Will Upcoming MacBook Pros Bring USB Ports Back?

Will Upcoming MacBook Pros Bring USB Ports Back?

As much as Apple's computers have led innovation in design, they also may have taken the minimalist approach too far with all their recent models only offering USB-C ports.

User have let their opinions be heard, and dongles are not the way. This may just be a case where the users made just enough noise to get Apple to change things for the better. The news comes after a note to investors alluded to more ports coming on the upcoming MacBook Pro models. This was also purportedly backed up by mention of no need for users to purchase dongles.

I have recently started using a 16" MacBook Pro, so after years of just reading about the dongle life, I am now living it. I understand the desire to have less ports, but it comes at a cost. That cost is keeping track of and dealing with dongles. The MacBook Pro has always been the workhorse chosen by numerous creators, so I feel like it should have everything you need under the hood. This is especially true with Apple's premium price tag. Features like an HDMI port, an SD card reader, and USB ports simply make devices easier to use and more capable.

What do you think? Is the MacBook Pro fine with only USB-C? I'm all for less is more, but hopefully, it can be without dongles this time. I know I'm not alone in hoping they are right about this rumor.

Log in or register to post comments

40 Comments

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I love to use Apple computers but Apple can't read customers day to day needs. They are at least very mediocre at making a difference between advanced technology and actual usability. Options will always win over control. I just received a Mac book air yesterday and totally skipped the Pro to avoid the touch bar. M1 is what saved their butt because I seriously looked at PCs and my son almost convinced me. Any Apple book should come with a fanny pack in the box right now, that's how far they have gone.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I actually love the touchbar, and use it daily. :D

I also like USB-C, it's universal in use. It can charge, it can transfer data, it can be used for the display. In fact, right now my MacBook is connected to the display via a USB-C port which is simultaneously keeping it charged.

What I'm unhappy with is most of the changes in recent software. iOS13 and 14 haven't brought me a lot of usable improvements but made my iPhone slower and lose charge faster, adding a lot of cruft I have no need for.

MacOS "Big Sur" makes some UI changes that are just usability regressions and brings only one minor improvement to an area of the UI that I hardly touch, and I see no other changes in Big Sur that affect me.

To me their hardware is fine, I'd be sorry to see the touchbar go, but their software needs a shake-up to retain usability and not just change for sake of change, or change to make a desktop OS more like a mobile OS (which has different constraints on UI and usability).

Benoit Pigeon's picture

There are rumors that the touch bar is done with.
I have plenty of USB-c and it's great, no critic but I think they have rushed removing everything else, well almost, for no reason. I say almost because somehow despite pushing the sale of bluetooth headphones, and stripping their phones from corded connection, you don't need a USB-c adapter for your headphones on Macs, just pug that jack directly into your machine. There is really no logic to this, none.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

Yeah I heard those rumours about the disappearance of the touchbar. I'm saddened by this.
I hope that it will still be an option in future. :)

g coll's picture

It is astounding that a 16" Macbook Pro which is designed with the creative professional in mind does not have these port options. A top of the line professional tool without all the professional tools most creators need. Form over function and really bad decision making from Apple. The next batch I hope brings them all back.

Tony Clark's picture

Apple does not listen to the needs of pros, remember the matte display and how Apple went to glossy displays only? How long it took for the retina to be offered and then USB-C has been pushed down our throats. How many dongles does it take a pro to do his job? The race to thinnest and lightest has saved us ounces and put that weight into adapters to make it actually function. How about a USB 3.0, USB-C, mini display and whatever else pros need? I shoot tethered 90% of the time and already own a card reader so I can live without one on my laptop.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"How many dongles does it take a pro to do his job?"
I'm a pro, and it takes no more than two Type-A to Type-C adapters. Most of the time it takes none, since I bring a hub or dock that I'd need in any case.

"The race to thinnest and lightest has saved us ounces and put that weight into adapters to make it actually function."
OTOH, you don't have to bring those when you don't need them.

Montgomery Burns's picture

For me 0 dongles. I am actually grateful to Apple for pushing USB-C. One connector for everything has made my life easier. My only complaint is that the iPhones don't use USB-C.

Jim Tincher's picture

Apple shot themselves in the foot when all they could think about was how thin they could make something... so much so to the point that they removed the actual ease of use and true portability of a laptop by trying to create a "dongle utopia"! Nobody wants to tote/buy and plug in dongles when the interface should have been there all along! Nobody uses the Touch Bar (dumbest idea ever) which is why it's disappearing... and they are bringing back the magsafe power adaptor.... (why did they get rid of it in the first place?).

I'd like to know who they have in their "focus groups"... it's doubtful there are many creatives or people that actually use the laptop to it’s fullest, unless of course Apple just doesn't listen because they know better.

I'm not sure what their marketshare is for laptops, but I'm guessing it's not as large as it could have been if they hadn't been so hardheaded. Glad to hear they’re finally pulling their head out of their asses and delivering a product that warrants the above average price….

