2017 01: January

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MacBook Pro:

A couple of months ago, Apple triggered an outcry from "enraged critics" who couldn't believe that Apple would release a new MacBook Pro with all the old ports that they had come to love. It didn't matter that there were now four very high-speed Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and a very flexible touch-bar that replaced the 40-year old function keys; they wanted their SD card slot, ethernet port, and old USB2/3 ports. And as for the magnetically coupled power connector - that was essential. (They were welcome to keep their old MacBooks with all these ports, but that didn't matter.)

This is Apple's way of ensuring that we do move forward and improve our computing experience, whether we really want to, or not. We have seen it many times in the past: Mac replaced the Apple II, ATA disks replaces SCSI, USB replaced ADB, CDs replaced floppy/3.5" disks, CDs/DVDs gone, Firewire gone, headphones on the iPhone gone. We didn't like the changes at the time, but we grit out teeth and moved on - and we are the better for it. (Although I do have an old SCSI disk with some data on it ...)

Apple has made small adapters to enable any of these old devices plug into one of the new ports, and they are available at very reduced pricing until March. Third-party suppliers are not slow to see an opportunity either, and there is already a growing range of announcements of products to fill the void.

Griffin BreakSafe USB-C cable

The Griffin BreakSafe USB-C cable is a two-part device, consisting of a small piece that plugs into a USB-C port and stays there, and a 6-foot long cable that magnetises to the first piece, while the other end has a USB-C connector. In case of forceful and sudden jerk, the two break apart. The cable is designed to charge any USB-C device (including non-Apple products) that requires 60 watts or less of power, so it's not ideal for the 85 watt 15-inch MacBook Pro (though it worked in some tests). The plug-in part is relatively large, and the cable is fairly inflexible, so it is liable to auto-unplug with its own weight, or if you are moving the laptop around.

Elgato’s Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Elgato’s newly announced Thunderbolt 3 Dock provides you with three USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two Thunderbolt USB-C ports, 1 DisplayPort (1.2), and both headphone and microphone jacks. The intention is that you leave the powered dock on your desk where it connects all your peripherals, including displays. It can power one or two displays using DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 3 at up to 5K. The dock will be available at the end of January 2017 at US$299.95.

[OWC] DEC

The [OWC] DEC makes your svelte new MBP as thick as the 2012 model, it also adds USB-A and Gigabit Ethernet ports, an SD card slot and 4TB of storage to your Mac. The product is designed to slot to the underside of your Mac and is expected to ship in Spring 2017, price to be announced.

The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD

The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD was announced in October 2016. You get two Thunderbolt 3 and two additional USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, headphone jack and Gigabit Ethernet port. The powered dock can also support up to two displays, or one at 5K. Belkin hasn’t yet announced the price or shipment date.

Kanex Thunderbolt 3 Travel Dock

The Kanex Thunderbolt 3 Travel Dock was introduced at CES 2017. This is one of three new Thunderbolt 3 accessories from Kanex. It features two HDMI ports, a single USB, and a single USB-C port, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet slot. The portable hub supports dual 4K video output simultaneously and each at 60 fps from both HDMI ports. This product costs US$149.95.

CalDigit TB3

CalDigit has announced a new generation of its Thunderbolt 3 USB-C dock designed for the new MacBook Pro. As well as a range of I/O ports (for 5K displays, dual 4K displays, eSATA and 2 more Thunderbolt 3 ports, ethernet, USB 3.1 and Audio in/out) the TS3 Dock will feature 85 W power — this means it can fully charge the new MacBook Pro whilst in use. The TS3 is the successor to CalDigit’s existing Thunderbolt 2 Dock. The new dock is available to preorder now (US$250) with availability for ‘Q1 2017’. Price after availability will be $300.

HyperDrive

HyperDrive is a compact, super-fast USB-C hub for the new MacBook Pro and the first to take full advantage of Thunderbolt 3 speeds. Add back HDMI, two USB 3.1 ports, a microSD/SD slot, as well as Thunderbolt 3 & USB-C ports with a sleek aluminium hub available in both silver and space grey to match the new 2016 MacBook Pro perfectly.

Unlike most USB-C dongles which still run on slow USB 3.0 (5Gb/s) speed, HyperDrive is 10X faster by using not one but two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connections. Not only are other Thunderbolt 3 docks much bigger and bulkier making them nowhere near as portable, HyperDrive is also the first and only hub to take advantage of Thunderbolt 3’s maximum bandwidth to deliver more ports in the smallest possible footprint. That means you can use all ports on HyperDrive simultaneously without issue.

Hyperdrive is being funded as a Kickstarter project, and quickly gathered over 11,000 backers. Preorders are US$69, with retail pricing of $99, with estimated deliveries as early as February.

Glyph’s Atom RAID SSD

Glyph’s Atom RAID SSD brings 2TB of super-fast external storage. This features excellent build quality and out-of-the-box USB-C to USB-C connectivity, taking advantage of USB 3.1 gen 2 which allows for speeds up to 10Gbps. Glyph also has a non-Raid version for those not blessed with the new MacBookPro's high-speed connectors.

Apple

Perhaps the final word to Apple:
‘We’re absolutely more sure than ever that we’ve done the right thing,’ Apple’s VP marketing, Phil Schiller said when discussing the move to USB-C. ‘The rash of new peripherals suggests that third party Mac accessories vendors agree. They really want to hook you up.’

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© 2017 Canterbury Apple Users; SeniorNet Mac Inc.