Digging through Mac rumors can be a thankless task. They tend to be filled with as much idle speculation and projected wish-fulfillment as genuine information. But some Mac leaks and rumors are worth paying attention to. Last week, just as CES 2021 was wrapping up, both Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed new MacBook Pro laptops were coming in 2021.
The idea of new 14-inch and 16-inch models with Apple’s M1 arm-based chips shouldn’t shock anyone, nor that Apple’s Touch Bar secondary screen might be on its way out.
But much more significant, at least to long-time Mac followers, is the rumored return of the MagSafe connector — a proprietary breakaway magnetic power plug that was part of the MacBook line from its 2006 launch.
MagSafe’s phase-out began with the late, lamented 12-inch MacBook in 2015, where it was swapped out for a USB-C power connection, but a handful of older models stuck around until recently. We’ve complained about its loss and tried to come up with workarounds
to replace it.
Then, Apple started using the MagSafe name again in 2020 for a series of magnetic phone charging accessories, but there are few similarities beyond the name.
The classic MagSafe was a brilliant design, safely pulling free whenever you tripped over it. It probably kept every MacBook safe from at least a few tumbles off the table. But there were also problems. Because they were so proprietary, losing an old MacBook power brick (or almost any laptop power supply before the USB-C era) meant hunting for a replacement, and your options were usually an expensive official model or an often-unreliable knockoff.
Modern MacBooks all use USB-C ports for charging, which don’t allow the cable to safely detach (at least not by design). But they do have one undeniable advantage over MagSafe: No matter what modern, mainstream laptop I have sitting around — a Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre, Acer Swift, Lenovo ThinkPad, Asus ZenBook, etc. — there’s a good chance its own USB-C power cable will work with the MacBook, and vice-versa.
Apple’s laptop chargers are 30W, 61W and 96W. Most laptop chargers 45W, or 60W, and I’ve mixed and matched with abandon over the past few years. Try hard enough and you may eventually find an edge case where Charger A doesn’t work with Laptop B, but other than devices like gaming laptops (which only recently started supporting USB-C charging), it’s rare you’ll run into a problem.
For me, that means I’m closing in on one year of working primarily at home, and not having to worry about which laptop power supply was in which room. It’s frankly been liberating.
The iPad Pro and Air have USB-C charging now, as does everything from the Nintendo Switch to the Oculus Quest. Having it in MacBooks has always been a surprisingly non-proprietary move, and maybe one that was too good to last.
If Apple can figure out a way to bring MagSafe back without losing the power port’s standard USB-C connection, then I’m all for it. If it means going back to proprietary power bricks, then MagSafe should probably stay dead.
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