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. The new 2016 version of the computer continued the USB-C trend, as did the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.
Fortunately for those without a full range of USB-C gear, Apple will provide you with an adaptor 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 and accessories.
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?”
For more detail on USB-C, take a look at our guide to Mac and iPhone ports.
Henry Burrell also contributed to this article.
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 Multiport 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.
The little LED indicator on the top of the unit shows if your MacBook is fully charged, while offering HMDI and USB-A ports. It also comes in silver, Gold or Rose Gold to match your laptop’s colour.
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.
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.
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.
A 2m version is also available here.
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 also 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.
Belkin USB-C accessories for MacBook
- RRP: From £14.99, From US$19.99
- Buy from Belkin
Belkin has also thrown its hat into the USB-C adaptor ring by announcing a whole range of various USB-C adapters and cables.
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
- RRP: £33, US$29
- Buy from Apple
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
- RRP: From £19.95, From US$19.95
- Buy from Kanex
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
- RRP: From £15, From US$15
- Buy from Moshi
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.