Two USB-C Ports on a MacBook Air is Absolutely Ridiculous

2 minute read
| Editorial

Apple puts four USB-C Ports on a MacBook Pro to make us believe that it’s a “pro” machine. The trouble is, we all do the same things with ports on a MacBook Air which only has two ports. This crippling is all very callous and manipulative by Apple.

The power of a pro-level computer resides in its graphics power, CPU power, RAM and memory bus speed. But Apple would have us believe that, somehow, four USB-C ports on a MacBook Pro is solely a pro feature and lesser Macs, say, a MacBook Air deserves fewer ports.

Rubbish.

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro

Apple’s MacBook Pro. What makes it “Pro”?

Reality Check

The reality is that when a mobile MacBook of some kind is brought back to the home or office and hooked up, the things it has to connect to remain in common. Very roughly:

  • External display: check
  • Keyboard and mouse (or trackball): check
  • Time Machine drive: check
  • Printer: check (if not using AirPrint)
  • Ethernet: check (if Wi-Fi not available or allowed)

It’s the power of the MacBook Pro that allows it to perform tasks faster, and more ports aren’t required to utilize that internal power. So why might Apple cripple the MacBook Air?

  1. A faux justification, in part, for the MacBook Pro’s higher price.
  2. A sales strategy designed to make the prospective buyer realize the obvious (more ports are better) and opt for a MacBook Pro instead of Air.
  3. Make a tacit admission that the buyer is going to need dongles and docks anyway.
  4. An obsession to make the MacBook Air appear clean and svelte. By tradition.

MBA sides. Ultra clean. Ultra crippled. Image credit: Apple

Perhaps an analogy will clarify my point. A company sells a horse saddle with one stirrup—allegedly for average riders. To get two stirrups, one has to buy the pro version of the saddle. But most any rider has two legs and rides in the same fashion and does the same basic things. It’s just that the pro rider is more skilled. Two stirrups are really the minimum.

But the company, following Apple, charges more for the pro saddle with two stirrups.

As they say, horse hockey.

Full of it

Our family MacBook Pro (2018) has all four USB-C ports full, and more would be welcome. How can a MacBook Air buyer possibly survive with just two USB-C ports?
Yes, a dock or hub is called for. And in that sense, Apple is just shaving dimes and forcing the purchaser into a technical corner—possibly for reasons cited above. And more cash outlay for hubs.

Holding back on USB-C ports on the MacBook Air strikes me as callous disregard for the technical needs of the customer. I hope Apple, I’m looking at you COO Jeff Williams, reconsiders this affront to user needs.

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Empedro
Member
Empedro

Rubbish is correct, but in a different context. It’s my opinion that it’s rubbish to complain about only 2 ports on a MacBook Air, that’s the price you pay for portability. It would be more relevant to make that same complaint about the entry-level 13-in MacBook Pro. I have a 2017 MacBook Pro “Escape” model, the 13-in without Touchbar & with only 2 Thunderbolt ports. I bought a 7-port expander dock to use with it but rarely have to bring it out. I have little need for Ethernet. I can use an Apple TV to connect to an external display/TV/data… Read more »

amorphous
Member
amorphous

For a few years now, I’ve observed an abundance of lamentations about the macs in the Context Machine podcast, the daily “struggles” podcast, the articles and their comments and so on, and yet, you’re still buying them. It’s clearly from the tone and opinions expressed there that some of you are not happy with the macs, and yet still using them. I believe you are so ready to try something else. There’s a world of possibilities out there. I don’t complain, but I don’t use them either (only iPhones). Instead of all the talk and saying “Rubbish”, and keep struggling,… Read more »

Member
Donald William Gillies

There exists a 6-way adapter for $35 with charging power that will solve all your Port problems and leave one extra pork free. In light of this multi dongle you really don’t need more than one port on your MacBook, because a multi dongle will save you a great deal of time plugging in unplugging out.

Old UNIX Guy
Member
Old UNIX Guy

John – this is one time I can’t agree with you. Certainly for you and your families’ use case 2 USB ports are not enough. However, we just purchased a MacBook Air for my wife and the 2 ports are fine for her. She never plugs into an external monitor, keyboard, or anything like that. At most she’d be plugged into power and a Time Machine backup disk simultaneously, so it’s no big deal. Personally, I’d MUCH rather see the return of MagSafe than 2 more USB ports. Here are some other things I’d rather see than 2 more USB… Read more »

geoduck
Member
geoduck

Considering that the MacBook had only one that had to also do power two might be a luxury. /s All kidding aside Apple has been pushing wireless really hard. Looking at your list: External display – Yes, that one is a problem. Keyboard and mouse (or trackball) – Apple is assuming you are using BlueTooth Time Machine drive – Apple is assuming you would be using something akin to a TimeCapsule wirelessly Printer (if not using AirPrint) – You answered your own question. AirPrint. Ethernet: check (if Wi-Fi not available or allowed) – Yes, WiFi or tethered to your phone.… Read more »

