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Interesting direction for Thunderbolt and USB-C: convergence in the USB-4 specification. Wonder if it will bring a single cable type. But nice to know Apple chose wisely in interfaces this time, if not in cable multiplicity.
It probably will not bring only a single cable type. It may make it so that higher-end cables are all Thunderbolt-capable, so that will help remove one difference that is present now. However, cost, physics, and market inertia aren't going to go away with the merging of the standards.

Cost: it is going to be cheaper to make a "power only" cable. The USB ecosystem has always maximized the number of vendors and competition to reduce costs. It will be cheaper to make a cable that just does power and USB 2.0, because it is just less copper, shielding, qualification, etc., which will all lead to a cheaper cable.

Similarly, we're going to have cables that are only Type-C on one side. Those also will toss anything that isn't needed to shave costs - Type-C to DisplayPort or Type-C to Type-A (the now-legacy USB previous generations).

Physics: There are still probably going to be 'active' versus 'passive' cables. If the USB4 standard makes it so USB can work with active cables, then the Thunderbolt distinction would disappear. It would become "shorter is passive and longer is active." It is unlikely, though, that USB will mandate that all new cables meet the higher throughput standard. That may require changing what the active cable standard is, so the current Thunderbolt v3 active cables may not become USB4 cables magically overnight.

With USB4 <--> USB 3.1 situations, the current Thunderbolt v3 cables probably won't identify with the USB 3.1 side. The "clean up" would more with USB4 <---> USB4 contexts, where the controllers are "aware" of the merged update on both sides.

It also won't be surprising if optical cables come back into the mix after the merger. There is a current USB 3.1 gen 2 optical cable being introduced. The longer the cable, the less power is probably going to get delivered on the other side, even sticking some copper into the mix.

Inertia: The humongous number of Type-A USB devices and even the smaller, but still relatively large, set of USB 3.1 [Type C] devices will still make cable distinction an issue. USB4 will probably benefit the "Thunderbolt" subset more as the number of devices will probably go up (e.g., custom controllers just for external drives that can flip between USB and Thunderbolt v3 and only talk to a SATA device that's just easier and cheaper to implement a drive with). USB4 drops the Type-A socket. Some products are going to highly resist moving.
 



For a couple of decades I traveled often enough, and almost always to conferences/meetings where someone, if not everyone, was projecting something onto a screen from a laptop that I started carrying around a variety of power (Apple AC adapters, extension cord, eventually USB-C chartings cables) and data cables/adapters (mini-DV, HDMI, USB, USB-C, whatever-to-Lightning, and so on). With some velcro bands to keep the thicker cables under control, everything fit in a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer bag that went into my carry-on bag. a Tom Bihn rucksack. (Disclaimer: Not associated with Tom Bihn except as a very happy customer.)

I can easily see that many people, especially when not on business trips, would not want to schlep all that with them on a daily basis, but even at my normal place of work, it meant saving otherwise wasted time that would have been spent searching for the "right" adapter or cable. Now that I'm retired, my Snake Charmer is a lot less tightly packed, but visits to relations sometimes present opportunities to say, "Wait, I've got one of those" when someone needs a cable.
 


For a couple of decades I traveled often enough, and almost always to conferences/meetings where someone, if not everyone, was projecting something onto a screen from a laptop that I started carrying around a variety of power (Apple AC adapters, extension cord, eventually USB-C chartings cables) and data cables/adapters (mini-DV, HDMI, USB, USB-C, whatever-to-Lightning, and so on). With some velcro bands to keep the thicker cables under control...
  • Velcro bands are my new best friend.
  • For over two decades, I have traveled with a 25' two-wire extension cord. This works marvelously with an Apple AC adapter with a two prong adapter on it. It has also made me popular in certain venues with few AC outlets.
  • One of the first customizations while setting up a 2016 MacBook Pro was to put a dot of dark red nail polish on both the AC adapter and the power cord. Just match the dots.
  • For a G-Tech small backup drive, a short USB-C to micro-USB 3 cable is a good investment.
  • For a 2018 Mini, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to Display Port cables are my favorite monitor connector cable. (HDMI cables come in second.)
  • Another favorite adapter is the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter to keep the older multi-drive Thunderbolt enclosures active with the newest systems.
My computer bag is, of course, mostly cables and adapters. I have to carefully check to make certain the MacBook is in the bag. :-)
 


As far as dongles, I really do not carry very many. Note that it is not terribly costly to get a little USB3 adaptor to USB-C (they are about 1/2 inch or less long) for each of your existing USB cables , thus converting all of them to USB-C connectivity, and not use a dongle cable.
I agree. I just carry a couple of these and they work great.
 


