USB-C is becoming the new standard, but what is it? Check out our buyers’ guide to USB-C cables, chargers and adapters for MacBooks.
Apple announced the 2015 MacBook to general applause, but one of the surprises – the addition of a USB-C port at the expense of MagSafe charging port, Thunderbolt and SD Card reader – was met with a fair amount of criticism and anger, though that hasn’t stopped Apple from continuing the design in subsequent models.
USB-C is a new standard of USB that allows transfer speeds of 10Gbps, as opposed to the current 5Gbps rate available with USB 3.0, while it also offers decreased charging times. It’s not a one trick pony, either – USB-C handles data transfer, video output and power input.
Similarly to Apple’s Lightning connector, USB-C doesn’t have to be plugged in at a certain orientation, which means that you can wave bye-bye to the age-old USB guessing game of “Which way does it go in?”
Fortunately for those without a full range of USB-C gear, Apple will provide you with an adapter to extend the functionality of this port… for a price. Other companies offer more budget-friendly alternatives, along with a range of other USB-C cables, chargers and accessories. You can also add extra USB-C ports to a MacBook.
Dodocool USB-C Charging Hub
For laptops that support only USB-C the Dodocool USB-C charging hub is a neat gadget that allows you to add on four full-size USB 3.0 ports that can handle data transfer at up to 5Gb/s, and still charge your device via the USB-C input at the bottom.
The Dodocool is a great-looking device, available with a gold or grey matt aluminium outer casing. It feels well made and is easy to use, with no drivers required.
Moshi USB-C Multimedia Adapter
Moshi has a good selection of USB-C accessories for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. This is one of our favourites. Its premium build quality and reliability is exactly what Mac users are looking for.
It offers two USB-C A ports, a godsend for users of recent generations of MacBook and MacBook Pro. With an HDMI port, connecting to a larger monitor is a doddle, while the SD card slot tops it off for a true multimedia advantage.
It’s not a problem on the MacBook Pro, but 12in MacBook users should bear in mind there is no USB-C port, so using this while charging is not an option.
Satechi USB-C Multi-Port Hub Adapter
Like the Moshi USB-C Multimedia Adapter the brushed aluminium Satechi USB-C Multi-Port Hub Adapter offers two USB 3.0 Type-A ports and 4K HDMI.
It lacks the SD card slot found on the Moshi but does include a USB-C pass-through port so you don’t sacrifice your laptop’s type-C port – allowing you to charge your laptop while using the adapter’s other outlets. This is especially handy for owners of the 12in MacBook, which has just the one USB-C port.
it’s designed to complement Apple’s MacBook range with availability in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space grey colours.
Satechi warns that it isn’t compatible with Apple’s SuperDrive CD/DVD drive.
Satechi Type-C USB Passthrough Hub
A neat, super-compact solution for owners of the 12in MacBook is Satechi’s USB-C Passthrough Hub that features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD and Micro SD card slot, and a charging port.
It fits directly into the 12in MacBook, but will also work with other USB Type-C devices such as the Chromebook Pixel.
Its brushed aluminium design compliments Apple’s MacBook range in Rose Gold, Gold, Silver and Space Grey.
Satechi also has a double-C-port adapter for the larger MacBook Pro range, for example the Type-C Pro Hub with 4K HDMI, USB-C port, 2x USB 3.0 ports and SD/Micro Card Reader for £89.99/$89.99.
OneAdaptr EVRI USB-C Charger
OneAdaptr makes the innovative Twist World Charging Station, and now has a USB-C adapter that makes life much easier for USB-C MacBook and MacBook Pro owners.
Not many reviewers mention the power charger Apple ships with the MacBooks. But try plugging one of these giants into a travel adapter and then fitting the whole thing into a hotel or meeting room power socket. Then you’ll learn that the brick is so big that it often just won’t fit or so heavy that it falls out of the wall!
The problem is the closeness of the plug prongs to the charger itself. OneAdaptr’s slimmer Evri 80W USB-C charger solves this travel misery by separating the charger ‘brick’ from the power source with a handy cable. Now you should be able to fit the plug to a travel adapter and access any power socket.
It’s also a neat solution for office or house-bound MacBook users who need extra standard USB slots for charging other devices.
Evri provides enough power to charge any USB-C laptop on the market today – not just Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro, but others from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, etc.
It boasts four Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 ports that allow fast-charging of many smartphones and tablets. This will quick charge iPhone X/8/8+ and iPad Pro up to 2-3X faster with a USB-C to Lightning cable (not included). Plus it has one extra USB-C port – so five ports in all.
For the USB-C laptop traveller, the Evri looks like the only charger you need to take with you; yes, leave the Apple charger behind. Of course, you’ll need the usual travel adapters too when visiting countries with different plugs.
