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Android Authority said:
It’s 2018 and USB Type-C is still a mess
Even the seemingly most basic function of USB Type-C — powering devices — has become a mess of compatibility issues, conflicting proprietary standards, and a general lack of consumer information to guide purchasing decisions. The problem is that the features supported by different devices aren’t clear, yet the defining principle of the USB Type-C standard makes consumers think everything should just work.
 


What you and others may not realize is that USB-C is 10% connector and 90% intelligence. USB-C is based around a communications system (slly021.pdf) where the cables and the devices all talk to each other to determine the capabilities of each one. As you can imagine, this makes the system prone to borkage when a manufacturer misunderstands or doesn't implement the protocols correctly.
 



What you and others may not realize is that USB-C is 10% connector and 90% intelligence. USB-C is based around a communications system (slly021.pdf) where the cables and the devices all talk to each other to determine the capabilities of each one. As you can imagine, this makes the system prone to borkage when a manufacturer misunderstands or doesn't implement the protocols correctly.
Bad implementations are only the smallest (and presumably fixable) part of the problem. The Standard, itself is borked -- not from a technical, but from a usability point-of-view.
  • There is no way for an ordinary user to tell what a given USB-C cable is capable of. Two identical-looking cables can have completely different capabilities and the ordinary user will be mystified as to why one "works" and the other "doesn't."
  • There is no way for an ordinary user to tell what a given USB-C port on a device is capable of. Two different ports on the same device can have completely different capabilities. Sometimes, these are indicated by tiny, inscrutable hieroglyphs next to the port. Most often, the user is simply left to guess.
  • All of this is a confusing mess, even if we set aside data-transfer and video and ethernet and ... capabilities and focus on the simplest and stupidest function of all: charging.
  • Add back in (to pick an example) an external hard drive that the user wants to connect to their laptop and the user is supposed to figure out (without any external clues):
    • the difference between USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3,
    • which device (and which port on which device) is capable of what and
    • what are the capabilities of the cable used to connect them
and you have a complete train wreck.

All of this because some genius thought it was too confusing for users to have different-shaped ports (and matching different-shaped connectors on cables) for different purposes.
 



I haven't seen anything to date about the physical robustness of the USB-C connectors on current Mac laptops. I have a 2016 MacBook Pro with 4 USB-C ports. I move it among a few different locations every day, each time having to plug in, then unplug, combinations of power, adaptors and dongles or a multi port breakout for peripherals and devices. I'm wondering at what point in time one or more of these connectors might begin feeling "loose" or simply refuse to make connection, or if there is an actual test result for expected insertion cycles before failure.
 


Thanks to this Texas Instruments 'USB Type-CTM and Power Delivery Technology Overview’ [PDF] webinar summary, I'm a little more aware of the complexities of the USB-C varieties than before. Perhaps some other nerd-heads might be interested?

The scales have fallen from my eyes, and are now piled up around my ankles. The complexity in the standard appears to be explained, but the nearly complete lack of cable identification baffles me still. It appears that you sort the cable type only by trial and (many?) error(s).

I’m off in the Android phone world nowadays, after [Australia] turned off 2G, and so my Palm Treo as a phone, and have run up against the variations between charge only, charge & data cables, and the yet to be seen video monitor, or not, cables. Can’t re-find the link, but saw it stated that only Apple and Google Chromebook use fully capable cables and hardware, FWIW.
 


From info in my other mentioned TI info link [PDF], Chuck Reti’s concerns re the USB-C plug's longevity might be put at rest by TI’s statement that the plugs are designed to be about twice as long-lived as older designs when it comes to insertion cycles.

He might, though, care to read the three sections late in the document that address ‘Potential Failure(s)’, by oblique withdrawal of a plug, or debris/water causing short circuits, and lastly and most honestly, on the problems that may be introduced by being sold ‘Noncomplient Cables’, and the report "In a survey of USB Type-C cables available on Amazon, 28% of cables were not compliant to USB-IF specification. (Google Engineer Benson Leung: 20/71 cables out of specification)."

Pay up, pay up, to save your ‘appliance’ from up to 20V unexpected intrusions down (cheap) USB-C pipes, with who knows what dire and untraceable consequences.
 


From info in my oher mentioned TI info link, Chuck Reti’s concerns re the USB-C plug's longevity might be put at rest by TI’s statement that the plugs are designed to be about twice as long-lived as older designs when it comes to insertion cycles.

He might, though, care to read the three sections late in the document that address ‘Potential Failure(s)’, by oblique withdrawal of a plug, or debris/water causing short circuits, and lastly and most honestly, on the problems that may be introduced by being sold ‘Noncomplient Cables’, and the report "In a survey of USB Type-C cables available on Amazon, 28% of cables were not compliant to USB-IF specification. (Google Engineer Benson Leung: 20/71 cables out of specification)."

