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The first batch of USB-C adapters and cables, tested

Glenn Fleishman | April 28, 2015
When Apple announced the MacBook in March, the new USB Type C (USB-C for short) port caused head shaking and chin scratching. Though the standard had been released in September and shown off at the CES trade show in January, no ecosystem existed. It was hard to know how a single-port USB-C laptop would function in the real world.

I wanted to test the C to A cables with a USB 3 hard drive, but most drives use the USB 3.0 Micro B jack, and include a cable with that type of plug on one end and a Type A on the other. I was able to confirm via Apple's Type A female adapter that such an arrangement connects and transfers data at 3.0 speeds. At some point, we expect to see USB-C alongside or instead of Micro B, reducing adapter and cable types required.

While I had an Apple 100 Mbps ethernet USB 2.0 adapter on hand, I wanted to bump it up a notch. The Thunderbolt gigabit ethernet adapter was, of course, not an option, but Cable Matters offers — take a breath — a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to RJ45 Gigabit ethernet Network Adapter in Black ($18).

The color matters when you're trying to figure out the driver to download, because it's shipped different versions of similar adapters. Yes, this adapter ships with a CD-ROM and a note to download a driver from the web. Fortunately, ASIX, which makes the underlying hardware for this adapter, is up to date with an OS X 10.10 Yosemite driver, which installed and worked perfectly at both 100 Mbps and gigabit speeds.

Shape of things to come

Apple's main stumble regarding USB-C is coming out ahead of passthrough cables. Its two multiport adapters are expensive and shipping late, which will lead to some frustration. There are just a smattering of connectors out now, hinting at the ecosystem yet to come.

It includes almost nothing related to power, which will be where we'll see the most diversity and options, as multiport splitters, power adapters, and batteries will be produced for many USB-C devices and ostensibly will all be compatible with one another.

We'll add new installments as more hardware appears, and let us know your experience with early cables and adapters.


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