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#1
Old 05-17-2018, 09:52 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Cambridge, MA, USA
Posts: 93
Best way to support external display and USB 3 peripherals on a new MacBook?

I just received a new 13" MacBook Pro for my home office--which is awesome! But new 13" MacBook Pros have rather limited options for attaching peripherals--which kinda stinks. In fact, mine has just 2 (!) Lightning 3/USB-C ports, one of which doubles as the connection to the power supply. No USB 3. No HDMI or DisplayPort. There is a headphone jack (yay?), but as-is, when it's plugged into power, there is just one port available for connecting external devices.

Anyone have any experience with Lightning 3/USB-C docks or hubs on newer MacBooks? Recommendations on hardware? At a minimum, I'd like to be able to connect the following:
  • External Display (my 27" Dell has only HDMI and VGA inputs)
  • USB 3 external HDD
  • A second USB 3 port available for charging my phone, attaching a flash drive, etc

I've already got a bluetooth keyboard and I'm resigned to getting a bluetooth mouse as well (I suppose I'll take recs on that while I'm here too!), so I won't need to worry about connecting those. And I'm not really concerned with portability--whatever I get for this can stay at home, and I'll just get a USB-C to USB 3 dongle for travel purposes.

Do I need to find one that specifically has an HDMI output? There are more options out there with Mini DisplayPorts, but I'm wondering if the conversion is seamless?

Thanks!
#2
Old 05-17-2018, 02:30 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 470
You need to get something like this. I have no particular recommendation for or against that specific hub, it is just an example. USB-C is a mess, because it is three ports in one. It is Thunderbolt (display and fast stuff), USB, and power. Any particular USB-C hub might give you one, two, or all of those. When the hub says it has power delivery, that means that there is a USB-C port on the hub, which will pass power through to your Mac's USB-C port. So, using that hub as an example, you can plug in your monitor with HDMI, connect an external hard disk to the hub, plug the power into the hub, plug the hub into the Mac, and still have one port on the Mac free. That is convenient, because to move the Mac, you just unplug one thing, and can go (on battery power). You could also plug a mouse and keyboard into the hub.

Things get a little more confusing, though. If you already have an external drive you want to use, you need to make sure it is compatible with the hub you get. If the external drive is USB2 or USB3 (often the blue connectors), then you will be fine, and can just plug it into this (or another USB-C to USB3) hub. If your external drive is NOT usb, then you will have to find a hub with the appropriate adapter built in, and it is likely to be much more expensive.

If you are shopping for a new external drive, then you should look for one that is either USB-C or USB3. USB-C is sometimes called USB 3.1 or USB 3 Gen2 (or is it 3).

You can plug in a USB-C external drive to a USB3 hub if you have a USB-C to USB3 cable. Cables are another thing which are confusing. There are USB-C to USB cables which are only capable of USB2 and others which can do USB3, because USB3 has more wires connected within the cable. For example, I use a USB-C USB2 class cable to charge my phone in the car, because it was a bit cheaper and is thinner, but I use a USB-C USB3 class cable to connect an external drive to a USB3 port.

This is the setup I created for my wife. She does not use an external monitor, but if she did, all that would have changed is my choice of hubs. She has the Mac laptop with two USB-C ports. We bought a USB-C hub with 4 USB3 ports. She uses the hub to connect her iPad and iPhone, so she just reuses all of the old lightning cables we already had. She has a USB-C external drive, which she generally connects over a USB-C to USB-C cable directly to the Mac, but for the odd times when she wants the external drive and iPhone plugged into the Mac (because her hub doesn't do power delivery), she has a USB-C USB3 cable to connect the external drive to the hub.

Sorry if I'm not making this simple, but it is a bit confusing. Mostly if you get a reputable hub with all of the ports on it you need, you'll be fine. Connect the monitor with HDMI, don't use VGA.
#3
Old 05-17-2018, 02:40 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 877
USB-C is actually just a standard for a connector.

The hub linked in Echoreply's post should do what you want.
#4
Old 05-17-2018, 03:21 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,938
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mllz View Post
I just received a new 13" MacBook Pro for my home office--which is awesome! But new 13" MacBook Pros have rather limited options for attaching peripherals--which kinda stinks. In fact, mine has just 2 (!) Lightning 3/USB-C ports, one of which doubles as the connection to the power supply. No USB 3. No HDMI or DisplayPort. There is a headphone jack (yay?), but as-is, when it's plugged into power, there is just one port available for connecting external devices.

Anyone have any experience with Lightning 3/USB-C docks or hubs on newer MacBooks? Recommendations on hardware? At a minimum, I'd like to be able to connect the following:
  • External Display (my 27" Dell has only HDMI and VGA inputs)
  • USB 3 external HDD
  • A second USB 3 port available for charging my phone, attaching a flash drive, etc

I've already got a bluetooth keyboard and I'm resigned to getting a bluetooth mouse as well (I suppose I'll take recs on that while I'm here too!), so I won't need to worry about connecting those. And I'm not really concerned with portability--whatever I get for this can stay at home, and I'll just get a USB-C to USB 3 dongle for travel purposes.

Do I need to find one that specifically has an HDMI output? There are more options out there with Mini DisplayPorts, but I'm wondering if the conversion is seamless?

Thanks!
You don't seem to be appreciating the courage it took for them to ship that with only 2 ports.
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