  • One of the first customizations while setting up a 2016 MacBook Pro was to put a dot of dark red nail polish on both the AC adapter and the power cord. Just match the dots.
First, I always carry one of those little “one-to-two” three-prong adapters when I travel. There are usually no open spots, but I can ask to share!

Second, one can ask why Apple never:
  1. color-coded its adapters in any way, rather than screening the wattage in light gray against white.
  2. marked its AC adapters and power cord the way you did.
 


I carry a Bagsmart Double Layer Travel Universal Cable Organizer Case in my luggage. The top holds all of my USB cables (various combinations of A, Micro and C) and two Lightning cables, while the bottom holds a bootable USB-3 SSD, a Simran SM-60 3 Outlet universal power strip (for international travel), Apple watch charger, Universal AC outlet adaptor, an Anker 60W 5-Port USB-A/C desktop charger with a 30w power delivery port and an Omnigates 1ft Power Cord NEMA1-15P/IEC320-C7 to connect the Anker to the power strip. My AT&T Hostspot might also be tossed in, if I think I need it.

My rolling laptop bag carries several clear pouches with multiple Thunderbolt AV adaptors, a retractable Ethernet cable, Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, Micro - the world's smallest universal travel adapter, a MacBook Pro AC adaptor with a 3m long 2-wire cable, Aukey PD USB C charger with 18w power delivery, an Anker USB A/C battery pack and a Skyroam Solis universal hotspot.
 


For a couple of decades I traveled often enough, and almost always to conferences/meetings where someone, if not everyone, was projecting something onto a screen from a laptop that I started carrying around a variety of power (Apple AC adapters, extension cord, eventually USB-C chartings cables) and data cables/adapters (mini-DV, HDMI, USB, USB-C, whatever-to-Lightning, and so on). With some velcro bands to keep the thicker cables under control, everything fit in a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer bag that went into my carry-on bag. a Tom Bihn rucksack. (Disclaimer: Not associated with Tom Bihn except as a very happy customer.)

I can easily see that many people, especially when not on business trips, would not want to schlep all that with them on a daily basis, but even at my normal place of work, it meant saving otherwise wasted time that would have been spent searching for the "right" adapter or cable. Now that I'm retired, my Snake Charmer is a lot less tightly packed, but visits to relations sometimes present opportunities to say, "Wait, I've got one of those" when someone needs a cable.
I’m another happy Tom Bihn Snake Charmer user for power cables, adaptors, etc.
 




Second, one can ask why Apple never:
  1. color-coded its adapters in any way, rather than screening the wattage in light gray against white.
  2. marked its AC adapters and power cord the way you did.
Nothing should ever be labeled in light gray or tiny type. It can be impossible to read without holding it up to the light, shining a flashlight and/or getting close, and that can be difficult without partially disassembling a desktop system to get into the right position.
 



Nothing should ever be labeled in light gray or tiny type. It can be impossible to read without holding it up to the light, shining a flashlight and/or getting close, and that can be difficult without partially disassembling a desktop system to get into the right position.
I wish we could somehow get an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) action against Apple to force them to do away with these offenses against people with less than absolutely perfect vision. Apple prides itself loudly about their "social conscience" but somehow ignores this blaring transgression on both their web presence and their product lines.
 


Colour coding can create problems for colour-blind people. If a colour coding system was introduced, it should take account of that.
 


I am upgrading my 2015 iMac to a 2019 iMac.

