My favorite USB-C accessories

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UPDATED October 2022 with current products.

USB-C is Intel’s new replacement for USB-A, which was the standard rectangular plug we have been using for about 20 years. In the late 90’s USB-A unified many ports (Parallel, Serial, PS/2, ADB), and USB-C takes it a step further to add support for video, high power, and audio, as well as making the port small enough to work with mobile phones and tablets. They also took the opportunity to make the plug reversible, so you don’t have to worry about which way it plugs in anymore. And on top of that it’s the first universal laptop charging standard, so if you lose your Apple charger you can borrow someone’s Dell charger if it’s a recent model.

Last year some of the first USB-C computers started appearing on the market. The one that got the most attention was the MacBook Pro. Since then, many products have come onto the market for people with these newer computers. Here are some of my favorites.

USB-C Thumb Drive

This thumb drive flips around to work with either the USB-A or USB-C ports, and the metallic body makes it ideal for a keychain. It’s available in multiple sizes up to 1 TB.

USB-A to USB-C adapter

These little adapters are cheap enough you can buy one for every USB device and leave them permanently attached. There are many similar ones out there but these are my favorite because they are slim enough that you can use them side-by-side on a MacBook Pro. And they are cheaper and more compact that Apple’s own USB-C adapters.

USB-C Cables

The USB adapters above are great because they are cheap and easy. But if you want a more elegant solution that is less bulky and less prone to failure (every connection point is a possible failure point) you may want to replace the cables on your devices completely. First, you’ll want to figure out which type of port your device has.

Different USB shapes that are all being replaced by USB-C

Travel Charger

There are a lot of fantastic travel chargers on the market these days. What I always look for is a product that has 1 or 2 USB-C ports. Dual ports allow you to charge your computer and iPhone simultaneously. Apple has a really great, compact 2-port USB charger. And Anker makes a large number of chargers. Just make sure that you get a charger that is powerful enough for your computer. You can use a lower wattage, but your battery may drain slowly while in use. Generally:

  • MacBook Air requires 30w
  • 13″ MacBook Pro requires 61w
  • 15″ MacBook Pro requires 87w
  • 16″ MacBook Pro requires 96w

Car Charger

In addition to a traditional USB-A socket, it has one USB-C that supplies 30 watts of power, which is enough to keep a MacBook Air running just fine for basic use, to fast charge an iPhone or iPad, or to slowly charge a MacBook Pro.

Video Adapter

There are many options out there for different needs so you may want to search for the ports you want specifically. There are a lot of “dock” style adapters that include a video port, ethernet, SD card slot, USB-A ports, and many more in multiple configurations. but if you want one multi-purpose video adapter that can plug into just about any display or projector this one is a great option:

Hubs & Docking Stations

USB-C hubs and docking stations come in many configurations. Typically one refers to a hub as a portable block with many ports that you can throw in a bag. Some have “passthrough charging” that allow you to charge your computer and connect other devices with a single port, which is particularly useful for computers with only one or two USB-C ports. A docking station refers to a device that remains on your desk, permanently connected to power, a monitor, and other devices, allowing you to plug your laptop in with a single USB-C cable for data, video, and charging. There are lots of great configurations out there so you’ll need to decide which one fits your needs. My favorite brands are Anker, HooToo, and CalDigit. The list below is by no means complete, but it will get you started in the right direction.

One thing to keep in mind if you want an adapter with 4K video is that Macs only support 60 Hz 4K video over DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt 3 connections. 4K over HDMI is limited to 30 Hz which is fine for watching video but is not great for working on because your mouse cursor stutters.

Further Help

If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.

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