Dongles, Dongles Everywhere… maybe?

A bad tech ramble.

With every big shift in an Apple product, whether the iMac from 1998 removing the floppy disk drive, the 2008 MacBook Air only having 2 USB ports, or the removal a DVD Drive in the MacBook Pro in 2012 there is backlash. Why? Because people don’t like change, fundamentally speaking. All Apple does in these instances is see the writing on the wall about where the future is heading and jumps further ahead than “competitors”. I use quotations because no one else makes macOS hardware thus there are no direct competitors. So if you have to use macOS then you have to just deal with it. Most people, however, don’t fit this category and will use either Windows, macOS, or Linux.

The latest shift from Apple is with the MacBook Pro line. They have slimmed, thinned, and altered. Now with a very bright screen, a new keyboard, a massive trackpad, super fast SSD and RAM, a Touch Bar and Touch ID, and 4 USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. A considerable update for sure but that is it on ports. Charging, data transfer, monitors, everything is done through these. They support 40GBp/s transfer speeds to boot and should support external GPUs in the future, depending on software. (If you don’t know what these are check out the Razer Core). As you may have read or watched elsewhere this has caused some friction. Why? Because heavy users have plenty of USB-A devices that need dongles to be compatible with the new MacBook Pro. The removal of HDMI, USB-A, and an SD card slot seem to garner the most grief and for good reason if working with video or photos. Sure, Apple now sells a 4K and 5K display from LG that uses USB-C but having to upgrade all your monitors and your laptop is an expense few will be willing to take all at once. So adapters will be required for the short term. SanDisk offer an SD card reader to USB-C adapter for £33! An outrageous price for what it does, but if you rely on SD cards to transfer photos and videos from cameras then it is a necessary adapter. There is reasoning behind removing the SD slot on the MacBook Pro being that using a cable would be quicker now with USB-C and newer cameras have wireless transfer, although this is currently quite slow still. USB-C to USB-A adapters cost £9 from Apple.

These concerns are all fair for the short term for some. For example, my desktop machine has 8 USB-A ports. 2 are used for mouse and keyboard, 1 for a back-up drive, and then 2 others are occasionally used for my phone and a headset but this is rare. With the new MacBook Pro I do not foresee needing to plug in a keyboard or a mouse given the quality of the butterfly keyboard and the trackpad. I don’t plan on gaming on it and even if I did it would be Europa Universalis 4 which doesn’t need a mouse. I might plug my phone into it, this is true and a £9 adapter solves that if need be. As for a back up drive there are numerous USB-C based ones now which are far faster than the USB-A counterparts.

The point is outside of a few power users no one will need a dozen dongles, or even two. One USB-A adapter will suffice for the short term and as USB-C spreads, which it already is on HP, ASUS, Razer, Dell, and Lenovo devices, it will become the standard for every accessory. And for the power user who needs multiple USB-A, HDMI, SD slots then docks exist and I imagine are used already.

At the end of the day buy the machine you want and remember Apple has always jumped to the future before other companies and been complained about dongles required (remember the Superdrive?) but once people have used the new thing or its been a year or so the dust settles and people wonder what all the fuss was about.


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