On my current iMac, I have an OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock, which I use as a USB hub. I get really good transfer speeds from this setup. I would like to duplicate this in my new iMac. Would the Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter work well, or will I be better served selling the Thunderbolt 2 dock and getting a Thunderbolt 3 dock? If so, any recommendations on a Thunderbolt 3 dock?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... Would the Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter work well, or will I be better served selling the Thunderbolt 2 dock and getting a Thunderbolt 3 dock? If so, any recommendations on a Thunderbolt 3 dock?
The adapter should work for your purpose. The advantage of a Thunderbolt 3 dock would be support for much faster storage, such as the Samsung X5, as well as 10Gbps USB-C (vs. 5Gbps USB 3), and there may be advantages for 4K/5K displays, etc.

So far, I like the CalDigit TS3 Plus (though I haven't done in-depth testing yet). Akitio's Thunder 3 Dock Pro has a different feature set and should be good, too, offering 10Gbps Ethernet and an eSATA port, if you need one or both of those.
 



The adapter should work for your purpose. The advantage of a Thunderbolt 3 dock would be support for much faster storage, such as the Samsung X5, as well as 10Gbps USB-C (vs. 5Gbps USB 3), and there may be advantages for 4K/5K displays, etc.

So far, I like the CalDigit TS3 Plus (though I haven't done in-depth testing yet). Akitio's Thunder 3 Dock Pro has a different feature set and should be good, too, offering 10Gbps Ethernet and an eSATA port, if you need one or both of those.
I just received the Glyph Thunderbolt 3 dock - it’s the first one to work with my HP z24nq monitor. You can order with internal storage or add your own later. It uses an NVMe blade.

I had previously tried the CalDigit TS3 Plus and a Henge Docks Stone (USB-C). I saw no video with the TS3, and the Stone had the same video issue and an annoyingly loud hum from the speakers I had connected when I undocked my laptop.

I’ve used Glyph products previously and have been very satisfied with the quality and support. Cheers.
 



So far, I like the CalDigit TS3 Plus (though I haven't done in-depth testing yet).
I had previously tried the CalDigit TS3 Plus and a Henge Docks Stone (USB-C). I saw no video with the TS3, and the Stone had the same video issue and an annoyingly loud hum from the speakers I had connected when I undocked my laptop.
Work supplied me with a 2017 MacBook Pro. I bought a Plugable TBT3-UDV T3 dock for home use, but after 6 months I gave up on it, as I had issues with the video not coming on after a sleep.

In the meantime I had bought the CalDigit TS3 Plus for use at the office, where I have an LG 32UD59-B 32-Inch 4K UHD monitor. Connected with a DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable, it works perfectly. It works so well, in fact, last week I bought another CalDigit TS3 Plus to replace the Plugable dock at home. At home I use an LG 27UD68-P 27-Inch 4K UHD IPS monitor, again with a DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable, and it now works perfectly.

Also plugged into the home Caldigit is a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO in a Rugged USB 3.1 Gen2 SATA 2.5'' Hard Drive Enclosure for Time Machine backup. No issues with sleep or anything.

Daily, I unplug and take the MacBook Pro to work, plug into the CalDigit there and work all day. Then I unplug and come home and plug in. Time Machine backups work flawlessly. The video wakes up and I have no issues.

The only problem I run into is that macOS re-arranges all my windows when the MacBook Pro is unplugged. Cordless Dog's Stay kind of fixes that, but it's not perfect.
 


I have been using a CalDigit TS3 Plus for over 9 months. Works great! I have iit connected to two monitors: a Dell U2713HM with DisplayPort cable and an Apple Thunderbolt Monitor with a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter. It has a nice number of USB ports and USB-C Gen 1 and 2 ports, audio in and out, gigabit ethernet, and S/PDIF, SD Card, and 85W power delivery. Caldigit even matches the color of the MacBook. In the downloads section, Caldigit also has an utility to eject all drives from the menu bar and a USB charging support to allow iOS charging up to 1.5A.
 