Pay up, pay up, to save your ‘appliance’ from up to 20V unexpected intrusions down (cheap) USB-C pipes, with who knows what dire and untraceable consequences.
You might want to consider getting some USB Type-C short extension cables that could be left plugged in to a Mac or PC. I looked on Amazon and there are straight and 90 degree angle versions. Not elegant but practical.

In my home office, I use the same approach for Ethernet since I don't want to wear out sockets on my Macs or the Xfinity Comcast box when I unplug at the end of each day.
 


Can anyone recommend a good USB-C multifunction hub? It has to be bus-powered, have ethernet, SD card, HDMI, hopefully VGA as well, audio out, and at least two USB 3 ports. Most of the models available with all these ports on amazon are from no-name distributors:

Here are 3, which are obviously the same model:
Oh, and this one, which is by a different manufacturer:
The OWC Travel Dock doesn't have enough ports, nor does the Kingston "Nucleum."
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Can anyone recommend a good USB-C multifunction hub? It has to be bus-powered, have ethernet, SD card, HDMI, hopefully VGA as well, audio out, and at least two USB 3 ports...
It seems to me that a hub with all those connections might need an external power supply, but perhaps someone else can offer more analysis, as I don't have any specific details about what the hub can draw from the host computer vs. what it needs to power its external ports. (Thunderbolt hubs, at least, need external power supplies.)
 




Can anyone recommend a good USB-C multifunction hub? It has to be bus-powered, have ethernet, SD card, HDMI, hopefully VGA as well, audio out, and at least two USB 3 ports.
I've had a good experience with this CableCreation hub:

CableCreation USB C to USB 3.0/HDMI 4K/VGA/Mini Display/Ethernet/Stereo/SD Card/Micro SD Card and USB-C Adapter

It meets all of your requirements. It can also draw power from a USB-C cable plugged into a power supply, though not enough to fully charge a 15" MacBook Pro under load. Unlike some other low-cost USB hubs I've tried, it doesn't get uncomfortably hot when in use.
 



Thanks so much for the recommendation! I wonder why the Amazon reviews are middling. I also found this one from Tripp-Lite (3-year warranty!), which also has middling reviews:

Tripp Lite USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB-C Docking Station w/ USB-A, HDMI, VGA, mDP, Gigabit Ethernet, Mem Card, 3.5mm & USB-C PD Charging, USB C, USB Type C, USB Type-C
 


Thanks so much for the recommendation! I wonder why the Amazon reviews are middling. I also found this one from Tripp-Lite (3-year warranty!), which also has middling reviews:
Tripp Lite USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB-C Docking Station w/ USB-A, HDMI, VGA, mDP, Gigabit Ethernet, Mem Card, 3.5mm & USB-C PD Charging, USB C, USB Type C, USB Type-C
I got that Tripp Lite USB-C docking station, and it has some issues.

While you can mount and use a USB Seagate external hard drive to copy and save files, trying to back up with Time Machine to the USB Seagate hard drive does not work right; it stalls out and quits. Furthermore, the Time Machine backup failure messed up the USB hard drive so badly that I had to reformat it on a Windows machine--it wouldn't even mount on a Mac (I tried on several different computers) after the Time Machine failure! (I tried several times, failed each time, and had to reformat with the Windows machine each time.)

Also, my Apple USB CD/DVD SuperDrive will not run with it (won't spin up or do anything). The Apple dongle does work well with Time Machine backups to that same USB Seagate drive, and will also run the SuperDrive. So, there is something in the Apple dongle that is not in that dock.
 


Also, my Apple USB CD/DVD SuperDrive will not run with it (won't spin up or do anything). The Apple dongle does work well with Time Machine backups to that same USB Seagate drive, and will also run the SuperDrive. So, there is something in the Apple dongle that is not in that dock.
SuperDrives have always been a special case. Which Apple dongle are you talking about? Have you tried backing up with your MacBook Pro's power adapter plugged into the Tripp Lite for passthrough charging? Lastly, have you called TrippLite about these issues?
 


While you can mount and use a USB Seagate external hard drive to copy and save files, trying to back up with Time Machine to the USB Seagate hard drive does not work right; it stalls out and quits. Furthermore, the Time Machine backup failure messed up the USB hard drive so badly that I had to reformat it on a Windows machine--it wouldn't even mount on a Mac (I tried on several different computers) after the Time Machine failure! (I tried several times, failed each time, and had to reformat with the Windows machine each time.)
Have you tried connecting the USB external hard drive to the USB port labeled "BC 1.2"?
 



(Just an aside: I recently swapped out a 2015 MacBook Air 7,2 for a 2018 MacBook Air 8,1. My older OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock is working just fine on the new machine with an Apple Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter. The ports that I've tested on the Thunderbolt 2 dock are ethernet, HDMI, and USB 3.0, including mounting of external drives on USB 3.0. OWC doesn't officially support this solution, but I'm happy not to need a new dock!

(Just tested FireWire 800 -- it's also good on the OWC TB2 dock with TB2-TB3 adapter.)
 