Brutno
Member
Brutno

Guess I’m one of the lucky ones. My MB Air has two USB 3 ports, Thunderbolt and a charging port. One of my USB ports contains a SanDisk UltraFit flash drive with my iTunes library and backup space for critical files. I agree with author John – two is not enough. Slightly off-topic….Since we’re talking about portables…. and many people are using a portable product of some type, ANY auto-play video is a battery hog. Worse than that is the recent addition of the persistent TMO cookie. For a site that has done topics on privacy and has (deservedly) ripped… Read more »

logician
Member
logician

This is nothing new. It’s Apple’s strategy for market segmentation, and they’ve used some variation of it in every product line in recent memory. Whether it’s iPhones with insufficient storage, or laptops with insufficient memory and storage, Apple wants absolutely everyone who can afford to pay more (for essentially the same product with 0% to 2% more expensive components, and, as you put it, both stirrups), to pay more. Even those who can’t afford it, really. They’re teaming with some other company to offer low, low financing dontchaknow, while dissociating themselves from with the messy, consumer-enraging business of bill collecting.… Read more »

Macsee
Member
Macsee

Remember the MacBook Air released by Apple mid 2009. It had a SINGLE USB port!!!

And even the newer MacBook Pro of mid 2017 with just two Thunderbolt ports (including charging via such ports!).

Last but not least, is it possible to build Thunderbolt 3 splitters or hubs to increase the number of such ports in Mac? I ask because I cannot find them. Not even a male to female Thunderbolt 3 cable or adapter to extend or protect such port on Mac. Is that a limitation of Thunderbolt 3 technology or a restriction of Intel? Thanks.

logician
Member
logician

There are splitters that will let you supply power and connect a second device I believe. There are also breakouts or “docks” that will give you video, USB 3.1 “A” ports, Ethernet, card readers, and so forth. It’s one of the easier problems to work around, generally speaking, but as the author intones, it’s still insulting to force people to do it in the first place.

Macsee
Member
Macsee

Thanks, but what I meant was if there was a way to INCREASE the number of female Thunderbolt ports. All Thunderbolt 3 docks that I know have only two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and since one must be used to connect to the Mac, the total number of available Thunderbolt 3 ports remains the same. Is there a way to increase the number of Thunderbolt 3 female ports on a Mac? How? Is there even a cable or adapter Thunderbolt 3 male to Thunderbolt 3 female? O cannot find any of them.

Hagen
Member
Hagen

Thunderbolt 3 is designed to daisy-chain from one device to the next. Two ports on each device should be enough to accommodate this. The theory breaks as soon as you try to plug in multiple one-port TB3 drives, but these are bus-powered, so they shouldn’t be chained for electrical reasons.

Macsee
Member
Macsee

The problem is that almost all Thunderbolt 3 devices like external SSD have a SINGLE Thunderbolt 3 port. So, you cannot daisy-chain them.

pjs_boston
Member
pjs_boston

Honestly, I go weeks without plugging anything into my MacBook Pro other than power. These days, complaints about port counts are overblown. USB-C hubs are cheap and are a much better solution than a festooning the machine with a dozen rarely used legacy ports. At home, simply keep everything plugged into the hub and then connect your MacBook to the hub via a single cable. Charging and all ‘docked’ I/O are taken care of quickly and easily – an elegant solution for rapid docking and undocking. Need ports on the go? Keep a spare hub in your bag. Easy-peasy. Seems… Read more »

Member
jviddy

Completely agree. Of the 5 things listed I connect to 2 at most, and external display, and sometimes ethernet.

Keyboard and mouse are bluetooth, and my printer and time machine are both network devices.

The majority of home users will rarely connect to any of those things.

gGrant
Member
gGrant

One dongle will do all this. I don’t see what the complaint is about. I learnt this simple lesson with one USB-C on my MacBook. I never used all the ports on my satechi.

I’m the first to criticise Air for performance (20% slower than MacBook), but connectivity is twice that of MacBook and I’m completely jealous of that. 🙂

makeitup
Member
makeitup

We are Apple. We know you don’t need 4 ports. Don’t tell us you do. You’re using it wrong.

Member
Tyson Smithinson

The auto play videos on this page are more of an affront than anything mentioned in the editorial. How many clicks do you need before you’ve made enough scratch to buy a hub? Glad to have contributed.

Dave Hamilton
Dave Hamilton

Sorry to hear this, Tyson, Were you on your desktop/laptop or on your phone/iPad when you were getting auto-play videos?

gGrant
Member
gGrant

Get a better browser? Dissenter gets my vote for private on Mac.
Seriously, see Dave’s note below. When I used to get them, they were muted. Should be barely noticeable.