In the downloads section, Caldigit also has an utility to eject all drives from the menu bar and a USB charging support to allow iOS charging up to 1.5A.
I don't believe the utility does anything more than you can do in the Finder but I do know that the Caldigit dock will not consistently charge my iPad Pro. I get constant "USB Accessories Disabled" OS alerts and charging is suspended (and the iPad no longer shows as connected in iTunes). I even exchanged the first dock but the behavior was the same with the replacement.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I don't believe the utility does anything more than you can do in the Finder but I do know that the Caldigit dock will not consistently charge my iPad Pro. I get constant "USB Accessories Disabled" OS alerts and charging is suspended (and the iPad no longer shows as connected in iTunes). I even exchanged the first dock but the behavior was the same with the replacement.
Since the utility specifically addresses iOS device charging, please give it a try and let us know if it solves your problem as it's designed to do:
CalDigit said:
CalDigit Support
CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Stations USB Charging Support
...
This driver enables the following support:
- iOS device charging up to 1.5A
- Apple SuperDrive (on the systems that do not have a built-in SuperDrive)​
- Apple Keyboard​
 


I don't use the CalDigit utility, although I may have installed the driver and forgotten about it. I have to say, of all the docks out there, I have been happiest with this one. I also use it to power my MacBook Pro.

I have given up on Sonnet drives, specifically the Echo 15+ that I used to be happy with. Had some issues with the OWC docks, as well. The CalDigit has surprised me. It has worked well, and the customer support was good the one time I had to call them. You really have to make sure that everything is plugged into the correct ports.
 


Since the utility specifically addresses iOS device charging, please give it a try and let us know if it solves your problem as it's designed to do...
I had installed this extension with both CalDigit docks but still had the charging problems. I checked just now on the CalDigit support site and at least the date of the installer is the same as I have now.

When trying to troubleshoot this problem, I frequently checked to see whether the extension was loaded (using kextstat), and sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn't.

Checking in System Information to see if "extra operating current" was indicated (1000mA when it was working) was also inconsistent. I checked just now on one of the docks with the iPad connected, and the extension is not loaded, and there is no extra current indicated. (However, the iPad is already at 90% of full charge.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I had installed this extension with both CalDigit docks but still had the charging problems....
A diagram in the manual implies that the front-side USB 3 Type A port is the only one designed for iOS device charging - is that the one you're plugging your iPad into always?
 


Just wondering what issues people were having with the Sonnet Echo 15+ dock. I've had mine for a few years and not had any issues with it once I got the ethernet speed issue resolved (a long time ago).

Curious if I am just lucky, not doing anything that would push it, or what. I happen to love the ability for internal drives to live in the dock and am surprised that any of the docks that support eSATA don't provide for an internal SATA drive (even just a 2.5" bay), since they are putting a SATA chip on anyway.

I have two internal drives, one for extra storage and a Carbon Copy Cloner clone, and one for Time Machine backup. (I have a second regularly updated set elsewhere, too, so am not so concerned about having both drives in the same chassis here.)
 


A diagram in the manual implies that the front-side USB 3 Type A port is the only one designed for iOS device charging - is that the one you're plugging your iPad into always?
I assume you mean the picture that shows green icons for a phone and battery. Not a very definitive listing of specifications, is it? If I take the picture literally, then, yes, that Type-A port on the front would be the one for the iPad. Then again, maybe it means either one of those ports. In any case, I only have USB-C cables available. For one dock I connect to the Thunderbolt port on the back (generally no problems with charging) and on the other I use the USB Type-C port on the front (constant problems). I will see if I can find a Type-C to Type-A cable and give that a try.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I assume you mean the picture that shows green icons for a phone and battery. Not a very definitive listing of specifications, is it? If I take the picture literally, then, yes, that Type-A port on the front would be the one for the iPad. Then again, maybe it means either one of those ports. In any case, I only have USB-C cables available. For one dock I connect to the Thunderbolt port on the back (generally no problems with charging) and on the other I use the USB Type-C port on the front (constant problems). I will see if I can find a Type-C to Type-A cable and give that a try.
Ah, that seems to be the problem then, as the user manual specifically states:
CalDigit said:
The TS3 Plus features two USB 3.1 Type-C ports (1 x 5Gb/s, 1 x 10Gb/s). These ports only support data and 900mW of power for charging.
Switching to the Type A port on the front should solve the problem.
 


