Review: Vinpok Bolt-S cable returns MagSafe-like technology to the USB-C MacBook Pro [u]
Vinpok Bolt-S3.5 / 5
MagSafe was removed from the 2016 MacBook Pro, and its not likely coming back. Does the Vinpok Bolt-S cable fill the gap, or is the attraction of the old technology best left in the past?
Update Feb 18. 2018: While we haven't had any problems with the cables that we were sent for testing, it has come to our attention that Vinpok is having issues delivering, and a batch of early cables had issues with short-circuiting. At present, AppleInsider recommends holding off on purchases until more information becomes available.
The Vinpok Bolt-S cable has a USB-C detachable end that inserts into the computer, with the cable itself held in place with a magnetic ring. The approach is not all that dissimilar to that of Apple's MagSafe, but with all the functional elements external to the laptop, rather than as part of the computer's case.
The first test was delivered power — and the Bolt-S does in fact deliver 87W of charging power. But, The cable does not carry data, so users needing data transfer need to use a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 cable into one of the MacBook Pro's three other ports for external devices and accessories, eliminating the possibility of a single-cable solution for everything.
In our initial tests, Apple's standard USB-C cable required less force to pull out at a 90-degree angle from the side of the case — essentially straight-on. Both plugs required about the same force to yank out at around 70 degrees in either direction.
After 70 degrees in either direction, force increased on the USB-C cable to remove, with a 15-inch MacBook Pro sliding across the desk up to two feet before removal in every case. Past 50 about degrees, an unrestrained laptop slid about three feet until the angle decreased, and the USB-C cable pulled out.
Apple's battery life will get you home, and back to your safe desk.
However, at 70 degrees, the force required to break the Vinpok Bolt-S's connection decreased rapidly, with the cable needing only about half the force required to break the connection at around 30 degrees from the edge of the case — and importantly, minimal migration on an unrestrained computer before the break.
Compared to MagSafe 2, the Vinpok cable requires a bit more force to remove at all angles, but not a lot more.
Not an exact clone of MagSafe
Unlike USB-C itself, the connections inside the plug itself aren't symmetrical along the horizontal axis. While we weren't particularly interested in forcing a connection, the polarization of the magnets on the plug prevented a casual, and misaligned, connection.
That little USB-C end designed to plug in to the computer goes in there very firmly. So firmly, in fact, that we had to get out a pair of needle nose pliers to extract it when we wanted the port back. This is a feature for the "stuff the computer in the bag and go" crowd as it won't pop out casually, but less so if you need the port back frequently.
Your mileage may vary
We've been using the Vinpok cable for about a week. But, beyond a testing environment, our workstations really aren't subject to accidental cable pulls, causing a topple of our two-kilobuck computer to the floor. Like with just about anything else, if a product doesn't solve a problem for you, there's no reason to buy it.
It isn't 2006 anymore. Battery life on anything Apple is shipping with USB-C is much longer than older machines that first sported it. It's not all that difficult to crank out a full day of work in a coffee shop on the battery, assuming you aren't wrangling 4K video and a profoundly fresh venti latte from the barista at the same time.
If you are, you need power (and presumably a non-spill mug) to do it. And, probably high-speed external drives as well.
The long and the short of it is, if MagSafe has ever saved your bacon and you fear it might need to again, and you can spare giving up a USB-C plug on a semi-permanent basis, then the Vinpok Bolt-S is worth a look. Otherwise, Apple's battery life will allow you to crank out that novel from the coffee shop, get you home, and back to your safe desk.
If your desk isn't safe, tips to make it so are a topic for another day.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
The $29 Vinpok Bolt-S does what it does adequately and without complaint. We're just not sure that beyond a vocal few, that the removal of MagSafe from Apple's product line is that big a deal.
Preorders for the cable have begun on the Vinpok website. Additionally, an IndieGoGo campaign has also launched to further fund mass production and has already met the funding goal.