Is Apple’s MagSafe power adapter port safer than USB-C?

“In 2006, Apple produced laptops with the MagSafe power adapter,” Rhett Allain writes for Wired. “The idea is that the power plug that goes into the laptop is connect with a magnet instead of the usual plug in hole type thingy (surely there is also a technical term for this). Why would you want a magnetic power cord? Well, if you trip over the cable, the MagSafe just pops off. It saves your computer from falling off a table by using a magnet – thus MagSafe.”

“The most recent MacBook does not have a MagSafe power plug,” Allain writes. “Instead, it is charged over USB-C. In fact, there is only one port on the MacBook and that it is a USB-C. It’s kind of a cool idea… [but] it comes at a cost – no more MagSafe.”

“So, how safe is MagSafe anyway?” Allain writes. “The first thing to look at is the force needed to pull a laptop off a table.”

Much more discussion (and math) regarding friction, weight, and force in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote on March 11th:

We are Mac users and Mac users embrace change.

Apple leads. The rest of the world follows, as usual.

Now, we would love to see a tiny MagSafe adapter cap (or very short corded adapter) that sticks into the USB-C port for MagSafe power cords. That way we don’t have to regress in the name of progress.

22 Comments

  1. I prefer to separate my data and charging. I can imagine locations where your USB-C port gets hacked when you just try to charge. I can live with it. I’ll bring my own adapter but I *can* see some risky activities from unexpected ‘charging stations’. Don’t know if USB-C is allowed to use DMA…

  2. Is there any reason why they couldn’t just put a magsafe like connector an inch or so down the cable they provide with the charger, or at the charger itself? Obviously if you used another cable or had something else connected this wouldn’t work, but it would be something.

    1. I can visualize that: a Magsafe USB-C adapter. One part plugs securely into USB-C slot, a second part plugs into the AC power, and the two parts are held together with a quick release magnet.

      Add a USB-C input to it, then you would be able to plug in another device with charging.

      I wonder how many people would actually buy it though, if it were an option? A regular USB-C charging cable is sure to be cheaper, and cable tripping hazard may not be practical issue if the Macbook really delivers with all day battery with overnight charging.

      1. I definitely prefer MagSafe but worry about the wisdom of using it with a USB-C connector. There are more connections to worry about with a number of these being high-speed data connections. I normally have more than one USB drive connected to my computer and a bad connection or a disconnection without dismounting the drives could lead to data corruption.

        That’s why I think it was a bad decision for Apple to abandon MagSafe. It’s all well and good that a USB-C can supply power to a computer, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    2. If the computer had two USB-C ports, then maybe. As you could just leave the magsafe one in the machine.

      Then again, wouldn’t that make it a whole lot less svelte? Probably why they didn’t do it.

      Also, when you plug something USB into the machine you have to remove the little magnet adapter and not lose or forget it, or it’s now impossible to charge your computer without purchasing a new cable.

      Or you wind up the cord around the adapter for travel and the magnet part unclips and falls when you take it out. Although at first I thought that would be a good idea, the reality is that it overcomplicates things and has the potential to create a “magnet-gate” or a “powergate” for Apple.

      Apple is nothing, if not very conservative in how it rolls changes like that out. You can guarantee that the design team has a prototype with this kind of functionality built into it.

  3. Really @MacDailyNews? Your take here is insanely “suck it”.
    Apple leads. As I’ve said before, I’ve been on board since 1985. But your take points out that this was a stupid change, and it’s not for the better in this case. Quit trying to lipstick the pig here.

  4. I didn’t read the article, but I’d guess that the laptops are getting too light to make the MagSafe connecter work. You’d need a magnet so weak that it would keep disconnecting on its own. Besides, Jony will have them so thin and light that they will start just floating to the floor if they fall off the table in the future.

  5. MagSafe is better. Period. End of story. No way to spin it.

    A technology that disconnects your charger when someone trips is better than a technology that allows your computer to go down with the cable.

    Apple products are mostly great, but they have their screw ups. Let’s remember the 3rd gen Shuffle:

    No buttons, no option for 3rd party headphones. It was a disaster. Apple had to go back to the 2nd gen design (with some improvements).

    Let’s hope they go back to MagSafe. It’s a great technology.

    1. “no option for 3rd party headphones.”
      No direct option. There was an adapter you could use. Essentially it was a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm female cable with the controller built-in.

  6. This is an issue where you may only really understand why Apple did things this way if you look under the hood at the USB C spec. The power envelope of USB has been greatly enlarged, but this comes by being able to increase the output voltage, as with the standard power wiring, the maximum current is fixed to around 2.1A. Also, by default, USB devices expect only 5.1 V on the USB output. So, for a higher charging rate and output power, the connected device (Macbook or whatever) must signal to the power USB power source that it is able to accept a higher output voltage, and have the power source turn that on.

    Now, as you might imagine, there is a bit of an issue there because that higher output voltage can be anywhere on the map… this means that this is not a simple logic signal, but must be an authenticated command from specific hardware to the USB source. In the case of the Macbook, that’s requesting the power adapter to raise the voltage from 5.1V to about 14.5V. Other voltages are possible under the USB C spec.

    All of this signaling and control is not possible with the simple connections of a MagSafe connector.

    Now, take another perspective on this… how many of you are lamenting that they didn’t put a MagSafe connector on your iPad Air? … (crickets…) so the difference is…?

    I think you’ll generally do fine with the type C connector, though I expect/hope for a market to develop for a docking box or connector, rather than Apple’s collection of adapters…

    1. “All of this signaling and control is not possible with the simple connections of a MagSafe connector.”

      So you’re saying that it would be impossible to develop a MagSafe connector with enough leads to implement USB-C? That’s a novel point of view; care to justify it?

    2. I hear you on the technical limitations that may have made making USB-C magnetic and still be (roughly) the same size.

      “how many of you are lamenting that they didn’t put a MagSafe connector on your iPad Air?”

      Well actually I would’ve loved it if a magical magnetic connector was available for the iPad (and iPhone for that matter), but again, the technical limitations may have made that impractical.

      However, there’s a difference there in how a laptop is used and where it may be plugged in versus a tablet or phone.

      1. I think there was a Kickstarter campaign to create a MagSafe type connector for iPhones and iPads. I wasn’t very interested so I didn’t pay much attention to the progress. It’s technically feasible to do this with a USB-C connector but I would be worried about connected USB drives being accidentally disconnected. An accidental disconnection during syncing or charging would be a lot less dangerous than accidentally disconnecting an external drive.

  7. MagSafe has saved my wife’s laptop at least three times and mine once. When sh!t happens, I don’t want it happening to my laptop.

    I won’t buy a new Macbook but the idea is that it doesn’t need MagSafe because of the long battery life. You just charge it at night along with your other devices.

  8. Why does it have to be either/or?

    Why not offer BOTH a MagSafe and a couple USB-C ports? Then the user can charge however he/she/it wants.

    In addition to the stupid decision to eliminate MagSafe, Apple’s decision to eliminate Thunderbolt makes this a less practical device for anyone who bought into the Thunderbolt connection that Apple has been pushing these last few years.

    As others have said, this is a netbook, and I don’t see the point of Apple attempting to offer such a weak device. It’s just not versatile if you connect to anything regularly, including wall power.

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