Akitio's Thunder 3 Dock Pro has a different feature set and should be good, too, offering 10Gbps Ethernet and an eSATA port, if you need one or both of those.
Last time I checked with tech support at Akitio, the 10Gbps ethernet port in Akitio's dock only works with macOS Mojave and onward. The Aquantia chip powering it needs a driver that Akitio cannot provide as a standalone.

The eSATA host inside the Akitio dock also suffers from the same issues as the original CalDigit TS3 dock, i.e. it is not port-multiplier compatible. [See correction below -MacInTouch] It's curious how a $25 USB3 stick can offer that which either $300+ dock cannot.

Anyhow, the Akitio dock is pretty, and the fan inside is certainly a step up from the coffee-warmer performance of the CalDigit TS3 Dock.
 



Akitio says just the opposite - are you confused about their product, or do you have some evidence to contradict their statements?
My bad, I misremembered. I just went over my Amazon review and the Akitio Thunder3 Dock Pro did work with the standard port multiplier inside my DVD tower. Apologies!

Speaking of which, I am glad that their Amazon listing now also mentions macOS 10.13.4 as a minimum requirement for the Aquantia N-Base-T transceiver to work. I hope prospective buyers pick up on the reference.

For what it delivers, I consider the Akitio dock an OK value as long as you don't already own a dock, run macOS 10.13.4 or above, and can live with 60W of charge capacity (for my 2016 MacBook Pro, a daylong Handbrake session resulted in the battery running down to 15% on a 60W charger). NBASE-T has yet to find the kind of adoption I expect it will enjoy in the future.

For the time being, I'm happy with an SFP+_based solution instead, which allows me to run fiber or twinax. Compared to copper-based solutions, fiber is currently less expensive and less restricted. The least expensive short-distance 10GigE solution (if the respective SFP+ controllers allow it) is usually running twinax cables directly between SFP+ ports.
 


Switching to the Type A port on the front should solve the problem.
That appears to be true, but I am still confused about the capabilities of the various ports.

I used an AmazonBasics USB Type-C to USB-A Male 3.1 Gen2 Cable and connected to the USB Type A port on the front of the home CalDigit dock. System Information shows:
Current available 900 mA
Current requried 896 mA
Extra Operating Current 0 mA
The CalDigit kernel extension was not loaded. No "USB Accessories Disabled" warnings.

I did the same thing with the CalDigit dock I have at work:
Current Available (mA): 900
Current Required (mA): 896
Extra Operating Current (mA): 600
Sleep current (mA): 1500
The kernel extension is loaded. No warnings.

Connecting to the USB-C Thunderbolt port on the back of the dock with the cable that came with the iPad Pro, I see for both docks:
Current Available (mA): 900
Current Required (mA): 896
Extra Operating Current (mA): 600
Sleep current (mA): 1500
I see the extension loaded on the work dock, but it is inconsistently loaded on the home dock. No warnings (well, maybe one but certainly not a regular event).

Then I tried the USB Type-C port on the front with the iPad Pro cable and I see on either dock:
Current Available (mA): 500
Current Required (mA): 500
Extra Operating Current (mA): 1000
Sleep current (mA): 1500
The CalDigit kernel extension is not loaded in either case. This is the configuration that will generate OS warnings.

Surprisingly, to me, this Nonda Type-A to Type-C adapter and a USB 3 cable did not allow the iPad to be charged when connected to the USB Type-A port on the front of the dock, and the iPad did not show up in iTunes.

My conclusions are that Ric is correct in that using the Type A port on the front of the CalDigit dock seems to provide sufficient current to avoid the port being disabled by macOS but that the Thunderbolt port on the back is also adequate.

I am not sure about the utility, or need for, the CalDigit kernel extension. I also conclude that I don't know much about these different current categories as reported by System Information.

Thanks, Ric!
 


