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Will your new MacBook crash to the ground without MagSafe? (Yes.)

Glenn Fleishman | March 13, 2015
Perhaps we should have read it as an omen that the MagSafe 2 adapter for older, original MagSafe connectors was listed as discontinued on the Apple Store in the U.S. and Canada last week. It's back in stock this week, but MagSafe's future in new Mac laptops is uncertain with the revelation of the single-port MacBook. With just a USB-C connection for power, data, and display, MagSafe may be on its way to sing with the choir invisible.

Greg Koenig, an industrial designer in Portland, Oregon, and a principal at Luma Labs, examined Apple's logic board images and other photos of the MacBook at my request. He noted that the USB-C female connector isn't part of the main logic board, unlike connectors on previous MacBooks. This isolates damage, if any were to occur.

Koenig says the port's design doesn't expose any portion of the sheet metal beyond the aluminum case. With enough oblique force, the cable's metal head will be pinioned against the MacBook's frame, not putting stress directly on the port. If the laptop is loose on a surface, pulling obliquely on the cable will almost certainly bring the laptop with it more reliably than in our "perfectly straight-out" thought experiment.

However, if the laptop is secured in some fashion — even if you're holding it tightly in your hands — the cable's male plug end is probably the weak point, and it would be torn off, said Koenig, leaving its shell in the USB-C port, potentially without causing any harm to the MacBook. The metal shell could then be removed carefully.

Trip the lightweight fantastic

At some level, I'm trying to reverse engineer Apple's thinking around design and testing, both in its larger engineering participation in shaping USB-C, and in its particular implementation. All the calculations and exercises above have certainly been performed a thousand times in simulation and prototyping internally, shaping the development of the socket, logic board, external cables, and more.

In the end, it's not really enough. Mac laptops are going to go crashing to the ground in vastly greater quantities than they have over the last several years. I've heard it said since Monday morning that MagSafe was the single best hardware feature Apple invented for its laptops, and I'm hard pressed to deny that — although extra-long battery life is nice, too.

Clearly, MagSafe was better and experts agree. I recommend retraining your toddlers now.


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