MagSafe Will Likely Return To The MacBook Pro

Sources say Apple is adding back the ports that Jony Ive took away

Key Takeaways

  • The 2021 MacBook Pro will come in 14- and 16-inch sizes.
  • The MagSafe port will probably make a welcome return.
  • Rumors say there will be other ports too, but which ones?
Two USB C ports on an Apple MacBook Air
Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Credible rumors point to a major redesign of the MacBook Pro in the third quarter of this year. The biggest news? That Apple will begin adding back the ports it has slowly been removing over the years. 

The report comes from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo has a history of excellent sources inside the Asian supply chain, and is almost always correct. The new Macs will have a squared-off design, like the latest iPads and iPhones, come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, have brighter screens, and replace the Touch Bar with regular function keys.

Apple reportedly also will add back the MagSafe charging port (among others). Which others? Let’s take a look.

MacBook Ports

Current Mac laptops have only USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. These are great, because they are small, non-wobbly, and can be connected to pretty much any device with the right dongle. Better still, they have a symmetrical design, so you can never inadvertently attempt to plug the cable in the wrong way. The MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro only have two ports, one of which must be used if you want to charge it.

Over the years, Apple has slowly whittled down the ports in its MacBooks. Some of these make sense. Ethernet ports are just too big to fit into a modern, ultra-thin MacBook. Others just seem annoying, like the lack of an SD card slot. So, here's a look at the best and worst candidates for inclusion in the 2021 M1 MacBook Pro.

"I don’t want a gaping HDMI port taking up space when I can just use a multipurpose USB-C port for it."

USB-A

USB-A is the plug we think of when we think of USB. It’s very common, and you probably have plenty of USB-A cables around the home and office. But it’s a pain to use because you always have to try to plug it in two or three times before you get the correct orientation. It’s also huge. This one is unlikely to return. Either replace your cables, or use a USB-A hub with a USB-C plug on it. 

SD Card Slot

The SD card slot is not just a boon for photographers who want to quickly offload their images and videos. It’s also a good replacement for USB A thumb drives, which used to be ubiquitous, but no longer plug into any Mac laptop. 

Yes, AirDrop and Dropbox are good ways to move files between devices, but sometimes you just want to use sneakernet. SD cards are also handy for external storage. It’s easy to load up a card with movies for a trip, for example. 

HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA

The trouble with display standards is that there are so many of them. Right now, you can connect your MacBook directly to a monitor with a USB-C cable, which also can charge your computer over that same cable. Apple could include a small-ish HDMI port, but what if you want to connect to DisplayPort? The current Mac mini has HDMI, and previous Macs have used Mini DisplayPort, but USB-C’s advantages here are so great (charging, data, and display over one cable) that it’s unlikely Apple will go back. 

“I don’t want anything except USB-C ports, for example. I don’t want a gaping HDMI port taking up space when I can just use a multipurpose USB-C port for it,” wrote Cupcakes2000 on the MacRumors forums.

Even when Apple put Ethernet and FireWire ports on its iBooks and PowerBooks, it would still require (and sometimes even include in the box) dongles for common display connections like VGA. 

Function keys on Apple Touch Bar
Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

MagSafe

MagSafe is fantastic. Not the dumb magnetic “MagSafe” puck that Apple now makes for charging iPhones, but proper MagSafe—a magnetic, breakaway power cable that made it impossible to kick the cord and throw your computer to the floor. Bloomberg’s Apple-watching reporter. Mark Gurman. writes that “the connector will be similar to the elongated pill-shape design of the older MagSafe port,” which is great news. 

However, with USB-C power, you can plug the power cable into either side of your MacBook. With the old MagSafe connector, the only port was on the left side. 

Ethernet

No way. Ethernet makes sense on a desktop computer that never moves, but with a laptop, a USB-C to Ethernet adapter is fine. Or, if you use a USB-C or Thunderbolt dock, it will probably have Ethernet built in.

Port Pun

In this list, none of the options really seems credible other than SD card slots and MagSafe. All the other options are best served by USB-C and a connecting dongle. After all, with space so limited on the side of a skinny MacBook, there’s no way you want to waste space with an HDMI port when you never use a display.

The big problem with today’s MacBooks isn’t the kind of ports they have. It’s that they just don’t have enough. If Apple can fix that, it will have a lot of happy customers.

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