The Dell XPS, Apple MacBook and several other systems on the market have decided to put all their eggs in the USB-C basket. And that’s proving to be an epic pain with suitable devices, cables and other peripherals still relatively hard to get. So is it worth the fuss?
The case for USB-C
There’s a lot to like about USB-C connectors. Unlike the more common USB-A, it’s an anyway-is-up connector so you don’t have to be too careful about which way to poke it into a connector. And it can replace a bunch of other connectors as the one connector is good for power, data and video. So, in theory, you can carry one or two identical cables in your bag and you’re set for almost anything.
Assuming the cable is well made, the connector is physically robust with no annoying pins to bend or snap.
As the connector is very slim, it means devices can be kept slim and therefore easier to carry and a little lighter.
The market seems to be the problem
The problem I’m finding is many computer makers seem to be of the mind that if a port can do lots of things that you need fewer ports. Apple, of course, is the worst offender with the MacBook with just one port that’s meant to manage you peripheral connections, power input and video output. Apple’s solution is a very inelegant and expensive array of dongles. Or you can resort to one of the many USB-C docking devices. Or you can buy a bunch of new cables.
Neither alternative appeals to me and, as a frequent traveller, dongles and adapters are just one more thing for me to pack and have to keep tabs on when working remotely or organising my kit.
Even Apple, who was first to market with USB-C, makes a USB-C to Lightning cable for iPhone connection an extra cost.
I’m packing for a week long trip to the US and find myself packing several extra cables and a mini-docking station in order to make sure I can connect something as simple as a USB stick.
What should the market do?
Apple, Dell and all the other computer makers that offer USB-C only devices should either include USB-C to USB-A adapter or make it a very inexpensive optional accessory – and not $75. At least Dell’s option is just $29 – which is still about $24 too much in my view.
I know we are in a transitional stage with USB-A connectors still prevalent after a two-decade legacy. But it seems that many hardware makers don’t really care and just expect us to re-accessorise completely when we buy a new computer.
Perhaps I’m being hypersensitive about this as I’m currently switching computer every week so everything that makes that more difficult tends to get on my nerves a little.
Have you had to make the USB-C switch? What were your solutions?
This story has been updated since its original publication.
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