New to the 16-inch MacBook Pro? These accessories are essential for professionals

Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro is easy to recommend for replacing a MacBook Pro from 2015 or earlier. It has a reliable keyboard (unlike 2016 to 2019 15.4-inch models), significantly better microphones and speakers, and a more immersive display.

But unlike MacBook Pros from a few years ago, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro has the same (lack of) ports as recent MacBook Pros. The good news is the market for adapters and cables has expanded over the last four years, and there are plenty of must-have accessories for professionals.

Extra power

The brand new MacBook Pro with 8-core i7 and i9 chips is powerful, but all that processing power is useless if you get caught with a dead battery, Apple promises up to 11 hours of battery life on a single charge, but we all know more intensive work will chew through battery life much quicker.

You can tote your MacBook Pro charger everywhere you go or pick up an extra charger to keep one at home and one in your go bag. These are official Apple options to consider:

  • Apple 96W USB-C Power Adapter is the same charging brick that comes in the box
  • Don’t forget the Apple USB-C Charge Cable (2m) to complete your second charger — the brick alone won’t do anything without a cable
  • Power Adapter Extension Cable extends Apple’s charging brick length by 1.8-meters but stopped being included with MacBook Pro in 2016 so you may need two (and cheaper versions exist)

Apple cranked up the battery size and wattage of its power brick for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Lower-watt USB-C chargers are still compatible, albeit with slightly slower charging speeds. Third-party 87W USB-C charging bricks designed to look like Apple’s charger exist for half the price.

For me, the awesome RAVPower 61W Gallium Nitride (i.e. compact) brick is my go-to backpack power supply paired with a matching black Monoprice Essentials USB-C charging cable, available in 0.5 to 4-meter lengths. Fingers crossed for a 96W or higher version soon!

SD Card, HDMI, and Ethernet

Ah, yes, Apple seems to have resolved its keyboard trouble with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, but they’re not budging with the onboard I/O. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are excellent for fast charging and high-speed data transfer, but it’s a bring-your-own-adapter adventure for many other uses.

Say goodbye to the built-in SD Card slot and HDMI port if you’re upgrading from the 2015 and earlier MacBook Pro. Apple dropped the built-in Ethernet port from the MacBook Pro before that, but you’ll need a new Ethernet adapter for the USB-C world.

Consider this the MacBook Pro accessory starter pack for professionals:

  • Apple USB-C to SD Card Reader for fast and convenient photo and video imports
  • Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter for connecting an HDMI cable to a TV or projector without losing a USB-C port — there’s also a USB-A port included
  • Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter for using Thunderbolt 1 and 2 accessories including Apple’s Gigabit Ethernet Adapter with Thunderbolt 3 ports

The four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the 16-inch MacBook Pro aren’t proprietary Apple ports so there’s a huge market of third-party adapters and accessories too. Before Apple made its own SD Card adapter, the SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II was the official recommendation for MacBook Pro. Anker makes a more affordable USB-C to HDMI adapter without power-through and USB-A like Apple’s, and AmazonBasics makes an affordable USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter that comes in black.

Regular USB ports

We’re more than four years into the USB-A to USB-C transition for MacBook Pro, but it’s clearly going to take even longer for USB-A to be a thing of the past. In the meantime, you can replace your USB-A cables with USB-C versions, or find the right adapter for using USB-A connections with the MacBook Pro ports.

USB-C may not have replaced USB-A yet, but the market of adapters has matured:

  • Apple USB-C to USB Adapter is a single port option if you don’t need Apple’s HDMI or VGA adapter
  • AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type-C to 4 Port USB Adapter Hub turns a single USB-C port into four traditional USB-A ports
  • Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2 is packed with I/O turning a single USB-C port into HDMI, USB-C pass-through charging, Ethernet, SD/Micro SD card, and three USB-A slots

Finally, consider a Thunderbolt 3 dock if you’re planning to use the 16-inch MacBook Pro as a part-time desktop computer. A single USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port can become power, USB-A ports, an SD Card reader, speakers, and much more. A recently introduced option includes OWC 14-Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock, and 9to5Mac has reviewed even more since the category appeared.

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