New MacBook Pro models reportedly incompatible with certain Thunderbolt 3 devices [ux2]

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited November 2016
Potentially adding to a growing list of complaints regarding limitations with Apple's new MacBook Pro, an aftermarket Mac accessories maker reports the notebooks might not be compatible with existing Thunderbolt 3 hardware.




Plugable, a manufacturer of docking stations, adapters and other peripherals, in a blog post this week claims Apple "design decisions" prevent Thunderbolt 3 devices running Texas Instruments controller chips from communicating with late-2016 MacBook Pro hardware.

The aftermarket parts maker discovered the deficiency during compatibility testing of its existing Thunderbolt 3 dock lineup. Specifically, a pair of Plugable's Thunderbolt 3 graphics adapters were found incompatible with a MacBook Pro without Touch Bar test bed, forcing the firm to push back launch of an upcoming docking product. Plugable's flagship TBT3-UDV dock with Power Delivery/Charging, which employs a next-generation TI controller, was found compatible with the new MacBook Pro, suggesting the limitation applies only to older TI chips.

Whether Plugable's findings are accurate is unclear, though it seems unlikely that Apple would intentionally alienate owners with early Thunderbolt 3 devices. Perhaps more plausible is Plugable implemented a chip that fails to comply with specifications adopted by standard bearer Intel.

"While we have no comment on Plugable's specific complaint, products using the newest Thunderbolt chipsets, with up-to-date drivers, will have no difficulty connecting to any 2016 MacBook Pro," Apple said in a statement to AppleInsider.

A follow-up post from Plugable notes macOS Sierra is incompatible with existing Certified Thunderbolt 3 devices released prior to November 2016. Specifically, Apple reportedly requires TI's second-generation TPS65983 chipset for full compatibility.

The revelations add to complaints about Apple's redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. After the company unveiled the laptops last week, tech pundits and a swath of consumers decried the new hardware's lack of expansion ports. In particular, some users were upset that Apple removed MacBook Pro's SD card slot, a port deemed vital for professional photographers. Others took umbrage to the lack of USB ports, as the new model requires users purchase an adapter dongle to connect and charge legacy devices -- Apple's own iPhone and iPad included.

In response, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller on Wednesday defended the company's design decisions, but admitted MacBook Pro "might not be right for everyone on day one."

As for criticism that the new MacBook Pro models lack "pro level" features, Schiller pointed to the headphone jack, saying the long-in-the-tooth I/O standard was retained to support professional audio gear. As noted by AppleInsider, however, the 3.5mm port no longer supports optical out capabilities, limiting its utility to musicians, film makers and other pro users.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Apple and additional information from Plugable.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    This was an excellent decision. Apple should have charged more and not had any I/o ports at all. 
    revenantbaconstangavon b7viclauyycperkedeladonissmuaylkrepressthis
  • Reply 2 of 56
    The product page for one of the devices in question says "For Windows based PCs only" right in the Features bullet list. Furthermore, the headline at the top of the page reads "PLUGABLE THUNDERBOLT™ 3 DUAL DISPLAYPORT ADAPTER FOR WINDOWS" (emphasis added by me)

    http://plugable.com/products/tbt3-dp2x/

    I don't really see how Apple made a design decision to make MBPs incompatible with Plugable devices. It appears Plugable made the design decision to exclude Apple.
    edited November 2016 JanNLmacseekertmayrevenantlondorwilliamlondonroundaboutnowviclauyycration alireland
  • Reply 3 of 56
    TI didn't follow specs .. thats why..
    emoellerandrewj5790repressthisairbubble
  • Reply 4 of 56
    claims Apple "design decisions" prevent Thunderbolt 3 devices running Texas Instruments controller chips from communicating

    This is total bs. Its more likely a driver or firmware based problem then anything else.
    tmayandrewj5790lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 56
    polymnia said:
    The product page for one of the devices in question says "For Windows based PCs only" right in the Features bullet list. Furthermore, the headline at the top of the page reads "PLUGABLE THUNDERBOLT™ 3 DUAL DISPLAYPORT ADAPTER FOR WINDOWS" (emphasis added by me)

    http://plugable.com/products/tbt3-dp2x/

    I don't really see how Apple made a design decision to make MBPs incompatible with Pluggable devices. It appears Plugable made the design decision to exclude Apple.
    They went cheap to get out the door on an un-certified chip plus didn't bother make it compatible. Not Apple fault in the least..

    But will add to the confusion..

