10 reasons to love the USB-C ports on the new MacBook Pro

Hopefully, USB just won the interconnect wars

While so much of the conversation concerning Apple’s MacBook Pro has focused on the need to use dongles to connect to its four USB-C ports, there are numerous advantages to the transition:

Charge anything

The charging “brick” you need for your Mac is a generic USB-C charger. This means you can use it to charge your Mac, iPhone, iPad.

Charge faster

When you use this to charge other Apple devices, your devices will charge faster. For example, iPhones will charge twice as fast (their maximum) as they do when they use their supplied 5-watt adaptor. Though you’ll need a dongle… and a Lightning cable.

Dongles rule!

What’s important is to note that the dongles you end up needing are USB-C class devices that will work with any USB-C class device, not just Macs. You can use the SanDisk Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card USB-C Reader dongle for your Mac as a card reading interface for any USB-C device, including some Android phones.

Dongles are cheap

Dongles are relatively cheap, take a look at the many generic ones sold by Amazon. You can carry almost every dongle you ever might need in your coat pocket and they won’t cost you too much — but do make sure whatever dongles or accessories you do buy are compliant with standard specifications issued by the USB Implementers Forum — and do read Ars Technica’s excellent USB-C buyer’s guide. Or buy them from Apple at a big discount until the end of December.

Portable charging

It is so annoying when your Mac runs out of power. However, now your Mac runs USB-C you can just plug it into one of those portable power bricks, a USB car charger, or just pick up a generic USB-C charger from a nearby shop if your charger is lost or forgotten.

Control your phone with a mouse

You can plug your USB-C keyboard or mouse into any other device on any platform that supports USB-C and a keyboard/mouse.

Digging the daisy chain

If you have a USB-C display you can plug it to your Mac with one cable. When you do you can plug all your other devices into your display and run them all using your Mac. This means when you are on the move you can unplug your Mac and just carry the peripherals you need to use on your journey with you. Caveat emptor: Not all cables are created equal.

Your Mac is now a battery

As this Medium post points out, you can use USB-C on your Mac to charge the battery on another computer that supports USB-C. You can also power and use an external hard drive without plugging that external drive into power. The Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pros can power two devices that use up to 15 watts, and two more devices that use up to 7.5 watts.

It’s Thunderbolt

Every Thunderbolt 3 port will work as a USB-C port and every Thunderbolt 3 cable works as a USB-C cable.

It’s fast

The USB-C MacBook Pro ports are fast. Using USB-C cables with Thunderbolt 3 support built in with peripherals that also support Thunderbolt means you’ll get data transfers at up to 40Gbps (on cables up to 0.5m), or 10Gbps for USB-C peripherals. (NB: Thunderbolt supports both active and passive modes for longer cables with speeds of 40Gbps and 20Gbps respectively).

Cables aren’t just cables

One thing is worth thinking about: These cables (particularly dongles) are very smart. The Thunderbolt to HDMI adaptor has its own processor, GPU, and RAM inside. This increased sophistication means you can do more, faster, but you also want to make sure the cables you use are kept secure.

One more thing

If you relied on Apple’s MagSafe to help prevent you damaging your Mac when you tripped on the power lead, then you should take a look at the Griffin BreakSafe USB-C cable solution, which also helps you avoid damaging your Mac. It’s biggest limitation is its 60-watt power delivery, which is short of the 87-watts the 15-inch MacBook Pro prefers, but fine for the 13-inch model, which ships with a 61-watt USB-C charger. The only real difference being it takes longer to recharge the 15-inch model with a lower powered charging device.

You see, there are some advantages to Apple's move to USB-C, which means a MacBook Pro is now highly compatible with lots of technologies with which it was perhaps less friendly in the past.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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