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Six things to know about the USB 3.1 port in the new MacBook

Agam Shah | March 11, 2015
The new USB 3.1 port in the 12-inch MacBook is backward compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

4) You'll need a hub: If the USB 3.1 port is going to be used for charging, users will have to invest in extension cables, hubs or converters to open up the MacBook to external peripherals. Apple is selling a USB Type C to USB converter for US$19, an extension cable for $29, and if needed, a USB Type C power adapter for $49. Apple is also selling a $79 USB Type C Digital AV Multiport Adapter so the new MacBook can simultaneously connect to a 1080p HDMI display, USB 3.0 device and a USB Type C charging cable.

5) USB connections could get faster: USB-IF believes the current speed of USB 3.1 is enough, but has also simulated speeds of 20Gbps over copper wire, putting it in the same league as Thunderbolt 2. There's little doubt that USB-IF wants to ratchet up the data transfer speeds, especially with 4K video on the horizon. But the organization for now has more important priorities, like making USB 3.1 a port that can be used to charge laptops, mobile devices and appliances. The port will start appearing in more mobile devices starting in the first half of this year, and is not in appliances yet.

6) Next target, iPhones and iPads?: Does the USB 3.1 port spell trouble for the Lightning connector in iPhones and iPads? Only time will tell, but USB 3.1 has its own benefits in mobile devices. For one, USB 3.1 will support the upcoming MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) 3 specification, which can stream 4K video from mobile devices to TV sets. TV sets will ship with specific HDMI ports that support MHL, and users would need a cable that is USB Type-C on one end and HDMI Type-A on the other end to stream mobile 4K video to TV sets. Besides putting USB 3.1 ports in its mobile devices, Apple will need to support MHL on the devices.

 

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