By Nick Guy and Sarah Witman
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full USB-C adapters, cables, and hubs guide here.
When Apple introduced the 12-inch MacBook in early 2015, USB-C was merely a curiosity for most people, but now that many new laptops have dropped legacy ports, USB-C has gone from interesting to important. The 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, as well as Windows laptops from HP, Asus, Acer, and more, offer only USB-C ports, and a number of Android smartphones use USB-C as their only physical connection. This all means that a critical mass of people need cables, adapters, and other ways to get older gear working with newer devices.
After 18 hours of preliminary research, we tested more than 58 USB-C accessories to put together this guide to the best ways to connect peripherals and devices to a USB-C–equipped computer. It's by no means exhaustive. USB-C can, in theory, replace every other port, and there are a seemingly infinite number of port combinations you might encounter. We focused on the most important tasks you'll likely face, such as connecting older peripherals like hard drives and hooking up an external display.
We'll expand our coverage of USB-C as the field matures; we've published reviews of SD card readers, portable solid-state drives, portable battery packs, portable AC battery packs, Thunderbolt docks, Lightning cables, flash drives, car chargers, charging-port outlets, and laptop chargers, and we have more in the works. If you think we've missed something specific, please let us know.
Why you should trust us
As Wirecutter's accessory writer, Nick tested hundreds of accessories across a wide swath of categories over the past two years. Before that, he was the accessories editor at iLounge for a little more than three years, where he reviewed more than 1,000 products, including dozens of adapters.
We also consulted with Nathan K., a volunteer with the Top Contributor Program at Google. He's an independent tester who has worked with Benson Leung, a famed (in these circles) Google engineer who first brought to light potential issues with USB-C accessories. Nathan tests with professional hardware and software, reporting his findings for free. He didn't have final say on any of our picks but rather provided general guidance on the topic. We also used his guide to suggested peripherals as a starting point in choosing some of the accessories we tested.
How we picked and tested
Each different type of adapter or connector we evaluated required different kinds of testing, but we were able to use some common tests across the board. Our main testing machines were a MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports) and a MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports), with ancillary testing done using a 2016 Dell XPS 13, our pick for the best Windows ultrabook.
We tested the data-transfer speed of the USB ports on hubs and adapters using our favorite flash drive from SanDisk; specifically, we used the AJA System Test app to measure the read and write speeds of the USB 3.0 drive. We repeated this process three times per device, averaging the results; if an adapter or hub had multiple USB ports, we repeated the test for each port. To test USB-C–to–USB-A cables, we connected a Samsung Portable SSD T3 (a former pick, as it's one of the fastest drives with a USB-C connection) to the Dell XPS 13 and ran CrystalDiskMark. Though a small number of flash drives, phones, laptops, and more are now compatible with USB 3.1 Gen 2 (and USB 3.2 is just around the corner), we'll wait to test these faster standards when they become more common.
Although the MacBook Pro's ports can allegedly put out 15 W (3 A / 5 V) to USB-C devices, they maxed out at 2.1 A when we tried to charge an iPad Air with a USB-C–to–USB-A adapter. Accessories that require more power than an iPad Air will likely need a USB-C connection on both ends, but we didn't have anything on hand, so we couldn't get a full read on higher-power-draw devices. We plan to do more power testing for future updates as more USB-C gear becomes available.
For connecting older USB gear: USB-C–to–USB-A adapter
If there's a single accessory most people with a USB-C–only computer will need, it's a USB-C–to–USB-A adapter. Available as either a small nub or a short cable, this kind of adapter lets you connect legacy USB accessories, including flash drives and cables, that have a traditional USB-A plug. We tested 16 adapters and found that they all worked equally well. Each tested model allowed full USB 3.0 data-transfer speeds and, on the 2016 MacBook Pro, 2.1 amps of power draw.
Our favorite nub-style adapter (the JSAUX) has been discontinued, and our second favorite (the iXCC) is no longer being sold individually, so we've removed them from this guide. We're in the process of testing other models, but if you really want a nub-style adapter now, iXCC has a package deal with our former pick and two USB-C–to–Micro-USB adapters that might work for you.
