The 10 Best Must-Have MacBook Pro Accessories
For content creators, business professionals, and folks looking for a reliable, well-built machine that can last years, there isn’t much that can beat the sleek, solid, aluminium-clad MacBook Pro. Apple’s critically-acclaimed top-end laptop has gone through some serious reinvention over the years, with the most recent update changing the design of the laptop to feature only four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. While the change to this port has been a bit controversial, every single port can handle charging, data transfers, and audio/video out, so you can rest assured you have enough ports to complete any project at hand.
But the major problem with USB-C: most of us use other ports for our accessories besides just Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C. That’s where we come in—we’ve gathered some of the best accessories and adapters you can buy for your new MacBook Pro, guaranteeing that you’ll get your work done efficiently, with all the benefits of USB-C while still using your existing hard drives, cables, and anything else you might own. Let’s take a look at some of the best products you can grab right now for your new, USB-C enabled MacBook Pro.
This list is full of exciting products, from docks and dongles to cases and drives, but it goes without saying: the most important accessory you can get for your new MacBook Pro is an adapter that simply converts those USB-C ports to USB-A (or the usual USB port you’ve seen for years), to be used with the accessories, drives, and cables you already own from previous laptops and computers. While some—including us—would argue that a USB-C to standard USB adapter should come included with the latest MacBook Pro iteration, especially considering how much Apple is asking for these laptops, the revolution doesn’t come cheap. There are a ton of different choices for which adapter to buy for your new MacBook, and we have a couple different suggestions for the best ones available.
First, Apple’s own USB-C to USB adapter will run you a cool $19, and blends in well with Apple’s usual line of white plastic cables with glossy tips. Their cable’s available from a number of online retailers, including Apple itself. Do be warned if you’re buying from Amazon—some users have reported receiving fakes and non-Apple manufactured cables. The Apple-branded adapter has fairly-low ratings on Apple’s own website, but most of these complaints seem to stem from the switch to standard USB-C ports on their newest lineup of laptops, not actually from the adapter itself.
If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, Amazon itself offers their own AmazonBasics-branded USB-C to USB 3.1 adapter in both white and black color choices for only $6.99. The cable is well-reviewed, with a 4.6 out of 5 star rating after over forty reviews. If you want a name-brand cable while saving some cash between the two ports, the AmazonBasics model is a great choice. Anker, a popular startup company known for popularizing the now-ubiquitous battery bank concept, is also known for making some super-resilient cables that often have longer shelf lives than their Apple counterparts. If you’re looking for something a little bit tougher or rugged than the Apple or Amazon adapter, Anker makes a great adapter available for just under $10 on Amazon. The cable is guaranteed to lost through over 3,000 cable bends throughout its lifespan, and the length makes sure the adapter can’t get tangled inside your bag. Our final recommendation is Aukey’s mini-adapters, which drop the cable platform in order to simply create a small adapter model that plugs into the side of your laptop. Plus, for only $10, you get two for the price of one.
Whichever adapter you decide to pick from, whether it be Apple’s, Amazon’s, Anker’s, or Aukey’s, you’ll be happy to know your entire lineup of existing accessories, cables, and drives will now work with your MacBook Pro. Each one of these products is both well-regarded and known for lasting long and keeping up data transfer speeds between your devices. Our recommendation from the four choices offered above is Anker’s cable, which strikes a great balance between durability and price, but all four adapters are exceptional, and will make great additions to your bag or backpack for daily use.
- All adapters are quick and promise fast data transfers
- Apple's and Amazon's adapter promise name-brand quality
- Amazon, Anker, and Aukey show great value for the price
- Apple's adapter is expensive
- Aukey is less-known than the other three
- Some Apple adapter buyers have reported fakes
Because of the MacBook Pro’s reliance on USB-C in order to use any number of accessories, you’re probably going to end up carrying a lot of dongles around. Whether you need access to an SD card reader, a CF card reader (for the video professionals out there), additional USB 3.0 drives, HDMI-out, or anything else, it’s going to be a hassle to make sure you have everything you need for a day at the office or out in the field shooting photos or video. And while individual dongles are relatively cheap when you buy them one-by-one, there is one major problem: once you buy six or seven individual dongles, especially more specific ones, they can get expensive quickly—not to mention a bit unsightly.
