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Apple's decision to include a single, all-new USB-C port on the reinvented MacBook has sent buyers of the ultraportable scrambling for adapters and conversion cables to connect legacy devices — but be mindful of what you plug in.
For decades, Hi-Fi enthusiasts have been fighting a holy war over speaker wires. Half of the community swears that their gold-plated jacks and oxygen-free cable sheaths just make things sound better; the other half plugs in lamp cord from Home Depot and says they can't tell the difference.
As we move further into the digital age, a similar battle is being waged by computer nerds over USB cables. The cables themselves are passive — save a resistor here and there — and aside from the quality of the plastic, there's very little to differentiate a cheap one from an expensive one.
It's true, for instance, that Apple's $19 Lightning cable doesn't perform $13 better than the $6 version available from Monoprice — by the by an excellent vendor — but it's still important to consider the source before going for cut-rate cables.
Google Pixel team member Benson Leung has been reviewing USB-C cables on Amazon for a few months, mostly to determine whether they comply with the USB-C spec. He wants to make sure that consumers who buy a cable to use with a Pixel — or any other USB-C compliant device — will get what they think they're paying for.
Your MacBook cost more than $1,000. Don't cheap out on cables that could kill it.
Everything went swimmingly for more than a hundred reviews, until Leung found a cable that was totally miswired from the factory: in addition to having the wrong resistor, the company had hooked the ground pin on one end to the power pin on the other. The net result was a dead Chromebook Pixel and two fried USB power delivery analyzers.
Several of the cables Leung tested and verified as good actually cost less than the $9.98 SurjTech model that ended his Pixel's life, so this isn't a lesson about cost. Rather, it's one about common sense.
It's fine to look for options which are less expensive than those from the original manufacturer — even we at AppleInsider use some third-party Lightning cables — but make sure to stick with brands that are tried and tested.
Remember, your iPhone likely cost you upwards of $600 or your MacBook more than $1,000; don't blush over a $10 cable that could end their lives.
NOTE: Of those Leung tested, Anker's products consistently rated well. You can find USB-C cables and adapters, along with many more Anker power products, at the company's Amazon store.