If you prefer a short cable over a nub adapter, go with Aukey's cable adapter. The black cable has solid housings at the ends, and the cable itself feels pretty sturdy. The advantage of a cable over a nub is that it moves the connector away from the computer a bit, about 9 inches in this case. That extra length and flexibility can make it easier to use certain accessories—especially those with fat plugs—and the cable's smaller plug may fit some computers better, or let you connect multiple devices, depending on how close together the computer's ports are.
In our tests, Aukey's adapter provided average write speeds of 340 MB/s, read speeds of 423 MB/s, and a maximum power draw of 2.02 amps. It was the most consistently fast of all the cable-style adapters we tested. Aukey is well-known for its reliable cables and adapters, making us even more confident in this pick. And if something does happen, the company offers a well-regarded 24-month warranty.
For video, USB-A, and charging from a single USB-C port
Our favorite adapters for adding USB-A ports, connecting to HDMI displays, and powering your computer at the same time are the Sanho HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub and its twin, the Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter. They're identical in every way, including design, performance, and MSRP. (Satechi claims to have designed the adapter, telling us, "Due to manufacturing overseas and the long patent process, other companies have been able to get their hands on our designs and mimic our products." Sanho said, "It is the same product as we're doing the OEM manufacturing for them as well.") Both companies offer a one-year warranty.
The adapter consists of a solid-feeling aluminum block (4.3 inches long, just over an inch wide, and less than 0.4 inch at its thickest point) that connects to your computer via a permanently attached, 6-inch USB-C cable. Both Sanho and Satechi sell the adapter in Space Gray, Gold, Rose Gold, and Silver hues to match Apple's 12-inch MacBook (though the adapters work with any USB-C computer). On one edge are two USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C port—the latter only for passthrough charging—and the single HDMI port is found on the end opposite the cable.
For this category, we tested only adapters with a USB-C port that supports Power Delivery, because we think passthrough charging is important, especially for computers such as the 12-inch MacBook that have only one port. We were somewhat surprised to find that on every adapter of this type we tried, the USB-C port supports only power, and only in one direction: You can use it to charge your computer, but it doesn't provide power to connected accessories, and it doesn't work for data.
Both companies' adapters performed equally well in our data read and write tests, showing full USB 3.0 speeds across both USB-A ports. However, each port provided a maximum of 0.45 amp to connected devices, regardless of what was plugged in—even if a charger was connected to the adapter's USB-C port. This means that neither of these adapters will be great for charging tablets or phones, which can charge faster with more power; you're better off using a stand-alone charger. More important is that you may have problems using bus-powered hard drives, as many require 0.9 amp to run reliably: In our testing with a Western Digital MyBook (a USB-powered desktop hard drive), the drive was recognized only some of the time. If your drive came with an optional power adapter, we recommend using it.
In terms of HDMI performance, the adapters can run a 1080p display at 60 Hz or a 4K display at 30 Hz. We saw exactly what you should expect from a USB-C video adapter: While performing daily tasks such as Web browsing, using Slack, and watching YouTube, video was smooth without any graphics issues. Both adapters got warm when we had a display and some USB devices connected, but not too hot to touch.
For video only: USB-C–to–DisplayPort cable
If you're connecting to a DisplayPort-based monitor, you'll need a dedicated cable—none of the adapters we tested include a DisplayPort port. (If you've got a MacBook with only a single USB-C port, you'll instead need to use an HDMI-to-DisplayPort cable with one of the adapters with an HDMI port.) Every USB-C–to–DisplayPort cable we tested worked perfectly, offering a pixel-perfect image and full 60 Hz performance, even at 4K. That said, we recommend the Cable Matters USB-C to DisplayPort 4K 60 Hz Cable if it's available. It's the only one of the five cables we tested that has a clip on the DisplayPort plug housing to hold the plug in place—you have to squeeze the clip to release the cable from the port. This is admittedly a small advantage, though: The Accell U188B-006B USB-C to DisplayPort Cable, Plugable USB-C to DisplayPort Adapter Cable, and StarTech USB-C to DisplayPort Adapter Cable, which are all identical to one another but missing the aforementioned clip, work just as well if the Cable Matters cable is out of stock or more expensive.
