Microsoft recently released the Surface Connect to USB-C Adapter -- a dongle that adds USB-C to any Microsoft computer with a Surface connect port. The accessory was universally panned for being bulky, ugly, and overpriced. Thankfully, the newest Surface Go tablet has an integrated USB-C port -- the aforementioned dongle is not needed.
Microsoft doesn't want to leave the recently unveiled Surface Go out of the dongle party, apparently, as it is releasing two adapters for the tablet. One dongle merely converts the USB-C port into a USB-A port. The other adapter converts the USB-C port into a USB-A port and adds an Ethernet port. Strangely, Microsoft did not mention these products when announcing the Surface Go, but they are available for pre-order now. And yes, they will work with any USB-C Windows device; not just Surface devices.
While all desktops (and most laptops) have video outputs, having a video input is much more rare. The reason why is simple -- most people don't need such a thing. Quite frankly, outside of some business use, home users never really had much of a need. With the invent of video gameplay streaming on platforms like Twitch, however, this changed. Now, more and more home users want video capture devices to connect a game console to their PC.
Today, StarTech releases its latest such product for both business and personal users alike. Called "UVCHDCAP," it is an HDMI to USB-C Video Capture Device for Mac, Windows, and Linux -- no drivers needed. It uses USB 3.0 Type-B for connectivity, and there is a Type-B to Type-C cable in the box. Your computer doesn't have a USB-C port? No worries, a Type-B to Type-A cable is included as well.
Tablets running Chrome OS are actually a thing now, as the Chromebook Tab 10 shows us. While that device is mostly aimed at education, it's only a matter of time before companies offer similar devices for business and personal use too. Since Chrome OS can run Android apps now, some people expect it to replace Android on tablets in the future. I'm not yet sold on that concept -- I still prefer Android running Chrome rather than Chrome running Android, but I'll keep an open mind.
The biggest problem with Chrome OS tablets -- especially for education -- is the lack of a physical keyboard. The Chromebook Tab 10, for instance, is just a tablet -- it does not come with a detachable keyboard. Well, Belkin aims to solve this with the all-new Wired Tablet Keyboard with Stand. As the name implies, it is a USB-C keyboard that props up the tablet for a laptop-like typing experience. In addition, the company unveils a similar keyboard without the stand. That product will work with tablets too, although it is probably better suited for a USB-C enabled Chromebook (when connected to a monitor as a desktop), Chromebase, or Chromebox.
I'm a big fan of some Surface hardware. Microsoft's own laptops and tablets are often well-made and very elegant. Quite frankly, if you want a Windows 10 PC, the Surface Laptop is a great pick. The Surface Pro is a solid choice too, although it can be difficult to use in a lap -- a non-starter for many. The Surface Book series and Surface Studio are decent choices too, albeit pricey.
Unfortunately, while the latest Surface Pro and Surface Laptop computers are rather great, they have one huge issue -- lack of USB-C. It is mind-boggling that Microsoft omitted this port, but OK, what's done is done. Last year the company promised a USB-C dongle would be released eventually, and it will finally become available this week. The problem? It looks like a clunky joke.
It is a slow process, but USB-C is gradually becoming more and more popular -- although it's a long way from ubiquity yet. Ready to rock the boat a little, it has emerged that Microsoft holds a patent for a redesigned USB-C connector.
The patent is not brand new, but Microsoft's May 2017 filing for an "Ultra-Thin USB-C Connector" has just come to light. Another patent filing from April 2017 describes a new "USB-C Plug Receptacle". While the redesign is hardly going to set the world on fire, it's the sort of thing we could well expect to see in a refresh Surface lineup.
No matter the product, a manufacturer should take pride in what it produces. In a world where technology is largely disposable, it is appreciated when a company creates something that is designed to last. If you go on Amazon these days, and you look to buy, say, a cable, you will be presented with countless unrecognizable brands with inexpensive low-quality offerings. And yeah, saving money is cool, but if you are buying crap, have you really saved anything?
I say all that because I have discovered a new USB-C cable from a company called Nomad that promises to be extremely rugged. Do you need a durable cable? Well, if you travel, absolutely. People that are constantly "on the go" will find themselves often pulling cables out of their bag and then shoving them back in. Not to mention, when you are in an airport or coffee shop, for instance, you may find yourself in awkward positions where the cable faces extra strain on its connectors while charging.
Nowadays, more and more consumers are embracing the cloud for data storage and backup. This is not a mistake -- it is smart to store your files off premises. With that said, it is even smarter to also store the data locally for redundancy purposes. For instance, with local storage, if your internet connection is down, you can still access your files. With the cloud, if there is a disaster -- such as a house fire -- your data can be retrieved even if your local storage drives are destroyed. In other words, using the cloud and local storage together gives you the best of both worlds.