I have a Dell U2415 [display] connected to an OWC 14-port Thunderbolt 3 dock that is connected to the 2018 MacBook Pro 15" (model 15,3 with Radeon Pro Vega 20).
Prior to macOS 10.14.5, the U2415 came on as it is supposed to on a bootup and restart. Now it comes on with a normal boot, but on a 'restart' it does not, and the MacBook Pro will not recognize it, no matter what sort of futzing I do with it, including using the USB-C video adapter.
Oddly, on a hunch on a restart I pulled the Mini DisplayPort plug from the OWC dock and plugged it back in after the progress bar started, and the U2415 lights up. Weird.
I have had problems with the OWC dock from the get-go (I have the ThunderBay connected to the Thunderbolt 2 dock...). When the Mini would sleep, I had to unplug the Thunderbolt from the dock. Otherwise, my Dell display (1 of 2) would not wake, no matter what I did.

The USB port would not recognize the iPod or iPhone, even though it was there in iTunes. If I tried to do an update/backup for iOS update, I had to plug the device into the Mac's USB port and not the OWC dock ports. Also, it gets really hot.

I am considering losing the OWC dock for CalDigit.
 


I am considering losing the OWC dock for CalDigit.
Have you discussed your issues with OWC?

I no longer need to make all the laptop-to-peripheral connections I used to, when I traveled to a remote office, so my OWC Thunderbolt Dock has been in a closet for over a year. Back when I did use it, I'd occasionally have vexing problems when I'd first arrive at the remote office, but the monitor (an Apple Mini DisplayPort biggie) wouldn't balk at waking up from laptop sleep once the initial connection had succeeded.

Sometimes my issue would seem to stem from not having the laptop plugged into a/c power, sometimes not. Sometimes popping open the laptop's own display would help, sometimes not. I never did figure out the correct connection sequence and incantations to make it never happen, however.

My only support calls to OWC were when the "ship" dates slipped time after time when the whole "connectology" world was turned on its head at the dawn of the USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 / dongle-Medusa era.
 


Here's hoping for a dual-drive dock with Thunderbolt 3! (And to being much less expensive than a full-fledged Thunderbolt 3 dock, like the CalDigit TS3 Plus.)
 


Here's hoping for a dual-drive dock with Thunderbolt 3! (And to being much less expensive than a full-fledged Thunderbolt 3 dock, like the CalDigit TS3 Plus.)
The $595 BlackMagic MultiDock 10G looks like a great product, and I suspect, as USB-C not Thunderbolt, might prove more reliable.

Value per dollar does matter, and even at $595, the MultiDock seems to offer value compared to Thunderbolt alternatives.

For more value, the 10Gbps StarTech USB-C 3.1 to SATA adapter, currently $18.38 on Amazon, should deliver the same throughput to a single SATA SSD. (Per StarTech's website, it supports UASP.) Wonder how it would work connected to multiple disks through a high quality USB-C powered hub? The possible advantage of Thunderbolt is TRIM, if it's effectively passed over that connection.
 


Amazon sells the OWC "OWC Drive Dock" for the same price as OWC. Reviews are not encouraging. "Disconnects" seem to be the complaint....
I've a OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock and can confirm: it locks up the display, has wake issues if I put the Mac Mini to sleep more than 2 hours, is chained to a OWC ThunderBay, has issues with some USB devices mounting, gets extremely warm, and needs a driver (rather dated).

I may move to a CalDigit in the future, but for now, I turn the display off and disable sleep. Or I may just replace my CCFL Dell with an LED model (HDMI) and then leave Thunderbolt to the dock and ThunderBay, using HDMI for display.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Just did a quick test*, using dd to copy a single 3.6GB file from internal SSD to a Samsung T5 on USB 3.0 (2015 MacBook Pro, macOS 10.12):
Tried it with a Thunderbolt network and file-sharing

2017 iMac <-> Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter <-> 2015 MacBook Pro

58.6 MB/sec.

So, about half the speed of a USB 3 SSD.
 


*Here's the test:
Bash:
sudo time dd if=~/3.6GBsourcefile of=/Volumes/external/copyfile
If you're using dd with the default block size, then you probably also enjoy watching paint dry. If you add bs=2M to the dd command, you'll get much more realistic transfer performance. Or, even better, ditch dd entirely, and just use something like cp.
 


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