Monday, August 16, 2021

Cheap MagSafe-Like Adapters for USB-C

Adam Engst:

Apple’s desire to move to a single jack that could do double-duty for power and communications was the beginning of the end for MagSafe. USB-C offers those capabilities with a generally well-designed connector that is both slim and bidirectional. The only thing USB-C is not is magnetic.


Magnetic charging nubbins, which are readily available on Amazon from a variety of random Chinese manufacturers, have two parts. A tiny USB-C nubbin sticks out slightly from the side of the laptop, and an L-shaped magnetic connector connects to your existing USB-C charging cable on one side and grabs onto the nubbin with the other.


In all honesty, the user experience with the magnetic nubbin isn’t as good as Apple’s MagSafe. Either the magnets aren’t quite as strong, or the “outie” design of the magnetic nubbin means that it’s more readily subjected to shearing forces that break the connection. The old MagSafe ports were “innies,” which made their connections a bit more secure. The other problem is that the standard Apple USB-C charging cable is thicker and less flexible than the old MagSafe charging cable. That makes it a little harder to connect successfully since the magnetic connector has to align perfectly with the nubbin, and it’s more likely to be disconnected by movement.

But, overall, he recommends them.

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Kevin Schumacher

I pledged for a Kickstarter in 2016 for a magnetic connector.

The Cabin device itself is something I didn't pledge for (I don't know if anybody ever got theirs—there were a lot of problems with fulfillment). I did however pledge for the MagAdaptor and MicroAdaptor, which was two little pieces to make the connection magnetic, one for the phone and one for the Lightning cable. By the time I got mine I think I was on the iPhone 7 maybe, and I never really used it much. It was very well designed, but I never used it much for some reason.

I realize the article is about MacBooks, not iPhone connectors, but it brought that Kickstarter to mind.

Beatrix Willius

I had bought a MagSafe adapter on Amazon - they all look the same. But after half a year the connection has become unstable. It's very easy to lose the connection without seeing it immediately. That isn't good right now because the USB connection is making trouble: if I don't charge and then put the USB cable back in I need a restart to get the computer to charge. We need to go to the doctor again.

I’ve used these for years to charge a variety of devices. Primarily a XaioMi phone that used USB-C for charging and a nice set of bluetooth headphones. Overall my experience has been stellar. They’re inexpensive and work pretty well.

The quality does vary greatly by manufacturer. And different shaped nubbins work better/worse too.

I’ve found the oblong shape works better at holding firm. And using a cable with a dedicated magnetic connection is generally better than using an adapter of a regular cable.

one warning however

a couple months ago i connected my beloved Keychron keyboard to a to charge via a magnetic connector just as i’d done 100 times before. but this time the connector didn’t quite sear properly. it was askew and sat there half-connected for just a second or two before i disconnected and then reconnected it correctly. but by then the damage was done. the keyboard was totally dead.

after exhausting all other options i opened it up to have a look inside. it looked like a power chip completely smoked out and it took the controller down with it. both were surrounded by black char.

i still use magnetic connectors. even on my new macbook air. but i am a little more careful about how they connect.

I've been using these for years to normalize my charging cables, since I have devices with different USB ports. They're great, although I had to order a few different options from Aliexpress before settling on one. Like Isaiah says, quality varies a lot. Also, some don't use strong magnets (I want the cable to jump to my phone when I hold it close), and some are keyed and can't attach when rotated.

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