For that reason, we’re big fans of the CharJenPro MacSTICK adapter that you can grab from Amazon for under $85. The product plugs into the left (or right, if you turn it over) side of your laptop, taking up both USB-C ports along the side of your MacBook Pro. In exchange for your two ports, you get another two USB-C ports using pass-through, two standard USB-3.0 ports capable of speeds up to 5Gbps, an SD card reader, and a microSD card reader. Yes, it’s a bit of a steep asking price—you won’t be saving much money compared to buying individual adapters. But the MacSTICK competes in two specific areas that dongles simply can’t. First: in exchange for your two USB-C ports, you gain access to two more USB-C ports, meaning you won’t lose the ability to charge your laptop. Only one of the ports on the MacSTICK is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, so expect to use that specific port for video out, fast data transfers, or charging. The other port is a standard USB-C port, used for data transfer only.
The second reason the MacSTICK succeeds is its design: while it might not blend perfectly into the side of your MacBook Pro, it’s certainly far more sleek than using a number of USB-C dongles to have cables and ports coming out of your laptop. The MacSTICK is available in both silver and dark gray, making it the perfect accessory to match your MacBook Pro no matter what color you’re using. When the laptop is open, it’s designed to be nearly flush with the speaker grills on each laptop, creating a far-more natural feel than any dongle ever could. And while the MacSTICK doesn’t cover every port you could ever need, being able to add two USB 3.0 ports along with an SD card and microSD card reader more or less fills in the needs most consumers face every day. In a second-generation product, we’d love to see HDMI added, but obviously this might create problems with supplying two USB-C ports on the product.
The MacSTICK is a great solution to the problem created by Apple’s reliance on USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 to handle every single process on the laptop. While the product is pricey, you can’t beat the design and compactness of what’s offered here. You won’t be able to get away from dongles entirely—especially if you use HDMI in any capacity—but for most users, the MacSTICK will allow them to use their laptop in everyday business settings without having to make sure they brought the right dongle for the job.
- Lots of ports in a small, sleek package
- Colors match the MacBook Pro well
- Retains two USB-C ports
- Only one Thunderbolt 3-compatible port
- No HDMI output
This is a must-have cable for anyone who uses both a modern MacBook Pro and an iPhone. The cable that currently ships with Apple’s iPhone line uses the traditional USB-A port we’ve all grown accustom to using over the years, but unless you buy one of the first two products we included in this roundup above, you won’t be able to sync or charge your iPhone with your new laptop. Thankfully—or regretfully, depending on your outlook on buying cables and chargers on top of a new laptop that runs most users above two grand—Apple provides users with a Lightning to USB-C cable that runs you a cool $24.99. There isn’t a whole lot special about this cable—it’s of the same quality of the one included with iPhones for years, albeit with a USB-C end instead of a USB-A end. If you’re willing to buy a third-party cable to save some cash, Anker has finally announced their own Lightning to USB-C cable, shipping in late February for just $15.99.
- Sync and charge your iPhone without a dongle
- Same quality as the original iPhone cable
- Apple's cable is expensive
- Apple's cable is often back-ordered on Amazon.
LaCie is one of our favorite brands to recommend when it comes to external hard drives. They make great, reliable products at good prices, and they typically offer a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and varieties for every use case. LaCie’s Porsche Design drive, meets two great requirements for what we like to see in a drive: first, it’s one of the only USB-C drives you can pick up on the market, making it ideal for use with both Apple’s 2016 MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup. Second, the drive features a silver aluminum finish, which looks great next to any MacBook you have lying around. They’re available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB mobile versions, as well as larger 6 and 8TB desktop versions that we recommend to video creators who can afford to plug in their drives instead of requiring them to be portable.