    Also, it's only 60w, both 13 and 15 are over 60w..
    andrewj5790lolliver
  • Reply 6 of 56
    williamh said:
    This was an excellent decision. Apple should have charged more and not had any I/o ports at all. 
    Apple should have left the screen off too.  Just a metal brick.  $2,999.
    baconstangavon b7aylk
  • Reply 7 of 56
    polymnia said:
    The product page for one of the devices in question says "For Windows based PCs only" right in the Features bullet list. Furthermore, the headline at the top of the page reads "PLUGABLE THUNDERBOLT™ 3 DUAL DISPLAYPORT ADAPTER FOR WINDOWS" (emphasis added by me)

    http://plugable.com/products/tbt3-dp2x/

    I don't really see how Apple made a design decision to make MBPs incompatible with Pluggable devices. It appears Plugable made the design decision to exclude Apple.
    I agree with your statement. Also at the bottom in the bullet listing, there was this note "For Windows based PCs only." Plugable shot their foot so bad.
    tmayration aladonissmuBunker_Squirrellollivermagman1979
  • Reply 8 of 56
    newvideoaznewvideoaz Posts: 7unconfirmed, member
    williamh said:
    This was an excellent decision. Apple should have charged more and not had any I/o ports at all. 
    Apple should have left the screen off too.  Just a metal brick.  $2,999.
    manfrommars: You know something about a new MacMini Pro and just not telling us? ; )
    baconstangavon b7andrewj5790
  • Reply 9 of 56
    In other news, Apple grabs 103.6% of smartphone industry profits in Q3 while 2nd place Samsung grabs 0.9%

    http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-iphone-grabs-104-of-smartphone-industry-profit-in-q3/
    ration alandrewj5790
  • Reply 10 of 56
    My only beef with the new MBPs is the lack of MagSafe. It is one of the simplest and cleverest things Apple had done, and now it's history...
    lostkiwiirelandzoetmbrazorpitbadmonkaylknumenorean
  • Reply 11 of 56
    My only beef with the new MBPs is the lack of MagSafe. It is one of the simplest and cleverest things Apple had done, and now it's history...
    TBH, I found it annoying.
    adonissmu
  • Reply 12 of 56
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,506member
    This story needs an update, with some admission that this Thunderbolt technicality, probably not Apple's fault, has NOTHING TO DO with the port pain that the "pro" whiners are wasting our attention over.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,309member
    polymnia said:
    The product page for one of the devices in question says "For Windows based PCs only" right in the Features bullet list. Furthermore, the headline at the top of the page reads "PLUGABLE THUNDERBOLT™ 3 DUAL DISPLAYPORT ADAPTER FOR WINDOWS" (emphasis added by me)

    http://plugable.com/products/tbt3-dp2x/

    I don't really see how Apple made a design decision to make MBPs incompatible with Plugable devices. It appears Plugable made the design decision to exclude Apple.
    Not really. The problem would appear be in the TI controller. You would have to ask TI if they have discovered any issues with specification compliance. If not, then perhaps there is something amiss in the controllers used by Apple or some other cause. We'll have to wait. What is clear is that this is another 'doubt' that is unwanted.
    sedicivalvoledysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 56
    In other news, Apple grabs 103.6% of smartphone industry profits in Q3 while 2nd place Samsung grabs 0.9%

    http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-iphone-grabs-104-of-smartphone-industry-profit-in-q3/
    How can you grab more than 100% of something? If a smartphone maker reports a loss that's not extra profit for Apple.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 15 of 56
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,309member

    williamh said:
    This was an excellent decision. Apple should have charged more and not had any I/o ports at all. 
    Apple should have left the screen off too.  Just a metal brick.  $2,999.
    I'm sure they had a prototype but had to rule it out for not being thin or light enough.
    sedicivalvole
  • Reply 16 of 56
    anomeanome Posts: 1,237member
    From the Pluggable blog post:
    Apple is notoriously secretive about unannounced products, which is great for building anticipation and excitement among tech enthusiasts. The downside to this type of secrecy, however, is that until their new products launch very few people outside of Apple have a chance to use and test their systems. So hardware manufacturers such as Plugable have to wait until systems are available for purchase to begin the long process of compatibility testing and evaluation. (Some of our customers will be able to test our products with the new Apple systems even before we get to!)


    And yet other manufacturers have devices that are compatible on day one. What does that say? That you aren't one of Apple's hardware partners? That you were using an early chip in some of your components, and never bothered to update it?


    Then we get this bit from both product pages for their TB3 devices:

    Not all Windows Thunderbolt 3 systems are compatible with dual display graphics adapters. See important details regarding system compatibility in the section below and at our Thunderbolt 3 Compatibility Page.
    So it's not compatible with some Windows systems. And yet you point the finger at Apple for the problem?

