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Why the new MacBook's single port is all you really need

Glenn Fleishman | March 19, 2015
The MacBook is designed for those who rarely plug in.

For we breed of nomads, a MacBook could be a hard sell unless and until clever docks are introduced. These are expected. A single dock, likely requiring external power, could handle DisplayPort output, and a USB 2/3 hub, as well as pass-through power. So far, USB-C network adapters haven't been discussed by Apple or others, but it should be possible, and that would be a must-have dock item as well.

Even with a dock, we're going to feel less capable with a single port or with USB-C as our only wired interface. We don't want to carry piles of adapters or a dock--the worst thing we have to do is pack separate mini-DisplayPort-to-DVI and -VGA dongles if we're expecting to give presentations on the road.

I'm likely an outlier in that category by owning a MacBook Air over a MacBook Pro. While I run Adobe InDesign, Lightroom, and Photoshop regularly on my MBA, it's a stretch and often involves tedious delays that I wouldn't encounter with an MBP. Still, I prefer the flexibility.

For my confreres, though, you're more likely regularly plugging in external hard drives, and if you're lucky enough to already be working at Thunderbolt 2 speeds, even a dock doesn't help, as you'd be knocked down to 5 Gbps with the new MacBook at best.

Mobile laptopian
The sweet spot of the MacBook is aimed squarely at the person who lives on a laptop and rarely, if ever, has need of its ports except for charging. They often find themselves infrequently able to plug in, and they need battery life long enough to let them not worry about that.

When you look at sales figures of wired peripherals, where they are stocked, and what kind, it's clear that wireless has won the day wherever it's possible--as with printers and networking--and that a relatively small number of users combine laptops with the regular use of external storage and other devices that benefit from the highest of high-speed performance.

What those users look for is the time between charges, not the capabilities when tethered. Apple describes the 2.03-pound, 12-inch MacBook as having nine hours of wireless web, the same as the 2.38-pound, 11-inch MacBook Air, and both get an hour more when just playing video. Apple shrinking the logic board and pumping in more battery in empty spaces certainly had an effect. (The 13-inch MBA weighs 2.96 pounds and Apple estimates 12 hours of routine use.)

The iPad Air 2 weighs half as much (0.96 or 0.98 pounds) but gets 10 hours for any mix of surfing, streaming, and viewing. It's clear Apple sees the range of 9 to 10 hours as ideal to go without a charge.


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