If you have an existing DisplayPort cable that you'd like to hook up to a USB-C port, we like Monoprice's adapter, but because there's hardly a difference in price we think you're better off getting the Cable Matters cable.
For multiple older USB devices: USB-A hub
For those who don't need video output but still want passthrough power and multiple ports for older peripherals, we like the Anker 4-Port USB-C Portable Data Hub. It's wider and thicker than the HDMI-equipped adapter from Sanho, but a lot less expensive. It has a USB-C port that supports Power Delivery for passthrough charging—you can plug your USB-C laptop charger into the hub to charge your laptop through it—as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB 3.0 ports. In our testing, we found that both USB 3.0 ports performed well in terms of charging speed and read/write data transfer speeds. We preferred the compact size of Anker's older, now-discontinued version of this hub, but the newer model is still very small and light, and can easily slip into a drawer or backpack pocket.
For power and data between USB-C devices: USB-C–to–USB-C cable
Chances are, you'll eventually need a USB-C–to–USB-C cable, whether it's to replace the charging cable for a USB-C laptop, phone, or tablet, or to transfer data between USB-C devices. You'll find a ton of inexpensive options, but though we'd normally lean toward saving a few bucks on cables, it's not worth the risk with USB-C: As Google engineer Benson Leung found out—the hard way, as they say—some cables that don't adhere to the USB-C specification can actually fry your computer. You should spend a little bit more to get something that's verified to work safely with your machine.
Based on the testing he and Benson Leung have done, Nathan K. recommends J5Create's JUCX01 in his accessory guide, where it's ranked "definitely get." We tested the cable ourselves, and though our tests weren't as exhaustive, it worked well for us. The cable supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds of up to 10 Gbps, 5-amp and 100-watt charging, and it's USB-IF certified. Put simply, it will charge your computer as fast as possible (as long as you're using the right charger) and will move data as fast as USB can. Every JUCX01 also has a unique serial number, so if the company ever has a recall or support issue, you'll know if your cable is affected.
When he first tested the JUCX01, Nathan K. called it "the best cable I've analyzed yet," stating, "Unless there's something really wacky that I'm not catching, like it degrades the USB3.1Gen2 signals or something, this cable is THE cable you want. Hands down." The only downside to the cable is that it's pretty short. We'll do more electrical testing, but based on Nathan K.'s results and our hands-on experience so far, we think it's a safe bet and a good performer.
If you're not concerned about moving data at the fastest speeds, Apple's USB-C Charge Cableis a great charge cable that's a bit less expensive than our top pick. Nathan K. says it's "the best 'charge' cable I've ever seen" (emphasis his). (Just be sure to get model MLL82AM/A in a rectangular, not square, box.) It supports 5-amp, 100-watt charging (the most power USB-C is designed to provide, and more than any current devices need); its 2-meter length is handy for connecting your charger to wall outlets; and it's sturdy. "It's widely available from a well-respected manufacturer known for its stringent [quality control]," Nathan told us, while praising the worldwide distribution and ease of buying a known-good cable from an Apple Store. He also likes that the cables are—like the J5Create cables—individually serialized. Apple's warranty and support network are also appealing. Nathan is so impressed that he recommends Apple's cable for Google Pixel owners "over even the Google OEM cables" (emphasis his). The downside of Apple's charge cable is that it supports only USB 2.0 data speeds, so it will be considerably slower than the J5Create if you're transferring data.
For charging USB-C devices: USB-C charger
Given the mess that is currently USB-C power, the safest option is to buy a spare of the charger that came with your computer—you know it works, and works safely. However, while some PC makers let you buy a replacement for the charger that came with your laptop, not all do, and oddly, sometimes a spare stock charger isn't easy to find and purchase. We researched chargers that use the USB Power Delivery (USB PD), which allows USB-C to transmit the high power required to charge a laptop. After our initial testing of 18 USB-C chargers with four computers, we found Nekteck's 4-port 72W USB Wall Charger with Type-C 60W Power Deliveryto be the best option for most people. It provides enough power to charge most computers at full speed, plus three additional USB-A ports for powering accessories. You can read more about it in our full guide.