David Kinnear's picture

USB-A is yesterday's technology. I do not see a need to include that port on a laptop computer in 2021. I would like to have an SD card slot, though. MacBook Pros are used by many photographers and videographers who can make good. use of a slot. I am a bit torn about the HDMI port. AirPlay is much easier for those of us who own Apple TV.

Tony Clark's picture

The tether cable on my 5DIV's are USB and I'd like to get a few more years use out of them. I also use an external display for my shoots which allow the Clients and Stylists to see images as we shoot and they use mini display connections. What percentage of pros use USB compared to USB-C devices and I do not care to have dongles to adapt if it's not really needed.

Yin Ze's picture

You think that's bad....I'm deeply disappointed that Apple ditched RS232 and VGA port! Bring back the VGA port TIM APPLE! I want to be able to connect to my old monitor and printer without fricking dongle.

stuartcarver's picture

Please tell me this either sarcasm or trolling?

JAS Square's picture

And while doing that please bring back the ethernet port and for compatibility ad a token ring too. And then please bring all those goodies to the iPad and the iPhone as well and even to the iPod touch and the apple watch so I can work on my images on those devices as well without any dongles...

Just kidding, though I understand the desire to use former technology and not produce too much e-waste.

Well, I guess it is a matter of personal preference.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"I would like to have an SD card slot, though."
A USB SD card reader is under $10 and about the size and weight of a flash drive. Better yes, a $20 6-port USB hub that has an SD reader built-in and meets just about every connectivity need you could have on the go. I much prefer this to a larger laptop festooned with ports.
Yeah, it take some (minor) strategic purchases to get by with two TB3/Type-C ports, but for most of us it's not that hard. I've got five external drives, two displays, a webcam, desktop speakers, and a USB DAC connected to the four ports on my M1 mini.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Are you carrying your M1 Mini and all it's peripherals to different locations?

Having a SD card in a laptop is more for convenience because it's always there. No one was complaining about $$$ and/or weight. Having a SD isn't going to make the laptop that much larger heavier. Even if it does, as you say, "man-up".

Jacques Cornell's picture

No, I bring my M1 MBA on location, not the mini.
Yeah, it was nice to have an SD slot, but in my book it's no biggie. I just keep one of several tiny card readers in each of my bags. They're dirt-cheap, and I've never been without one when I needed one. And, when I'm working, I need an external anyway, even if it's just a backup. Never work without a backup.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Those tiny cheap card readers are slow though. Not all card readers are made the same. Most of them are only UHS-I speed capable.

As an example, I have a thumb drive size card reader (Transcend), a HyperDrive 7 port, and IOGear 3 slot. Max read/write I can get is about 86/79 MBs..

Then, with my UHS-II Kingston 4 slot (haha, the design looks like it's from the 80's), does read/write at about 200/139 MBs. That's about more or less twice as fast.

I can almost guarantee, if Apple adds a SD card reader, it's going to be blazing fast. You get the convenience of speed and one less crap to carry around.

Btw, if you examine the top lead photo, the only reason the bottom MB looks much bigger is because the lid is closed while the one on top is open. So, yeah, they can add a card reader without affecting the size.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Please tell me more about this Kingston 4-slot. Is that four SD slots? I've been looking for multi-slot SD card readers.

Steve White's picture

A simple USB-C to USB-A adapter ($8 at Amazon) fixes the USB problem.

I use a MBP with USB-C only. Yes, I have a small kit bag that has a dongle in it. I use it occasionally (hence the kit bag) but not all the time. For a lot of what I do, I have nothing, or only the power cable, plugged in.

Load up the MBP with a plethora of ports and it'll be heavier. That might be okay with you; it's not for other users. It's all a trade-off.

Yin Ze's picture

And what about Ubs-c to RS-232 adapter? This is where Apple failed.

Shaw Tan's picture

What failed? You can buy Tripp Lite RS-232 USB-C cable, and tons of cheaper Chinese bands from Aliexpress. I even have FTDI USB-C cable. Anything you can do with USB-A, there is a USB-C version. Don't buy adapter for your cable, buy a new cable!

Sam Tang's picture

and Apple will bring back the SCSI II port so I can use my drum scanner.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Screw dongles. Get USB-A to USB-C cables. USB-C is superior in every way. I can't wait until USB-A goes the way of the dodo.
As for dongles, you need at most 4 of them, and they'll all fit in a small matchbox and cost no more than $20 total. Just two USB-C ports on a laptop does seem a bit stingy, but the rest of the hand-wringing strikes me as silly click-bait instigated by Apple's competitors (all of whom are also going to go Type C in the near future).

