A new world of adap­tor angst

Clear up your con­nec­tiv­ity con­fu­sion with a lit­tle adap­tor ad­vice

Mac Format - - APPLE CORE -

The new mod­els of MacBook Pro have Thun­der­bolt 3 ports, which use a USB-C con­nec­tor, but aside from a 3.5mm head­phone jack they lack any other kind of

con­nec­tor for peripherals. There isn’t even an SD card reader. You’ll need adap­tors to con­nect de­vices that use a dif­fer­ent con­nec­tor, whether that’s a dis­play, a printer, ex­ter­nal stor­age or some­thing else.

Ap­ple makes a few adap­tors, but there are other op­tions that cost less if you only need to use one ex­ter­nal de­vice, and more flex­i­ble op­tions if you need more ports than that. Here are things to con­sider.

What’s in a name?

USB-C, or USB Type-C, is the phys­i­cal con­nec­tor used by both Thun­der­bolt 3 and USB 3.1. Like Ap­ple’s Light­ning con­nec­tor, it’s re­versible, so there’s no fuss work­ing out which way to in­sert it into a port.

On a 12-inch MacBook, the USB-C ports are lim­ited to USB 3.1 Gen 1’s 5Gbps max­i­mum trans­fer rate, which is the same the­o­ret­i­cal peak as you get from USB 3.0. Ap­ple’s brand-new MacBook Pros are the first Macs to sup­port USB 3.1 Gen 2’s in­creased band­width of 10Gbps, which matches first-gen­er­a­tion Thun­der­bolt. Thun­der­bolt 3 is the king of through­put, though, with a max­i­mum rate of 40Gbps.

Us­ing a USB-A de­vice

Ap­ple sells its own USB-C to USB-A adap­tor for £19, which in­cludes a short length of cable be­tween the two ends. You could use that with an older USB hub to add more of the older port type. Sat­e­chi sells a sim­i­lar adap­tor that dis­penses with an in­te­grated ex­ten­sion cable. It’s just £8 (amzn.to/2fLaV0W). Thun­der­bolt 3 docks are al­ready on the way. Belkin has an eight-port model with a £350 price tag, and OWC’s of­fer­ing has 13 ports for $300 (about £240). You don’t have to go to such ex­pense if you won’t be us­ing high-per­for­mance Thun­der­bolt 3 de­vices; a USB 3.1 dock may meet your needs. Sat­e­chi’s Slim Alu­minium Type-C Multi-Port Adapter (£58, amzn.to/2fdWuji) is equipped with two USB-A ports, a USB-C charg­ing port, and a 4K-ca­pa­ble HDMI port (lim­ited to a 30Hz re­fresh rate).

Adding a dis­play

Ap­ple’s two USB-C mul­ti­port adap­tors have ei­ther a VGA or an HDMI port (with the right cable, you can con­nect a DVI dis­play). Each has a USB-C power port and a USB-A port.

To con­nect a screen over full-size or Mini Dis­playPort (say, to get a 60Hz re­fresh rate from a 4K mon­i­tor), ig­nore Ap­ple’s Thun­der­bolt 3 to Thun­der­bolt 2 adap­tor – strangely, it works with Thun­der­bolt dis­plays but not Dis­playPort; Google sells a USB-C to Dis­playPort cable (£33, bit.ly/2fyLME6), to which you might add a Mini Dis­playport (1.2) adap­tor, though we haven’t tried it.

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Ap­ple’s USB-C to USB-A adap­tor is £19. How­ever, adap­tors that are both less ex­pen­sive and smaller are avail­able.

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