For connecting to VGA projectors and displays: USB-C–to–VGA adapter
If you need to connect to a projector or an older monitor with a VGA connection, the best option is Monoprice's Select Series USB-C to VGA Adapter. All the adapters we tested worked equally well, pushing out 1920×1080 resolution at 60 Hz. The Monoprice model is one of the least expensive we found, it comes from a very reputable brand, and its 7-inch cable cable gives you a bit more flexibility than a model with a shorter cable.
For connecting to HDMI monitors and TVs: USB-C–to–HDMI adapter
The best way to connect a USB-C computer to a high-definition TV or monitor, even at 4K resolution, is to use Anker's USB-C to HDMI Adapter. All 12 of the adapters we found that promised a 60 Hz refresh rate worked as advertised. The Anker is our pick because it's fairly inexpensive, it has a nice metal body, and it works with the 2016 MacBook Pro. Some other models either explicitly list that they don't work with the newest Macs or have customer reviews claiming as much.
If what you're looking for is a USB-C (male) to HDMI (male) connector, we also like this adapter from Choetech, which achieved maximum frame and refresh rates in our testing.
For connecting to legacy chargers and older computers and peripherals: USB-C–to–USB-A cable
If you'd like to connect a USB-C device to an older computer or charger that has only USB-A ports, you'll need a USB-C–to–USB-A cable. We limited our search to those that Nathan K. noted had passed his tests, and that also support at least USB 3.0 data speeds. (USB 2.0 is just too slow at this point.) This left us with a handful of cables, all of which passed our tests.
If you're concerned more about charging speeds than data-transfer speeds, we recommend Anker's PowerLine USB-C to USB 3.0 Cable. Much like Anker's Micro-USB and Lightningversions of the cable, this one features a clean and simple design at an affordable price. We saw power draw approaching 3 amps when we plugged it into a high-amperage USB-A port, and Nathan K.'s test verified that the cable can support 3 amps at 20 volts, or 60 watts. In our data tests with a Samsung T3 Portable SSD and a Dell XPS 13, we measured read and write speeds at 3.46 Gbps and 3.43 Gbps, respectively, right on a par with every other USB 3.0 cable we tested.
USB 3.1 Gen 2 cables will offer faster transfer speeds than USB 3.0 cables such as the PowerLine (USB 3.0 is equivalent to USB 3.1 Gen 1)—the Gen 2 standard promises data rates of up to 10 Gbps, double those of Gen 1. However, at this point very few devices support these kinds of speeds, so we don't think most people need to spend the extra money on a Gen 2 cable. If you can take advantage of those speeds or would like to future-proof, we recommend Google's USB-C to USB-A Cable. It matches the charging rates we'd expect, and though we measured read speeds of 3.49 Gbps and write speeds of 3.32 Gbps on the USB 3.1 Gen 1 Samsung T3, it'll theoretically support faster speeds with faster devices. The build quality is also really nice: The cable is thinner than that of many other models, and the well-designed strain-relief collars should help prevent breakage over time. It even has a built-in plastic clip for keeping the cable coiled.
For connecting to DVI displays and projectors: DVI adapter
We found only a handful of DVI adapters that claim to handle 1920×1080 resolution at 60 Hz, and the best among them is StarTech's USB-C to DVI Cable. Unlike the other adapters we tested, this one doesn't require a separate DVI cable: It has a USB-C plug on one end and a male DVI connector on the other. It's available in both 3-foot and 6-foot lengths, so you can get the length that's better for your needs. In our tests, the resolution and refresh rate were exactly as promised.
If you need an adapter with a female DVI connection—for example, if you need to use a separate DVI-DVI cable—Cable Matters's and Monoprice's male-to-female adapters did well in our tests and seem sturdy, so we think you should buy whichever of those is cheapest.
