eXtensions - Wednesday 28 December 2016

Online Orders, Pricing and Availability of USB-C Accessories for the MacBook Pro (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


The 13" MacBook Pro I ordered online arrived last week and I switched to that as soon as I could. The transition was relatively smooth, but there were a couple of adjustments. A problem with these new Macs is not the few adapters available, but the lack of suitable cables.

On 14 December, I updated the 15" MacBook Pro to macOS 10.12.2. That same afternoon my 13" MacBook Pro arrived. I had intended to move directly to the 13" model with the Time Machine backup, but as the new Mac arrived with version 10.12.1 that would not work.

I created a temporary account on the 13" Mac to install the update. I could then use Time Machine and Migration Assistant. However, a local user pointed out on Twitter, a better way would be Mac to Mac. I connected the two using a USB-C to USB-C cable, started Migration Assistant on the 15" Mac, then on the 13" device, set everything in motion and went to bed.

2016 13" MacBook Pro with MacBook, 2013 MacBook Pro and 2016 15" MacBook Pro

Next morning, all was ready after a couple of checks. Not everything was carried over: like some paswords and settings. I had expected this and soon filled in the missing data. On the 15" Mac I had set up two fingerprints for the user account. These were not transferred over; nor was the fingerprint for the Admin account. This implies that this is hardwired into the firmware when set up: just like the iPhone.

As part of the setup, I switched display resolution from the default to a setting that gives more space (looks like 1680 x 1050). As text was small with the app I use most for writing, I increased the font size, but there were no other negatives.

At home and the office, one by one I connected the disks I use for Time Machine backups and was asked if I wanted the new Mac to inherit previous backup data. Connecting disks has needed use of adapters as none have USB-C connectors. This was more of a problem with the large Western Digital disk, which uses Thunderbolt 2. There were no suitable connectors here when the 15" MacBook Pro first arrived.

I saw the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter on the Apple site and ordered that online (1200 baht). Within a couple of days I also saw that this adapter was now in iStudio outlets. When it arrived a few days later, I was able to backup that disk too.

Around the same time, I bought a Kanex USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter from Amazon. The Ethernet adapter is not something I need, but rather an alternative I wanted to try. The price was $16.50, but by the time shipping and Customs fees were added (some of that may be refunded) I was charged 1691 baht ($44.86). When I tried this, the Mac recognised the new connection. I created a new link in Network Preferences and turned WiFi off for a while, just to see.

USB-C to Ethernet
USB-C to Ethernet

I also have two older disks at home: Western Digital and LaCie. These both have Firewire 800 connectors. I was already using an adapter to link them to the 2013 MacBook Pro. I can now connect to the 2016 Macs, but it occurred to me when using these, and other disks with those ugly USB to USB 3 micro connectors, the problem is not the use of adapters, but the lack of suitable cables.

USB 3 disks LaCie FW800

USB Disks and LaCie Firewire 800 Disk (right)

I managed to find a Belkin USB-C to Micro-B Cable online - perfect for several hard disks I have - and ordered two of these from Amazon. I have not seen these in stores here. I also saw a review of a new external SSD drive that uses USB-C: the Atom SSD from Glyph. This is super-fast and comes in 256MB, 512MB and 1TB sizes. On Amazon, the 1TB disk is priced at $399 (14188 baht), but does not ship to Thailand.

Users here need more, and more suitable accessories at sensible prices. Some months ago, I saw Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless headphones on a US site. The price was $399 (14,336 baht). I expected some markup, but when I found them in a store here, they were 23,800 baht, almost double the US price. A few days later I picked up a pair of Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H7 Bluetooth headphones for a fairer 18,990 baht. Last week I saw an internet-controlled flowerpot that costs $99.99 (3556 baht) in the USA, for just under 6,000 baht in Siam Discovery (and Paragon). That appears high.

Apple accessories do have some markup. I bought another USB-C to USB adapter in iStudio this week for 390 baht, which is slightly more than the $9 (346 baht, with VAT) of the US price, but not excessively so. Apple has now extended reduced pricing for USB-C adapters until 31 March 2017.


See also:

Belkin USB-C Resource Center

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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