Satechi Type-C 75W Travel Charger
We’ve actually ditched our Apple USB-C Power Adapter – that shipped with the MacBook Pro – for Satechi’s superior Type-C 75W Travel Charger.
It’s smaller than Apple’s chunky square charger, which we sometimes find too large for the space given to hotel power sockets (often stuck behind desks, or near the bedside table). And it’s a little lighter (366g compared to Apple’s 380g).
Best of all it also offers three extra standard USB ports so you can charge your phone, tablet or other device at the same time as your laptop. And one of those ports features Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 that offers up to 38 percent faster charging than Quick Charge 2.0.
The USB-C PD port is powered up to 60W. That’s a little less powerful than the 87W Apple Charger that ships with the 15in MacBook Pro but basically the same as Apple’s 61W Charger that ships with the 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro.
The AC plug is removable for compact, easy storage, and could be swapped for any international plug cable, or just have a travel adapter added when required.
While the Apple USB-C Charger costs £69/$69 (61W) or £79/79 (87W), the Satechi Type-C 75W Travel Charger is priced at £72 in the UK (via Amazon) and just $60 in the USat the time of writing.
Ucouso USB-C Hub with RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Another port lacking on all of today’s MacBooks is Ethernet. Some MacBook owners may never have even heard of Ethernet, but it’s what we used to attach our computers to before Wi-Fi – quaint, eh?
But while Wi-Fi is convenient it’s not always the fastest, and if you use your MacBook or MacBook Pro in one place for a while then sometimes a wired Ethernet connection makes sense.
Ucouso makes a varied range of multiport USB-C adapters and hubs, including one that includes three old USB ports and an RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port at one end. It also sells a cheaper hub with only the Ethernet port.
You can find all its USB-C hubs and adapters on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.
OWC USB-C Dock
One of the unavoidable facts about the USB-C MacBook is the lack of ports. But, if you’re here, you probably don’t mind and have taken the plunge anyway. If you love the portability of the MacBook but also want the option of full-on ports and desktop usability, then the OWC dock is the best product on the market.
It’s designed to bring easy compatibility and maximum productivity to what is a limited laptop in some ways. The dock needs mains power to run, but it’s worth it for the pay off. You get full USB-C power to your machine, as well as (wait for it) 4 USB 3 Type-A ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, HDMI with 4K support, Ethernet port, audio port and a USB-C computer link port. So, a lot.
It allows you to connect a plethora of devices of all ages to your brand new laptop, as well as connect it to a display via HDMI. This is thankfully compatible with DisplayPort and can manage 4K options, so if you want you use your MacBook at home or in the office with four or five things plugged in, this is the option to go for.
It’s a tad complicated to set up and only comes with 2 cables (power and USB-C to USB-C) but as long as you only use it at one workstation it’s the best all-out solution we’ve used.
Syncwire Nylon-Braided USB-C to USB-A Cable
Cables are one of the classic accessories where people like to save money – especially after they look at the prices Apple itself charges for replacements.
Unfortunately, being a cable cheapskate can sometimes be a false economy – you save money on each cable, but they break and require replacing so often that it doesn’t really work out any cheaper in the end. Luckily, Syncwire’s nylon-braided cables are impressively solid, without breaking the bank.
The nylon jacket will resist damage from moisture or bending, without sacrificing any flexibility, and it supports data transfer speeds up to 5Gbps, and charging output up to 3A.
USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter
Apple’s USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter allows you to connect your USB-C enabled MacBook port to an HDMI display, a standard USB device, and a charging cable – all at the same time. The USB port allows you to connect incompatible USB accessories (flash drives, cameras) to your USB-C enabled MacBook.
The adapter supports full 1080p HD video output to your TV (HDMI-enabled, of course) where you can mirror your MacBook’s display or play movies. There’s a catch, though, as the actual HDMI cable doesn’t come with the adaptor and you have to buy that separately, which comes as a surprise when you consider that the adapter costs £49.
There’s another variation available that supports VGA displays, also costing £49.
USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter
Some older displays and especially projectors still use the VGA standard for connection. Unveil your shiny new 12in MacBook or Touchbar MacBook Pro at your next meeting, then die of frustration when the projector has a VGA connection.
All is not lost, except that meeting then and there and a pile of cash, as Apple’s USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter costs £69 or $69. Gulp.
But, hey, Apple doesn’t own USB-C, so there are far cheaper options out there. Check out our round up of the best USB-C-to-VGA adapters we found online.
Apple USB-C to Lightning Cable
Apple will have its reasons, but if you have an iPhone and a MacBook or new MacBook Pro, you can’t plug in your iPhone to your laptop. Even the latest iPhone 7 ships with a Lightning to USB-A cable for old connections.