For nubs, we also tested the Nonda USB-C to USB 3.0 Mini Adapter, Rankie Hi-speed USB-C to USB-A 3.0 Adapter, Kanex USB Type C-to-USB Adapter, iXCC USB C to USB 3.0 Adapter, and Aukey USB C to USB 3.0 Adapter. All exhibited the proper charge and data speeds. The Nonda had a nice-feeling build quality, but (like our pick) is too wide to use two at a time on a MacBook Pro. It also had slower charging and data-transfer speeds than our pick. The Rankie model just felt cheaper than the rest we tested. The Aukey used to be our pick in this category, but was significantly slower than the newer models we tested. We still like that its slim design allows you to plug two nubs in side-by-side, however, unlike our pick.
For cable-style adapters, we also tested the Google USB Type-C to USB Standard-A Adapter (no longer available), Moshi USB-C to USB-A Adapter (sold through Google), Monoprice Essentials 3.1 USB-C to USB-A, AmazonBasics USB Type-C to USB 3.1, Anker USB-C to USB 3.1 Adapter, iXCC USB Type C to USB 3.0 Type A Adapter, and RAVPower Type C Adapter (no longer available). All performed well and felt sturdy and well-designed, and nothing in our tests indicated that they're structurally inferior, but we prefer the Aukey adapter because of our confidence in its future availability at its current low price.
The HooToo HT-UC001B Shuttle USB 3.1 Type-C Hub with Power Delivery for Charging, HDMI Output, SD Card Reader and 3 USB 3.0 Ports is identical to our HDMI-less pick, but it costs significantly more. It's not a bad option if the price drops into the same range as the Satechi and Sanho adapters.
The Anker USB-C to 2-Port USB 3.0 and 1-Port USB-C Hub with HDMI Port (currently unavailable) is functionally the same as our two picks, but is physically larger.
Apple's USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter has only one USB-A port and normally sells for a crazy-high price. Even with Apple's current discounted pricing, it's expensive for what you get.
The Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter worked great in our testing, but it's larger and more expensive than our picks thanks to the addition of an Ethernet port and SD and microSD slots. It's worth considering if you need all those features.
The Satechi Aluminum Type-C Pro Hub Adapter also worked great in our testing, but it's almost twice the price of our current picks and we didn't think it added much to justify the price. But if you like it better for some reason, buy it with a clear conscience.
Monoprice's Select Series USB-C HDMI Multiport Adapter is a knockoff of Apple's HDMI adapter, but the spacing of its ports prevents you from connecting a flash drive and an HDMI plug at the same time.
Aukey's CB-C26 was promising thanks to four USB-A ports and a low price. Unfortunately, we heard an annoying coil whine during use, so we don't recommend it.
The Kingston Nucleum Hub seemed sturdy and well-built, and performed well in our tests, but it's still a bit slower (and more expensive) than our picks. It would make a good backup if the Sanho and Satechi go out of stock.
The Choetech Type-C Multiport Adapter was clunkier than others we tested, and performed poorly in all of our tests. Passthrough charging and data transfer simply didn't work through the USB-C port. We don't recommend buying it.
Hyper's HyperDrive Solo 7-in-1 USB-C Hub performed fairly well on most of our tests, but transferring data through the USB-C ports didn't work for us. We also didn't like the fact that it might (depending on your laptop) block the use of a neighboring port.
Hyper's HyperDrive Type-C Duo Adapter also performed well in our tests, but no better than our current picks, which are both cheaper. This would make a decent backup if our picks are sold out.
The AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type-C Multiport Adapter did pretty well in our tests, but it wasn't able to transfer data through the USB-C port. The casing on the AmazonBasics is plastic; we prefer the aluminum casings of our picks.
The Accell U188B-006B USB-C to DisplayPort Cable, Plugable USB-C to DisplayPort Adapter Cable, Moshi USB-C to DisplayPort Cable, and StarTech USB-C to DisplayPort Adapter Cableare identical to one another and work as well as our top pick—they just lack the clip that "locks" the DisplayPort plug in place. Don't hesitate to get one of these if the price is particularly good or if our pick is out of stock.