Shaw Tan's picture

It's unnecessary, in 2021. I don't think I have any peripheral needs USB-A. The last thing I could think of is Logitech receiver, but these days Bluetooth mouse is good enough. Anything else, the USB-C version is better.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I personally do not know one single person who got rid of all their USB-A connected devices or drives, but I'm not saying there are people out there who don't do that. This said when I am at a shoot for full day shooting tethered, I may pack, unpack and so on multiple times a day and dongles are a major unnecessary added pain. I bring a lot of stuff on shoots and a missing dongle can ruin my day, at least an hour to go shop at the nearest place I can find. I'll back up to anything I can get to, a thumb drive or even a SD card. In fact, SD cards are my favorite format because I can insert them in my wallet and feel safe about having an extra copy that's always with me. If someone breaks in my car while I stop somewhere to eat, at least I won't lose the client and clients are my priority over stolen equipment. There are so many ways the need for an USB A connection can arise on location with clients it wouldn't be smart for me to not be prepared. I don't always get access to the client network, some clients I have to ring the bell to come in, some give me a key. It's all about service and totally be ready to provide no matter the situation and if the computer is designed to do that I can deal without the dongles. I don't know what you shoot but for me, I have to have a dongle in my bag, a back up in my car and one at the studio so I never take the one in the bag out and leave without. That's why we prefer having more options directly on the computer, it's not about whining.

Dillan K's picture

"I don't think I have any peripheral needs USB-A." Did you just buy your first computer or something? Personally, I don't throw out all my old equipment every time there is a standard change.

Jacques Cornell's picture

We hear this chorus of complaints every time an interconnect technology advances and Apple refuses to stay stuck in the past. Folks, you're ALL going to adapt to the shift to TB/USB-C, sooner or later. Might as well be sooner. It's better tech, and for the vast majority of users, the burden of transition is negligible.
All of you who are complaining about having to carry a couple of adapters the size and weight of a nickel, y'all better be emptying the change out of your wallet every night and trading in your interchangeable-lens cameras for new phones to save weight. The rest of us are going to man-up at the gym so we can dead-lift our massive 7-port Type-C hubs into our Hummers.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

How much equipment are you taking to a shoot? A tripod, camera bag and a few lenses if that much?

Jacques Cornell's picture

What's that got to do with it? Whether I'm bringing an iPhone and a biz card or a backpack, a rolling case, two desktop printers, a backdrop, and a 50lb. stand case, two chiclet-size USB adapters aren't going to break my back. So, now back atcha with another irrelevant question: Are you really incapable of carrying the weight of two nickels?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Don't worry about me and weight. I often bring 8 C stands, 6 strobe heads, 4 power packs and what ever I judge I will need when I am called for furniture. If it's leather I shoot, I'll bring even more in case it's a very reflective leather. I push two carts and sometimes, rarely, if there are steps and no elevators I have to move everything separately to the top no matter if it's one step or 20. The thing is, with my most basic set up for items that will be clipped I still have about 30 items including cords to assemble before I can take a first test shot. To me it's all about simplifying and and if I can skip adding steps or avoid forgetting one part at the studio the better my day. I have no clue why you focus so much on the weight aspect, it's the so irrelevant.

Jacques Cornell's picture

It's not about weight. You're the one who seems focused on it. I just don't see one SD slot in a laptop as a big asset or deficit. I would never rely onsite on just one built-in slot anyway, and often I want to download more than one card at a time. So, either way, I want to have at least one external reader, and it's absolutely no burden to bring one or half a dozen. Yeah, I hear you about simplifying, but in my book one slot just isn't enough, so nothing's actually simpler.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

The weight is all on you, read all my posts I have never complained about weight. All have criticized is being pushed to carry more junk. And SD cards are still manufactured so it's a little like having a gas car with no access to refill unless you buy a kit extension that you have to pack and unpack each time.

Jacques Cornell's picture

You keep harping on this and ignoring my other points. Bye.

Deleted Account's picture

I know people hate on the touch bar, but I use it all the time in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I wish they'd put something on it in Lightroom.

Anthony Cayetano's picture

USB-A is already on its way out. I’m all in for the return of MagSafe and a UHS-II compliant SD port. Keeps all of the four Thunderbolt-4 (I hope) ports free and can still be used for charging when the MagSafe charger is not available. Simple, pragmatic, and doable!

S Browne's picture

Don't need or want the touch bar but really want the SD card slot and prefer the Magsafe. All reasons I have't upgraded yet from my 2013 Macbook Pro. Looking forward to the new model with some of the old features.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

My 900 dollar Mac mini M1(upgraded the ram just incase) is blowing my mind and workflow needs. I traded in my 2018 MBP for 1k(Apples trade in program, which is a riot because you couldn't sell it on ebay for $500) and I added a iPad Pro to the order. No more laptop. Problems solved. Also, if you need a shit ton of ports, maybe you need to re think your workflow.

Enrico Gimondi's picture

I loved my 2015 MacBook Pro. In my opinion, last of the great machines that could do anything you could throw at it. As a working graphic artist / Photographer / videographer, I loved that no matter what job I showed up to, my Mac could handle it all. I think Apple forgot about what made the MacBook Pro so widely beloved! While I understand usb-c is the future and frankly, I love it, many of my clients don’t have the means to upgrade all their peripherals. Ergo, they still use the old usb plugs. I’m not a fan of dongles, but they are now needed. I have 2 gripes with Apple. 1. How about a nice 27” low cost monitor I can plug into instead of that plastic 3rd party one you sell on your site. 2. Move on already from the lightning cable. Time to just go usbc.