Picking local storage can be tricky, however. For cost purposes, a mechanical hard disk drive is still your best bet for backup. If you have a desktop, you can probably buy an internal drive, but laptop users aren't often as lucky. If you own a notebook, you most likely need to opt for an external USB drive. With USB 3.0 being fast enough for connecting a mechanical hard drive, even desktop users should probably consider it for convenience. I have been testing a very intriguing new external USB-C HDD with my MacBook Pro (running High Sierra). What makes the drive so special? It features 20TB of storage!
While the MacBook Pro doesn’t have a dedicated video port, that really doesn’t matter. Thanks to its versatile USB-C ports, any port can output video with the correct cable or dongle. In other words, a USB-C to HDMI, VGA, or DisplayPort cable can allow you to easily connect a computer to a monitor or television.
Most USB-C to DisplayPort cables claim 4K support at the most, but there is a new cable that takes things up a notch. You see, a new product from a company called "Moshi" can apparently do 5K at 60Hz. The company claims this is the first-ever USB-C cable to be certified by VESA for that resolution. It can even do 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. While it is designed for MacBook and MacBook Pro, it should work fine with Windows and Linux computers too.
The iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus are all wonderful smartphones. Heck, you can’t go wrong with any of them. This trio of devices supports fast charging, although you need to use a compatible USB-C charger and Lightning cable.
Today, Belkin announces an all-new car charger that supports fast charging with the newest iPhone devices. Of course, it will work with Android devices too. This is exciting, as it means you can charge your phone more quickly when driving.
Having an SD card reader on a laptop nowadays is nice, but hardly necessary. After all, thanks to the cloud, consumers can easily transport files via the internet. As many photographers and videographers will yell you, however, the cloud is not always a viable solution for them -- working with local storage cards can be a must. The problem, you see, is that many creative people use macOS and the latest MacBook Pro laptops do not have such a card reader. What is the owner of Apple's latest laptop to do?
Just buy an adapter, of course! There are many USB-C card readers on the market that will work on macOS, Windows, and Linux. If you work on multiple machines, however, and some of those computers do not have USB-C, you will unfortunately have to buy a second dongle, right? Actually, no. Thanks to products such as StartTech's latest offering (SDMSDRWU3AC), which is a card reader that supports both USB-C and USB-A, you can use one adapter across all of your computers.
While some people spend their days working at the same location, for many others, their office can be anywhere. It is not uncommon to see people laboring away on a laptop while in their cars, coffee shops, or in a field sitting under a tree.
Unfortunately, this often means working with only one display -- having multiple monitors can be a huge boon for productivity. With that said, there are portable monitors on the market that offer a multi-screen experience when on the go. Today, AOC unveils a beautiful new lightweight (1.81 pounds) 16-inch (technically 15.6) variant that connects via USB-C for both power and video.
There are a lot of USB-C docks and accessories on the market today. While the port can be found on Windows and Linux machines, you can thank Apple for the overall popularity. When the company went all-in with USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro, accessory makers really took interest.
Today, Belkin releases a new dock that uses the newest USB connector. Called "USB-C 3.1 Express Dock HD," it features 8 ports. Best of all, it can charge your laptop while it is connected. While it does offer 4K video, it is unfortunately capped at 30Hz, making it a non-starter for many.
When I bought my MacBook Pro last year, I knew I would end up buying some dongles. Since the laptop only has USB-C ports, I would need adapters to complete some tasks. If I want to use a traditional USB-A flash drive, for instance, I need a dongle. What if I need to plug into Ethernet? Yep, another dongle.
Truth be told, I very rarely connect to Ethernet or access flash drives these days, so those dongles are almost never needed. With that said, there is one big limitation of my MacBook Pro that impacts me regularly -- lack of video out. For this, I need to use a USB-C adapter (or a docking station). I've learned that not all of these dongles are created equally, however. While many can do 4K, they often max out at 30Hz. Thankfully, I found a really great USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter from a company called ACCELL that can do 4K @ 60Hz.
I recently reviewed the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock for Apple MacBook Pro and came away very impressed. This device essentially converts your Apple laptop into a desktop with great results. The problem? It needs to be plugged into a wall for power, and it is not intended to be taken on the go.
Today, OWC announces a product that is meant to be taken with you in your laptop bag. Called "USB-C Travel Dock," it features many of the ports you may need, such as HDMI, USB Type-A, and an SD card reader. It even has a USB-C port for power pass-through, so if you only have one such port, you can charge your laptop while using it too. Best of all, it is quite affordable.
USB-C devices are coming thick and fast lately -- it feels like it is raining dongles and docks! While Apple's MacBook computers aren't the only devices with such ports, they certainly accelerated the popularity. Of course, there are both Windows and Linux machines with USB-C too.
StarTech manufactures many USB-C devices, and now it is releasing three new docking stations. Why three? Well, they offer different features and come in at different price points. Heck, one model even has an integrated 2.5-inch drive bay for an HDD or SSD! All three docking stations can charge/power a laptop too, with a max output of 60W.