Stephen Shankland of cnet.com is confident that the new variant of MacBook Pro will remain a powerful machine while getting lighter and smaller. However, there is also something to be worried about because the new technology that enables that slimming down, the versatile USB Type-C port, may also mean the MacBook Pro and other heavy-duty laptops will have limitations.
USB-C is flexible enough to handle just about anything a user can plug into a laptop, but is anyone ready to have it push aside other useful ports, like HDMI video and 3.5mm audio, the way they've already pushed aside Ethernet jacks and SD card slots? There may not even be enough USB-C ports to make up for the loss of the old ports.
The next version of Apple's workhorse laptop, rumored to be in final testing stages, will no doubt embrace USB-C. Apple historically has been eager to embrace new technologies for connecting things like printers, keyboards, external drives and displays to computers, and it became a high-profile early USB-C adopter with the 2015 introduction of the slim MacBook. Dozens of other machines now include the new port, too, like Dell's XPS 13 and HP's Spectre, and the port is well on its way to becoming the new standard.
Mostly that's great news. USB-C is reversible, so there's no more fiddling to figure out which way is up when plugging in a cable. It can be used to charge laptops, not just phones. It's easier to take advantage of USB's new higher-speed modes, 5 and 10 gigabits per second, enough to copy an entire 100GB 4K movie in 13 seconds, at least in principle. And USB-C is getting new abilities to handle audio and video, too, making it into one port that can do it all.
But in the bid to simplify lives with a single input technology, it may end up complicating things with too few connectors - especially if it is a power user.
Four ports may seem plenty for most folks. With wireless links like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, most people don't need so many cables for keyboards, mice, network cables and printers. But not everyone has upgraded to everything wireless. Even if they have, they might still have external drives, thumb drives, DVD drives, camera memory card readers, and the tiny radio controllers for wireless keyboards and mice.
So even a modest number of peripherals can take up a lot of ports. Add to that USB's ability to replace HDMI and DisplayPort video ports, the 3.5mm audio jack, and the power connector, and users could be running into trouble if PC makers get rid of those older standards.