The Satechi's Type-C USB 3.0 3 in 1 Combo Hub costs more than the HooToo but has one fewer port; on the other hand, it has SD and microSD slots. We like the design, which allows the adapter to sit flush against the computer's body, rather than hanging off by a cable. However, we worry about the stress such a design puts on your computer's USB-C port, and Amazon reviews (30 percent of which include one-star ratings at the time of publication) frequently mention the hub breaking down or getting dangerously hot.
The design of the Monoprice Select Series USB-C to 4x USB-A 3.0 & USB-C (F) Adaptermakes it difficult to fit USB plugs in adjacent ports simultaneously.
Aukey's CB-C23 (currently unavailable) is inexpensive but especially large compared with the competition. Our testing also showed that one of the ports provided more power than the rest, which was strange and a bit concerning.
The Kanex 3-Port USB 3.0 Type-A Hub performed fairly well but it had a clunky, plastic design. Unless you need an Ethernet port (which this hub has) we think you're better off with our pick.
The AmazonBasics USB Type-C to USB Type-C 3.1 Gen1 Cable performed almost as well as our pick, and (depending on the length and color you want) is comparably priced. We think it would serve you well if our pick is unavailable.
The Accell U187B-004B USB-C to VGA Adapter and Aukey Aluminum USB-C to VGA Adapter(currently unavailable) both lack screw holes to hold the attached cable in place. It's a small fault, but considering that everything else performed just as well, it's enough to knock these cables out of the running.
The Aukey USB-C to VGA Adapter, Belkin USB-IF Certified USB Type C (USB-C) to VGA Adapter, and Cable Matters USB 3.1 Type C to VGA Adapter are all functionally equivalent to our pick, but they cost more and offer no advantages.
The CableCreation Gold USB 3.1 Type C (USB-C) to VGA Adapter worked well in our testing, but enough customer reviews cite failure over time that we don't feel comfortable recommending this adapter.
The Kanex USB C to VGA Adapter was formerly our pick in this category, but we replaced it because our pick is nearly half the price, seems sturdier, and performed just as well in our tests. If you can get this cable for a better price, though, you might want to consider it.
The product listing for the Cable Matters USB 3.1 Type C to HDMI 4K UHD Adapter says it works with Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro models, but we can't recommend it, because too many customer reviews on Amazon say they've experienced issues using it with those computers.
The Plugable USB-C to HDMI 2.0 Adapter has a warning that explicitly says "NOT compatible with late 2016 MacBook Pro."
The Choetech USB 3.1 Type-C to HDMI Adapter and Kimwood USB C to HDMI Adapter performed well and are both a little cheaper than our pick, but they also felt cheaper in terms of materials and build quality. We prefer our pick.
Nonda's USB-C to HDMI Adapter performed fine, and had a cute fold-up design, but we found it hard to unfasten (outweighing the cuteness of said design).
Satechi's Aluminum Type-C to HDMI Adapter looks expensive (and it is) but it felt flimsy to hold and didn't outperform our pick.
Nathan K. has verified two other USB 3.1 Gen 1 cables: the Anker USB-C to USB 3.0 Cable(currently unavailable) and the Anker PowerLine+ USB-C to USB 3.0 Cable. The former is more expensive than our pick with worse build quality, and the latter is about double the price of our pick. The braided cable of the PowerLine+ may be a bit sturdier than our pick's, but we don't think most people need to pay extra for the rugged design. The PowerLine+ did work well in our testing, if you happen to prefer its looks or want something that's overbuilt.
Belkin offers a good alternative to the Google USB 3.1 Gen 2 cable with its Apple-exclusive USB-A to USB-C Cable (USB 3.1). The plug housings are a bit bigger than our pick's—the only real downside.
The Monoprice Essentials 3.1 USB-C to USB-A Gen 2 cable performed second-best in our tests, and is a fraction of the price of the Apple/Belkin cable. It's another good alternative if our pick is unavailable.
What to look forward to
We've called in Satechi's new Aluminum Type-C Multimedia Adapter—which has three USB-A ports, Mini DisplayPort and HDMI ports, USB-C power delivery, microSD and SD card-reader slots, and an Ethernet port—for testing. We're also interested in testing a new Satechi hub that clamps onto a desktop monitor to add USB-A ports and Micro/SD readers.
When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.