Also, my Apple USB CD/DVD SuperDrive will not run with it (won't spin up or do anything). The Apple dongle does work well with Time Machine backups to that same USB Seagate drive, and will also run the SuperDrive. So, there is something in the Apple dongle that is not in that dock.
Apple implemented a proprietary extension to (or violation of, depending on how you see it) the USB spec in order to deliver extra power to certain kinds of devices.
Apple said:
Powering peripherals through USB
...
Apple devices can request extra power
Apple peripheral devices might request more than 500 mA (Milliamps) at 5 V (Volts) from a port to function or to allow for faster charging. These devices include:
  • Apple MacBook Air SuperDrive (when connected to supported computers)
  • Aluminum Wired Keyboard*
  • iPod
  • iPhone
  • iPad
Some Apple computers and displays** can provide up to 1100 mA at 5 V through the port the Apple device is connected to. This power is available under certain conditions:
  1. An Apple device must be plugged directly into an Apple computer or display. Apple devices connected to hubs won't have access to extra power above the standard USB specification of the port the device is connected to.
  2. Your Apple computer or display must be powered on and be awake. If it's asleep, all ports provide their normal maximum output.
  3. The port providing extra power is determined by the first Apple device to connect to the Apple computer or display that requires extra power. The remaining ports continue to offer their normal maximum output. Some Apple computer and displays offer the ability to operate more than one USB port at 1100 mA at 5 V. On those computers, the second or third port is enabled when an appropriate device is connected.
  4. An Apple computer started up to Windows via BootCamp doesn't provide extra power.
*When connected to a computer that supports a connection of 1100 mA at 5 V, the first port on the keyboard to have a device or peripheral connected to it that requests standard 500mA power receives that power. At that point, 100 mA at 5 V is available through the remaining port on the keyboard. The keyboard doesn't support extra power out of its two ports simultaneously; it requests extra power from the host computer to provide power out of either one of its two ports, then the second keyboard port receives the standard 500mA.

**Apple computers and displays that were introduced before 2007 support only 500 mA at 5 V from their ports and don't offer additional power.
Any USB port that doesn't implement this proprietary extension can't provide the power requested by the SuperDrive. macOS figures this out and refuses to let the drive run. Apparently, Apple's USB dongle does support this extension, but your dock does not. Since your dock is not an Apple product, this doesn't surprise me.

I remember reading about some macOS hacks to allow a SuperDrive to work on a port that doesn't implement Apple's extension. If I remember correctly, with this hack, the drive will work normally for reading discs and maybe also burning CDs, but it will be unreliable when burning DVDs, probably due to the lack of sufficient power.
 



Can anyone recommend a good USB-C multifunction hub? It has to be bus-powered, have ethernet, SD card, HDMI, hopefully VGA as well, audio out, and at least two USB 3 ports. Most of the models available with all these ports on amazon are from no-name distributors:

Here are 3, which are obviously the same model:
Oh, and this one, which is by a different manufacturer:
The OWC Travel Dock doesn't have enough ports, nor does the Kingston "Nucleum."
That is quite the collection of no-name "manufacturers". I finally had to update my laptop, so I purchased a 13" MacBook Pro with the touch thing (for the better CPU and graphics).

I have been looking at the specs for these and other hubs, and it appears that the reasonably-priced options output only 30Hz, or the USB ports drop to USB-2 speeds under some conditions, or the charging power is less than what is needed for the new MacBook Pros. Only the higher-end, and larger, hubs from, say, CalDigit support 4K at 60 Hz, plus charging etc. I was hoping one of the new USB-C monitors could serve as a hub, but the current offerings are limited and expensive.

I knew dongle madness was a consequence of upgrading to the new MacBook Pro, but I am still searching for a dock and would love to hear what MacInTouch readers in a similar situation have found for solutions.
 



Well, for my travel bag, I bought this one:

AHNR Thunderbolt 3 Hub with 4K HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, 3 USB 3.0, SD/TF, Audio/Mic, USB-C Power Delivery Port

It's adequate. The little pocket-size "docks" are OK for travel, but no $70 product is going to perform like a $300 one. Just sayin'.
Love the reviews! "Perfect toddler lid for Duralex glasses" was particularly helpful. However, if you say it works, this looks like it would be good for home/travel. Still searching for something more capable for my office where I really need to minimize cables. Thanks.
 


SuperDrives have always been a special case. Which Apple dongle are you talking about? Have you tried backing up with your MacBook Pro's power adapter plugged into the Tripp Lite for passthrough charging? Lastly, have you called TrippLite about these issues?
The Apple dongle is USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter.

I tried different USB ports on the Tripp-Lite with no difference. I didn't hook up the power cable directly to the Tripp-Lite.

I haven't called Tripp-Lite--haven't had time, and the Apple dongle is doing the job nicely.
 


I need to get a desktop dock for a 2018 MacBook Pro (w/ Mojave) with two Dell U2415 displays. Does anyone have any experience with the OWC 12-Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock?
 


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