Mini DisplayPort + Thunderbolt 2 + USB-C = ???
The new MacBook Pros sure are pretty. It might even be worth springing for one! The display is gorgeous. The trackpad is huge! And the keyboard seems to not suck. Might as well throw in a dongle or two, so that I can make it work with my other electronic things, like an iPhone or an iPad or an SD card or MIDI keyboard…or this expensive monitor with the Apple logo on it.
If only it were that simple! I try to be an educated consumer of tech-like things, so I decide to go read up on USB-C, since it’s so clearly the FUTURE. This is actual support copy from Apple’s “About Thunderbolt Ports and Displays” page.
Note that although it uses a Mini DisplayPort connector, the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter doesn’t support connections to Mini DisplayPort displays. Also, this adapter supports only one powered Thunderbolt 2 device on a USB-C equipped Mac.
Glenn Fleishman, bless his heart, wrote about a thousand words for Tidbits trying to explain it. Here’s a paragraph from his piece:
Thunderbolt 3 cables are labeled with the same lightning logo used by Thunderbolt 2 cables, while USB cables with USB-C connectors show the familiar USB logo and may also be branded with SS+ for SuperSpeed+. Older USB 3.0 (also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1) cables are sometimes also branded with an SS for SuperSpeed.
I have a 12" MacBook from 2015, and a 27" Cinema Display with Thunderbolt. Do they work together? Nope. You know how much bullshit technical jargon I would have had to read to figure that out? An infinite amount, more or less. I was approaching this infinite amount when I gave up, asked on Twitter and was lucky enough to have two super genius experts — Glenn and Jason Snell — answer me. Thanks, super genius expert friends; I know it’s not your fault.
Hey Apple (or Apple publications)! In lieu of actually fixing the underlying problem (lol), here’s an idea. Forget trying to explain the standards and what data transfers over what protocol at what speeds: no one cares. Instead, build a simple tool that lets you pick your computer on one end, the peripheral / device / monitor / doohickey on the other, and then spits out (a) whether that’s even possible and/or (b) what combination of dongles / cables you need to buy to make it possible.
After all, they’re on sale!