    [EDIT] I realise that the Windows Compatibility statement might be more about the Windows systems' compatibility with dual display adapters, but my first point still stands.
    edited November 2016 ration al
  • Reply 17 of 56
    In other news, Apple grabs 103.6% of smartphone industry profits in Q3 while 2nd place Samsung grabs 0.9%

    http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-iphone-grabs-104-of-smartphone-industry-profit-in-q3/
    How can you grab more than 100% of something? If a smartphone maker reports a loss that's not extra profit for Apple.
    Yes, you can.

    Say the overall industry profit is $1,000,000,000

    Apple made 103.6%. That's $1,036,000,000
    Samsung made $9,000,000

    The rest of the industry lost $45,000,000 or something like that… Math… not strong after 9 hours at work…

    Wait, wasn't this story about Thunderbolt 3?
    edited November 2016
  • Reply 18 of 56
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,506member
    mknelson said:
    In other news, Apple grabs 103.6% of smartphone industry profits in Q3 while 2nd place Samsung grabs 0.9%

    http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-iphone-grabs-104-of-smartphone-industry-profit-in-q3/
    How can you grab more than 100% of something? If a smartphone maker reports a loss that's not extra profit for Apple.
    Yes, you can.

    Say the overall industry profit is $1,000,000,000

    Apple made 103.6%. That's $1,036,000,000
    Samsung made $9,000,000

    The rest of the industry lost $45,000,000 or something like that… Math… not strong after 9 hours at work…

    Wait, wasn't this story about Thunderbolt 3?
    No it's about Apple causing port nightmares in "pros" and other children.
  • Reply 19 of 56
    Potentially adding to a growing list of complaints regarding limitations with Apple's new MacBook Pro, an aftermarket Mac accessories maker reports the notebooks might not be compatible with existing Thunderbolt 3 hardware.




    Plugable, a manufacturer of docking stations, adapters and other peripherals, in a blog post this week claims Apple "design decisions" prevent Thunderbolt 3 devices running Texas Instruments controller chips from communicating with late-2016 MacBook Pro hardware.

    The aftermarket parts maker discovered the deficiency during compatibility testing of its existing Thunderbolt 3 dock lineup. Specifically, a pair of Plugable's Thunderbolt 3 graphics adapters were found incompatible with a MacBook Pro without Touch Bar test bed, forcing the firm to push back launch of an upcoming docking product. Plugable's flagship TBT3-UDV dock with Power Delivery/Charging, which employs a next-generation TI controller, was found compatible with the new MacBook Pro, suggesting the limitation applies only to older TI chips.

    Whether Plugable's findings are accurate is unclear, though it seems unlikely that Apple would intentionally alienate owners with early Thunderbolt 3 devices. Perhaps more plausible is Plugable implemented a chip that fails to comply with specifications adopted by standard bearer Intel.

    Apple has not responded to requests for clarification on the matter.

    The revelations add to complaints about Apple's redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. After the company unveiled the laptops last week, tech pundits and a swath of consumers decried the new hardware's lack of expansion ports. In particular, some users were upset that Apple removed MacBook Pro's SD card slot, a port deemed vital for professional photographers. Others took umbrage to the lack of USB ports, as the new model requires users purchase an adapter dongle to connect and charge legacy devices -- Apple's own iPhone and iPad included.

    In response, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller on Wednesday defended the company's design decisions, but admitted MacBook Pro "might not be right for everyone on day one."

    As for criticism that the new MacBook Pro models lack "pro level" features, Schiller pointed to the headphone jack, saying the long-in-the-tooth I/O standard was retained to support professional audio gear. As noted by AppleInsider, however, the 3.5mm port no longer supports optical out capabilities, limiting its utility to musicians, film makers and other pro users.
    Horror, shock.  The 2016 MBP pro is not compatible with eight-tracks, cassettes, floppy discs, CDs . . .

    True - but like the "Think Different" video, Apple pushes the tech part of the human race forward.  True also, that they could have made the transition a little easier by leaving the SD slot and keeping an earlier USB connection variant but they probably figured the aftermarket would fill that space (check out OWC offerings)

    From Apples perspective, the corporate view seems to be - "let's move forward".

    I like that in a company - that's innovation, it's good, we should appreciate and enjoy this attitude.  You don't have to buy the new stuff if you don't like it after all.
    adonissmu
  • Reply 20 of 56
    williamh said:
    This was an excellent decision. Apple should have charged more and not had any I/o ports at all. 
    One day it will be true. Just wait.
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