For most users, the 1 or 2TB drives will probably satisfy you, offering a good mix of portability, sleek design, and speeds. Each drive is available in both silver, gold, and rose gold, and we think all three colors look great and offer a unique design to the typically-boring world of portable hard drives. There is one not-so-great aspect to this device: multiple users and reviews have reported problems with both the USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB 3.0 cables failing within a few months of use. If you opt to go for LaCie’s Porsche Design hard drive, we recommend picking up a third-party USB-C to USB-C cable for a few extra bucks from Amazon.
- Comparable prices to non USB-C hard drives
- Sleek and well-designed
- Storage sizes from 1TB to 8TB
- Cables are known to fail
- Non USB-C drives are typically a bit cheaper
We don’t wish to leave out those users of older MacBook Pros. Though Apple might’ve taken the opportunity to update their MacBook Pros in 2016 as a way to cut down on both ports and built-in functionality, plenty of users are still using their 2015—or earlier—MacBook Pros and loving them every day. For those users, we recommend getting something like the Nifty MiniDrive, a neat little accessory that uses the SD card slot on the side of your laptop most consumers don’t use more often than a few times a year, and offers a flush fit into the side of your MacBook Pro. You simply take a microSD card of your choosing—Nifty does recommend some specific microSD cards, but pretty much any fast card will do—up to 256GB, and insert it into the side of your MacBook Pro.
The silver finish matches the silver color of older MacBook Pros perfectly, and you’ll never be able to tell the Nifty MiniDrive is in your system. The flush feel doesn’t just make the product feel great—it stops you from accidentally ejecting the card and causing data problems with your machine. $39 may seem like a high asking price when you still have to include the SD card on your own, but it’s a well-engineered product that makes using the SD card on your computer for some extra storage space that much easier. Nifty described the product as “semi-permanent storage,” and we think it’s a brilliant descriptor for what makes the MiniDrive so cool. Just remember: users of the 2016 or later MacBook Pro won’t be able to benefit from the MiniDrive unless you’re using it in conjunction with something like the MacSTICK above.
- Fits flush with 2015 or earlier MacBook Pros
- Offers up to 256GB of extra space without cables
- Doesn't work on newer MacBook Pros
- A bit expensive without a microSD card
If you’re a creative professional who uses a MacBook Pro on a daily basis, there’s a good chance you use a series of cables and adapters to plug your laptop into an external monitor, with separate keyboards and mice in order to use a larger display for keeping more information on the screen. It’s a good idea in theory, but one of the biggest problems with using a laptop like this: there’s just no good place to set your laptop while you’re using it in a docked form. That’s why the Twelve South BookArc exists: it’s a beautifully-designed, aluminium chassis dock that allows your MacBook or MacBook Pro to be stood up from your desk or workspace, saving space in your work area and keeping your laptop safe from spills, scratches, and more. It allows for every single port to be accessed on your laptop, while also allowing MacBook Pros additional space for fan control without running your laptop at an unsafe heat. And honestly, it just looks great, available in both dark gray and silver finishes that will match your laptop elegantly no matter which model you have (we wish there was a rose gold MacBook Pro—it would look fantastic with that dark gray dock). $47.99 is a bit pricey for what is essentially a piece of metal designed to hold an already-expensive computer, but it’s one of the best-looking docks you can find on the market.
