Stop Whining About the One Port and Get Things Done – 2015/2016 Apple MacBook (One)
A lot of storm and drang gets vented about the MacBook (referred to some as the MacBook One). While people who love new shinies talk about how small and light and portable it is, power users bellyache about its one USB-C port and how they cannot get anything done on it. In addition to complaints about (last year’s model) being underpowered and the wonky feeling you get when typing on the keyboard. While there is some truth the latter two, I give little credence to the major issue many observers, pc-power users in particular, take with the one port. I think that is because a lot of us nerds like to find the one thing we don’t like about something and try to entirely discredit the notion of the product on that basis. The fact is that having one port on the MacBook One just does not make that much of a difference. At all.
As you can see from the banner picture, I’ve got a crap-ton of stuff connected to the MacBook One. To achieve maximum productivity, you just need to get to know your available accessories. Some people will complain about that as being an unnecessary burden. I shifted to using laptops as my primary workstations 6 years ago, and this is not anything unusual to me. Every single one of my workstations is running a USB hub, some powered, some not, as well as specialized connectors and accessories. Display adapters to get around having one video port, USB dongles for spacing, adapters for ultraportables that only have Wi-Fi. It’s all the rage these days. It does not have so much to do with having limited USB ports; it’s about having any port limitation; that is what will drive you to having added stuff dangling off the side of your laptop at home, and laptop PCs do it as well; not just Macs. Accessorizing a laptop to get as much out of it as I do a desktop is not some foreign concept. It’s the norm. But make sure that the things you get are more universally applicable to computers than just for the MacBook One. For that reason, I try to make sure that any connection hubs I buy for the MacBook One have standard USB connectors, but include one of these to adapt them to a USB-C connector:
This makes the hub usable with standard Windows PCs as well.
Oh, the hubs. I never told you about those. Here’s the first one:
This one is the king slayer; the one that you need more than anything. It combines an HDMI port, 3 USB ports, and an SD Card Reader into one hub with a USB-C connector on the end. It also, and this is the big one, has an input port for a USB-C connector for power. Without anything else, this one addition makes my workstation entirely unhampered by the MacBook’s lack of ports.
The second hub:
This one combines an ethernet port along with 3 USB ports. Killer. As it means I don’t have to use my MacBook on Wi-Fi only. I just plug this one into the other hub and now I have a complete port-solution stack that augments my MacBook one to equal footing with PC’s I have in the lab. I have another 4-port USB hub like this; it replaces the Ethernet port with an additional USB port. I could hook that up as well, but it would just be overkill. I currently have plugged into this rig a 500GB portable hard drive being used for Time Machine, a Roccat Ryos Mk Pro keyboard, an ioGear Chimera M2 gaming mouse (takes up two ports with the charging base), and an Asus MX279 27” IPS display. I also keep a USB dongle plugged into one port to help with clearance. This is one of the workstations where I am the most productive and get the most done. And I’m on last year’s MacBook One, not even the new one with a SkyLake processor. And when I unplug from all this, I have one of the smallest, fastest laptops with one of the highest resolution displays available for a device of this size to work on.
Having to add two USB hubs is not a big deal to me, and does not make this device some kind of woeful shortfall from the capability set of another MacBook or laptop PC. To say so, I think, is the typically sniveling trolling that plagues the tech world and online conversations. It’s a small thing, and definitely an acceptable tradeoff. If you just want to get a connector without USB-C input power, such as a USB-to-HDMI adapter, that is fine too. Keep in mind that the 2015 and 2016 MacBook One’s have amazing battery life and are going to run for 8 – 10 hours without power (maybe less if you are doing heavy multimedia editing). I picked up my 2015 MacBook One near the beginning of the year for $300 off and have had no reason to regret the purchase. If you’re looking at one of the new 2016 jobbies, I think you’ll be just fine with the one USB port. I’m not saying to run out and get one. I’m just saying that the oft-commented assessment that the one USB-C port is a problem is a bit exaggerated.