sticks all the time. I can’t just plug them into my laptop. I need a USB-C to USB-A adapter dongle. But I don’t always have it. This is turning into a problem.

Apple’s USB-C power brick for my laptop thoughtlessly doesn’t have an LED light. So when the laptop doesn’t charge I don’t know what the problem is. Is the switch to the outlet off? Is the thing not plugged into the outlet correctly? Is the USB-C cable bad? Is my laptop unhappy? What the heck is the problem? I think having a tiny LED on a power pack for USB-C is a good thing. (The old Apple MagSafe connector had an LED so I could see if I had power.)

In short, we are in a transition period. I like having USB-C but I think a single USB-A connector and an HDMI connector would have made my new MacBook Pro a better computer. Yes, I am transitioning to USB-C. But having these two legacy connectors would be valuable for the next four years.

USB-C is great. But a USB-C only device is not a home run this year.

Had Apple had a single USB-A and an HDMI connector in addition to USB-C I would think they had the perfect laptop.