- Looks great with the Apple aesthetic
- Keeps your MacBook Pro safe while in docked mode
- Expensive for a dock
- A bit small for 15" models
Thule has long been known for their series of transportation and rack accessories for vehicles, as well as their rugged luggage lineup that have made them a popular choice for experienced travelers. Over the past few years, Thule has expanded into electronic accessories as well, offering phone and laptop cases for a number of brand-specific devices. Thule’s Gauntlet case is one of our favorite picks from the company, offering a rugged sleeve for both 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros, including the newer TouchBar models from 2016. It has a padded interior that keeps your laptop safe while in the sleeve, protected by a tough metal zipper and a rigid, tough exterior that can protect your laptop from drops and scratches while you’re on your commute. It’s a bit heavy, and obviously will add some heft to your bag or backpack on your way to work or school, but if you ride a bike or spend long hours each week walking or running on your way to work, you’ll want to spend the cash on the Thule Gauntlet. It’s a great way to keep your device safe and secure.
- Great drop and scratch protection
- Laptop can be used without removing sleeve
- No handle
- Bulky and heavy
If the Thule Gauntlet is a bit too-much when it comes to what you’re looking for in a case, ProCase’s Laptop Sleeve is a great choice, meeting a good compromise between fashion and protection. The interior of the Sleeve has a soft-touch microfiber-like fabric that keeps your MacBook Pro clean and safe from scratches, while the outer fabric is made of a tough cloth and leather combination that resists water, so getting stuck in a rainstorm on your way home isn’t a problem. Unlike the Thule Gauntlet, the ProCase Sleeve has a handle along the top of the case for carrying to work or home, and the outer pocket is great for storing accessories like wireless mice, charging cables, and anything else you need to handle your daily workflow. The case comes in a number of color choices, though we’re partial to the dark gray/brown leather combination that strikes a great balance of professionalism and modern design. ProCase sells it in a number of configurations, from 12″ laptops all the way to 15.6″ laptop sizes, and the $19.99 (or less, depending on size) asking price means you won’t be breaking the bank on protecting your investment. Definitely check this one out if you’re looking for fashionable protection at a great price.
- Looks and feels great
- Water-resistant cover with soft-touch interior
- Not super-protective against drops
It might seem like a strange suggestion, since the MacBook Pro still includes a headphone jack, but investing in a pair of Apple’s own Airpods can work wonders if you’re a long-term user of Apple’s entire ecosystem of products. Apple’s Airpods have been wildly lauded since their launch at the very end of 2016—to this day, it’s still difficult to find a pair. They use Apples W1 chip based off of the Bluetooth wireless standard to automatically pair with your iPhone or iPad, and while your MacBook Pro won’t automatically sync with your Airpods, they’re still one of the best Bluetooth headsets you can get to use with a MacOS product. It’s a well-known fact that Apple products play well together, and if you’re looking to get the best experience out of your products, using Airpods with your MacBook Pro is a no-brainer. The completely-wireless headphones have a 5-hour battery life, and the included case charges your headphones when you aren’t using them. Apple says just fifteen minutes in the case can provide 3 hours of listening time, and when combined together, the case can give you over twenty-four hours of playback time before having to be charged again. They’re pricey compared to cheaper Bluetooth sets on Amazon, but none of them provide this kind of battery life without a single wire. Just don’t buy them if the standard Apple Earpod design doesn’t fit your ear—you won’t like these very much either.
Apple doesn’t make their own display anymore, instead opting to sell a specially-made display by LG, the LG UltraFine 5K Display. It’s a good monitor, but it’s incredibly expensive and was hit with some pretty major problems upon its release, including issues where the display would flicker when near wireless routers. So instead, we recommend sticking with a different LG display: the 27″ UK850. While it’s not a 5K monitor, it does come in at a full 4K resolution, and includes HDR10 support and the ability to use AMD FreeSync, if you have a FreeSync device in your life. At $600, this monitor is far cheaper than the similar 5K monitor from LG and Apple, and even manages to include the best feature at no additional cost: the inclusion of a one-port-fits-all for your MacBook Pro. The USB-C port on the back of this monitor allows you to charge your MacBook and use an external monitor all at once, making it a no-brainer for your MacBook or MacBook Pro.
- 5K Resolution Display
- Works with MacBook Pros better than any other monitor on the market
- Super expensive
- Apple's making their own monitor for 2019