Tuesday, March 10, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Vanishing MacBook Pro Ports

Jason Snell:

This chart covers the era of 15-inch laptops, from the original Titanium PowerBook G4 in 2001, and also includes the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019). I chose the last top-of-the-line 15-inch laptop to be released in a given year, and no, I didn’t include any bigger or smaller laptops.

Witness the rise and fall of Apple laptop ports, which peaked at 11 with the 2003-2005 MacBook Pros and has reached an all-time low the past four years with five[…]

Jernej Virag:

My new 13" Razer laptop has both TB3 USB-C ports and USB-A ports. Hard to describe how much less annoying it is to actually connect it to things compared to a Mac.

Nick Heer:

While neither an ExpressCard or SD Card slot are ports, per se, I think the removal of those connection options is also noteworthy.

As is the removal of the optical drive.

10 Comments

I remember being really annoyed when Apple first removed optical drives. But now, other than my once a month backups to Blu-ray, I basically have zero use for it. It really does seem like Apple made the correct decision.

It’s also my understanding after sorting through the initial FUD around USB-C that USB-A devices ARE completely compatible, all you need to do is replace the CABLE (eg Micro USB on the device end and USB-C on the computer end). You don’t need any actual USB-A adapters or hubs or whatever. Is this correct?

I still think it’s stupid that they removed HDMI because it’s such a small port and the adapters seem to have major compatibility issues based on the reports I’ve read.

Apple was right with USB-C, blame it on the USB forum for failure to make it work. Now with USB 4 being Type C only, hopefully this will begin the slow transition to ALL USB-C. I do agree with Ben G though, unless HDMI decide to use the same USB-C port as well, I really wish they had kept the HDMI slot.

I have a 2014 MPB, and miss the FireWire and Ethernet ports, but the SD card slot is the one I use all the time with my DSLR. I finally broke down and bought a USB optical drive, since the internal one in my wife's iMac is dying, and I've reverted to buying music and movies on physical media since a) it sounds better and b) Amazon and Apple can't suddenly take it away. It feels gross to carry around expensive adapters to plug into these useless Thunderbolt ports.

Sören Nils Kuklau

It’s also my understanding after sorting through the initial FUD around USB-C that USB-A devices ARE completely compatible, all you need to do is replace the CABLE (eg Micro USB on the device end and USB-C on the computer end). You don’t need any actual USB-A adapters or hubs or whatever. Is this correct?

USB-C is only a new connector (with additional abilities), so yes, all you need is a cable, adapter, or a hub.

The thing is, though, you will have to buy quite a few of those, often in unexpected places. That USB socket in your car, or the airplane seat, that power strip you bought that has USB built-in, the dozen cables you have stashed somewhere in a drawer — most of those probably use USB-A, and most of those you probably used to use with a USB-A-to-B cable. I also don’t think the USB-C revolution has panned out in the optimistic way Apple expected. Yet, anyway.

On the other hand, none of those were ever going to charge your MacBook anyway; for that, you used to need a proprietary, pricey (and in my experience, flaky after two years) MagSafe adapter. Now, you can use any charger with USB Power Delivery, which come in many more flavors and at lower cost. That’s pretty cool.

@Ben My picky label printer does work with a USB-C-to-A adapter. (I don’t have a C-to-B cable to test.) The issue is more that it doesn’t work with hubs, and so the small number of ports can be a problem.

@Sören We’re probably still at the point where more new USB ports I’d want to plug into are A rather than C. And they will be around for a long time. This is going to be a really long transition.

One good thing with the optical drive was that you could remove it and replace it with an additional hard drive in an adapter instead, which I've done several times, both for me and others.

(Of course, even better would be a small empty space specifically for adding additional storage when the need arises, but that will never happened sadly. These days with M.2 SSD it's not even that big of a space need, compared to the huge space the optical drive occupied.)

I have a 2019 MBP and only USB-C is MADDENING. I would love a HDMI port and a USB-A port.

And as Michael said, there are no USB-C hubs. And cables are a world of pain of what they support.

@Matt How can we even be at the midpoint of the transition if there are still no hubs? Even if I buy a device that comes with USB-C, I may need an A cable to attach it via a hub.

If Apple is such a great trailblazer on USB-C, why aren’t there 500 million iPhones with this thing?

My most recent laptop, a Dell Latitude E7470 has three USB 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet Port, one HDMI port, one mini DisplayPort, and an SD card reader. Think it has a SIM card too, but I do not have a WWAN card installed to take advantage. I do not find Apple's efforts here that impressive honestly. But that is par for the course at this stage.

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