First Click: USB-C is the best thing to happen to mobile computing in years

June 2nd, 2016


I’ve been at Computex Taipei all week, and I have yet to plug my MacBook into a wall outside of my hotel room. Normally this would amount to dereliction of duty at any trade show, but things are different now. The reason is USB-C, that controversial little reversible port that does everything; while there wasn’t much use for it a year ago when the MacBook launched, there’s now a whole growing ecosystem of adapters, monitors, and indestructible cables that are making it one of my favorite tech advances in a while.

My weapon of choice this Computex is the MOS Go, a hipflask-sized 12000 mAh battery pack that gives my MacBook about three quarters of a charge, which is more than enough for me to make it through a day of heavy use. (Of course, it’ll also charge a phone multiple times, and has a USB-A port if you need it.) Importantly, USB-C means the charging speed is dramatically better than you’d expect from a portable battery — it’s not all that much slower than plugging into the wall. Also it comes in Space Gray.

There are tons of similar and cheaper options available from companies like Anker and Kanex — all you have to do is choose based on capacity, design, or price. But that’s the beauty of USB-C; it’s designed to be ubiquitous. Compact, practical, inexpensive batteries that charge your laptop quickly on the go are a new product category. Some pre-USB-C options like HyperMacs were heavy and astronomically priced. Now that I have a USB-C charger it's hard to imagine living without it.

USB-C was one of the big stories of Computex last year as Intel announced that its Thunderbolt 3 interface would switch from Mini DisplayPort to the new connector. This morning at a press event the company checked in on how things were going, citing more than 60 PC designs shipping with Thunderbolt 3 along with 20 available accessories, and 65 more on the way. Intel expects the number of Thunderbolt 3 PCs to double with the launch of its seventh-generation Core processors.

And on the show floor of Computex, it’s impossible to avoid the connector. At this point, a laptop without a USB-C port is simply incomplete — the connector is both better for docking at home and better for using on the go. As long as you make sure your cables don’t fry it, that is.

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