Why the New MacBook Has More Color Variants Than Ports

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Any time Apple stages a media event, it holds a death grip on tech blogs and sites that all pore over the company’s latest products and services. The Cupertino tech giant has really mastered the art of building hype. Yesterday’s event was no different and covered the Apple Watch, its features and its pricing, the flaunting of a new ultra-thin MacBook, and a handful of other smaller announcements.

The watch has commanded the most attention but the newest iteration of the MacBook is already proving to be just as divisive as Apple attempts to rejuvenate the product through redesign.

First the new MacBook is incredibly thin at just 13.1mm and only weighing two pounds. The MacBook Air had previously been a markedly thin device at 17.3mm, but Apple has managed to slim it down even more. This can only be seen as a good thing as it makes the laptop even more compact and light, and convenient for carrying around, but just how much thinner can you go?

Despite this super slim design, the display has been given a new upgrade too. The new MacBook sports a retina display at 2304 × 1400 resolution, which again tops the Air. It has also seen the trackpad given a reboot and it has removed the fan too.

But there’s one main area of contention for Apple fans: the USB Type C Connector. With the exception of a headphones jack, this is the only port on the laptop. So while you have a choice of three colors for the new MacBook, you’re only getting one port. Both Thunderbolt and Micro SD ports have been done away with.

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The reversible connection will be used for charging and for connecting to other devices. No older USB sticks or connections will work with it so if, for example, you want to plug in an old USB stick, you’ll need an adapter or use a wireless connection to transfer files from one device to another. The new USB-C port does however power HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort. HDMI and VGA adapters will be sold separately.

Opting for just a USB-C seems like a conscious effort on Apple’s part to usher in a new phase in device connections. “This is the vision of the future of the notebook,” said Phil Schiller yesterday, and it’s not just Apple either. Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Intel have all been assigning engineering teams to work on these connections, according to a report from The Verge.

Some Mac users might be a bit peeved though. If you want to charge your new laptop while also transferring data, then you’ll need the necessary cable (sold separately). This means forking over more money after paying $1,299 for the MacBook itself.

USB-C is still pretty new too. We only got the first glimpse of it last September, which means that there will of course be a period of getting used to it, like any technological change really.

Most interestingly though, and as mentioned above with the other companies, USB-C isn’t an Apple creation, meaning it will likely become the industry standard in our devices down the road.

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“Representatives from the PC, mobile, automotive and IoT industries have been knocking down our door anticipating this new standard,” said Brad Saunders, chairman of the USB 3.0 Promoter Group last August. “This specification is the culmination of an extensive, cooperative effort among industry leaders to standardize the next generation USB connector as a long-lasting, robust solution.”

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group has plenty of support from everyone from Microsoft to Intel so it’s not like Apple will be the odd ones out in the coming years.

“[USB-C] will offer more intuitive consumer experience by means of reversible plug orientation and cable direction designs. Further, this new USB Type-C allows for radically higher data speeds and power carrying capabilities compared to the existing methods,” said Ilan Spillinger, corporate vice
president for technology and silicon in Microsoft’s Devices Group, who added that USB-C will be an “important milestone” in consumer electronics.

Expect to see more laptops emerging in the coming year with USB-C ports, especially with the number of Windows laptop makers that will be eager to get new devices out with Windows 10 and to pull back some attention from Apple. In fact, just today, Google announced its new Chromebook Pixel, which includes a USB-C port in place of its power port.

Like any change though, consumers will have to be ready for some growing pains during the transition from one standard to another.

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