The problem with the new MacBook Pros isn’t the type of ports, it’s the number of them

by | Nov 2, 2016

While everyone’s lamenting the death of MagSafe and the SD card slot, there’s a more serious concern I have about the new MacBook Pros: the paltry number of ports. Whether all USB-C or a combination of different types, this just isn’t enough on a “pro” machine.

I’m writing this from a two-year old MacBook Air. It’s currently plugged in via MagSafe and I still have — let me double check — three ports available: 2 USB and 1 Thunderbolt. That is the same number of ports I would have available if I wasn’t connected to power.

Plug in a new 15-inch MacBook Pro, though, and suddenly you’ve lost one of your ports, leaving you with the same number as I have on my older, non-pro machine.

But that’s not all, because I also have an SD card slot available. Connect a card reader into the new MBP, and now you’re left with just two ports. Add a monitor and an external hard drive (a common set up for pro users) and your ports are all gone. So where do you plug in your iPhone (which will require a new cable, by the way)? Do you have a printer? What about a second monitor?

If you opted for the cheaper 13-inch model, things are worse: you only had two ports to begin with.

Sure, the solution to this is to buy a hub, but Thunderbolt 3 hubs are pushing $200. (On that note, Apple will sell you a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2/1 adapter for $50.) And hubs can be a nuisance, especially if your work surface isn’t very large.

Of course, all your problems will be solved if you opt for one of those fancy new 5K displays from LG. This monitor provides power to the laptop and serves up an additional three USB-C ports, as AppleInsider reported. This is, by far, the most elegant solution. It is also the most expensive: LG’s UltraFine 5K display costs $1,300.

To be fair, I have to commend Apple for embracing an industry-standard connector and going all-in on it. That’s a much bolder move than the “courageous” removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7.

I would have been okay with the removal of the SD slot, and (less) okay with the removal of MagSafe, if Apple had introduced additional ports to fully replace them. And I can handle #donglelife while I wait for everyone to board the USB-C train. But when the effective number of ports on a pro machine is less than those on a two-year old, consumer laptop, that’s troubling.


P.S. Why is EVERYONE using color explosions to show off their products these days? Here’s a screen grab from Microsoft’s Surface Studio launch video: