I will be getting my new MacBook Pro which will sport four Thunderbolt 3 ports and I am going to need to connect various things to my new Mac. Actually, I really only have my display because I have gone wireless with keyboard, mouse and printer. Back at my Vermont office, though, when I get back I will have a USB scanner, a USB keyboard, a USB backup drive and a display to deal with so I thought it would be a good time to review the various Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C adapters from Apple. While Apple provides quite a few, 3rd party companies also have some handy adapters. For this article we will stick with Apple products.
Okay, first what is the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt 3? USB-C basically describes the port and cable end. The USB-C port is used by ThunderBolt 3 to provide additional capabilities. Basically, Thunderbolt 3 runs on USB-C so with Thunderbolt 3 you can enjoy 40Gbps bandwidth and reduced power consumption, while being able to move as much as 100 watts of power. A USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 means a single cable is all you need to power and move a large amount of information, up to and including two 60Hz 4K displays. It is also bi-directional with four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3 and eight lanes of DisplayPort 1.2. Computer companies are quickly taking advantage of the new Thunderbolt 3 standard and as usual Apple is leading the way.
Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter
This is the first Apple adapter I will buy. It connects to one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the new MacBook Pros or the USB-C port on a MacBook. The USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter lets you connect to an HDMI display, while also connecting a standard USB device and a USB-C charging cable. This will be perfect – I can use my existing large display, connect my charger and have a free USB port.
This adapter also allows you to mirror your MacBook or MacBook Pro display to your HDMI-enabled TV in up to 1080p at 60Hz or UHD (3840 by 2160) at 30Hz. It also outputs video content like movies and captured video. Simply connect the adapter to the USB-C port on your MacBook or any of the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your MacBook Pro and then to your TV or projector via an HDMI cable.
Use the standard USB port to connect devices such as your flash drive or camera or a USB cable for syncing and charging your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. You can also connect a charging cable to the USB-C port to charge your MacBook or MacBook Pro.
Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter
This is the same adapter but instead of HDMI connector it provides a VGA connector. Most modern displays and TVs have HDMI so you will probably want the HDMI adapter.
Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter
The Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter lets you connect Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 devices — external hard drives and Thunderbolt displays, for example — to any of the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your MacBook Pro. As a bidirectional adapter, it can also connect new Thunderbolt 3 devices to a Mac with a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port. It will NOT work with the MacBooks USB-C ports. If you have a wired ethernet network you might want this adapter and the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter to connect to the network. I will need this once I am back in Vermont to connect to our secure wired network.
Apple USB-C to USB Adapter
The USB-C to USB Adapter lets you connect iOS devices and many of your standard USB accessories to a MacBook with USB-C port or MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.
Plug the USB-C end of the adapter into the USB-C port on your MacBook or any Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port on your MacBook Pro, and then connect your flash drive, camera, or other standard USB device. You can also connect a Lightning to USB cable to sync and charge your iPhone, iPad, or iPod although I think I might just invest in one of the Apple USB-C to Lightning cables.
Apple USB-C to Lightning Cable
Okay so you have a brand new iPhone and a brand new MacBook Pro. How do you connect them? Well, unfortunately Apple has not moved to USB-C for their iPhones yet, so if you want to connect your iPhone to your new MacBook or MacBook Pro you will either need an adapter or this cable.
Connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod with Lightning connector to your MacBook with USB-C port or MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports for syncing and charging.
You can also use this cable with your Apple 29W, 61W, or 87W USB-C Power Adapter to charge your iOS device, and even take advantage of the fast-charging feature on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It comes in 1m or 2m lengths.
Right now, Apple has reduced all the prices on USB-C cables and adapters so it is not a bad time to gear up.
Third-party adapters may provide some additional features such as Belkin’s USB-C to Ethernet adapter or some adapters that incorporate multiple ports that might make hooking up easier. My ultimate goal will be a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 display that will have multiple ports built-in. Apple has teamed up with LG for some that are on sale now but I’ll bet I find a bunch more at the Consumer Electronics Show coming up in January!