What USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 cables and adapters I’d recommend to any new MacBook Pro owners? Let’s start with these!
Make all the #DongleLife jokes you need, but USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 on the new MacBook Pro isn’t just the fastest connection available, it’s one of the most flexible. That means any port on your new MacBook Pro can become almost anything you need, from ancient VGA for that enterprise projector to HDMI for the latest video to USB-A for all your existing peripherals.
So, if you’re just getting started with USB-C / Thunderbolt 3, here’s what you’ll need.
Note: I tend to stick with Apple’s cables because there’s been enough uncertainty around USB-C that I’d rather spend a few more bucks to spare myself any and all anxiety. Your spending habits may vary. There are really good less expensive UBC-C alternatives, and often time Amazon will even suggest them to you alongside the Apple versions. You shop you.
USB-C to USB-C
Apple includes a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, since that’s what you use to charge your new MacBook Pro. Having an extra one on hand is convenient, but the thing about multitaskers is that they multitask. And the thing about standards is that they’re standard. That means there’s only going to be more accessories, of all types, that use them.
I currently use USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 cables to hook up my 5K external display and my SSD backup drive. They provide incredible bandwidth and incredible speed. You don’t really need them until you need them. Then you wonder how you ever did without them.
$20. I keep a spare or three around, just in case.
USB-C to Lightning
Did I mention I love multitaskers? With the USB-C to Lightning cable you can not only charge your 2015 or 2017 iPad Pro at twice the usual speed (with the addition of the USB-C to AC adapter, sold separately), you can connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch directly to your new MacBook. Likewise the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, or Magic Trackpad. Heck, even the Apple TV’s Siri remote. All the lightning things!
$25 for the 1m, $35 for the 2m. I typically keep a few in my travel bag, including the longer ones for nightstands.
USB-C to USB-A adapter
I bought one of these a couple of years ago when the 12-inch MacBook first came out, just in case I needed it to attach older drives or cables. It’s come in handy several times since then, mostly to connect to or charge accessories that still use USB-A to microUSB or miniUSB, like tethering a DSLR camera, hooking up a travel microphone for podcasting, or connecting a [USB A Ethernet adapter ($29)](https://www.amazon.com/Apple-USB-Ethernet-Adapter-MC704LL/dp/B00W7W9FK0/?tag=imoreb-20&ascsubtag=UUimUdUnU42685 to download really large files.
It’s the Swiss Army knife of USB-C adapters and so my gear bag is never without it.
$19, but you can find cheaper third-party alternatives.
Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2
I never really got into Thunderbolt 2 accessories. USB-A was my previous jam and then I moved right over to USB-C / Thunderbolt 3. With one major exception: Apple’s Thunderbolt 2 display. Sure, I have a fancy new Thunderbolt 3 5K display, but that just means my old Thunderbolt 2 display has simply moved into another room. And in that room, it’s permanently dangling this dongle.
If you have the same display, if you did go all in on TB 2 storage, or if you have Apple’s old Thunderbolt 2 to Ethernet adapter ($29) or Thunderbolt 2 to Firewire adapter ($29) you still want to use, you can dangle this dongle as well.
$49, but worth it for transitioners.
USB C to VGA or HDMI
They’re not just for presentation projectors any more. OK, so the VGA adapter is still for really old enterprise projectors, but the HDMI one is for anyone who wants to output video to an HDTV (or, fine, a projector). It’s convenient if you want a really big panel to preview — or even just watch — video on, and even if you occasionally want to connect to your main TV to play something off your Mac.
I bought the VGA one just for the lulz but I keep the HDMI one in my bad for meetings and the occasional conference. Since both have USB-C and USB-A out, they even work when you you need to connect to both at the same time.
$65 for each. Yeah, ouch.
Your must-have USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 cables and adapters?
These are the USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 cables and adapters you’ll find in my office and gear bag. What are yours?
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