So, one of the only options is a USB-C to lightning cable like this. Once you take the hit, you’re likely not to need another iPhone to MacBook cable for a while.
USB-C to USB Adapter
For those of you that only want to make your older USB enabled devices compatible with USB-C, there’s a cheaper alternative available. Apple sells a USB-C to USB adapter, which allows you to connect pretty much any standard USB accessory to a USB-C port.
This will also let you plug an iPhone into one of the new USB-C MacBooks.
While this method only enables you to use one device at a time, it’s better than having to buy a host of USB-C devices to go with your new MacBook! As we mentioned, it’s a lot cheaper than the multiport adapters.
Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter
This adapter is designed to help you smoothly transition to using USB-C. You may well have devices such as hard drives and external displays that use Thunderbolt 2 connections. This little gadget lets you keep using them with your MacBook or new MacBook Pro.
It also allows new Thunderbolt 3 devices to connect to a Mac with Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 ports – but to take advantage of it this way round Apple advises you need to be running macOS Sierra or above.
Belkin USB-C accessories for MacBook
Belkin has also thrown its hat into the USB-C adaptor ring by announcing a whole range of various USB-C adapters and cables.
They range from straightforward USB-C to USB-C cables, to adapters for USB-A and Micro-USB, and some more comprehensive multi-port hubs.
Belkin has a more comprehensive range of cables than Apple – and for the most they’re cheaper, and some even come in varied colours in case you want something other than Apple-white.
Choetech USB-C Adapter
Choetech has also developed a USB-C to Digital AV multiport adaptor that’s identical in both build quality and connections to the official Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adaptor. The only difference is the price: instead of costing £49, the Choetech costs £28.99.
The Choetech adaptor has a HDMI output, USB-C and a USB 3.1 port (USB 3.1 is backward-compatible with USB 2.0 & 3.0). This makes the adapter useful for connecting a USB and USB-C device to your MacBook, but also allows you to output video to an external monitor or television. The adaptor is able to output a 1080p signal at 60Hz or UHD (3840×2160) at 30Hz.
SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Card USB-C Reader
If you’re a digital professional or just a photography enthusiast, chances are you might be slightly peeved that the new MacBook Pro you held out for doesn’t have an SD card slot.
SanDisk is here to save the day. This neat SD card reader is USB-C compatible and will allow Thunderbolt 3 speed transfers of all your high resolution photos and videos.
Be warned, it doesn’t come with an SD card!
Nonda USB-C to USB-A adapter
There’s a misconception that USB-C is an inconvenience, hence the exitence of little adapters like this one from Nonda. USB-C isn’t so much an inconvenience as a completely new tech standard, so products like this are just there to help us bridge the gap. Positivity, people.
This cute little adapter is simply to allow you to plug in one standard USB device or cable at a time, great for charging or syncing your iPhone or using a USB stick. Just don’t misplace it, it’s tiny.
One of the gripes some Apple enthusiasts had with the introduction of USB-C to the MacBook is the lack of MagSafe connector. It’s impossible to incorporate a magnetic connection similar to Apple’s usual MacBook Air/Pro connection flush to the casing with USB-C.
It does however mean that if someone trips over your charge wire, your shiny new MacBook could go flying. USB-C has a pretty tight connection, meaning your cables are a potential hazard now.
Enter Griffin with its excellent BreakSafe Breakaway Power Cable. The company has built a 6ft USB-C charge cable that is compatible with the MacBook’s wall charger with a built-in magnetic connection.
If tugged this safely pulls apart from the small connector on the MacBook, averting certain damage to your machine. Highly recommended, and used frequently by us here at Macworld.
It is only for power though – so you won’t be able to use it to connect accessories or a display.
Kanex USB-C cables and adapters
Kanex has an all-encompassing range of USB-C adapters for the discerning MacBook user. As with many USB-C accessories, a lot of the cables are for data transfers, including the USB-C to USB adapter that allows you to plug existing USB devices into your MacBook – provided you have the device’s original cable.
They do also make a USB-C to USB cable, which is handy for plugging in directly to devices with a USB port, such as a portable hard drive. Other handy products include a USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter if you want to plug your MacBook into a wired Ethernet connection, or its USB-C to HDMI 4K adapter to connect the MacBook to a compatible 4K display or TV.
Moshi USB-C cables and adapters
If you’re after a particularly premium set of adapters and cables to go with your MacBook, Moshi might be the company to plump for. One of its best USB-C products is its USB-C to USB-C cable. It’s a two metre long charge cable with smart LED indicators that keep a track of your charging status. This is great, as the MacBook doesn’t have such a feature; one that might be missed by those used to it on the current MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
It also makes great quality HDMI adapter that supports 4K, and a USB-A adapter for plugging in USB devices such as hard drives.