Review: Vinpok Bolt-S cable returns MagSafe-like technology to the USB-C MacBook Pro [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 17
MagSafe was removed from the 2016 MacBook Pro, and its not likely coming back. Does the Vinpok Bolt-S cable fill the gap, or is the attraction of the old technology best left in the past?




Update Feb 18. 2018: While we haven't had any problems with the cables that we were sent for testing, it has come to our attention that Vinpok is having issues delivering, and a batch of early cables had issues with short-circuiting. At present, AppleInsider recommends holding off on purchases until more information becomes available.

The Vinpok Bolt-S cable has a USB-C detachable end that inserts into the computer, with the cable itself held in place with a magnetic ring. The approach is not all that dissimilar to that of Apple's MagSafe, but with all the functional elements external to the laptop, rather than as part of the computer's case.

The first test was delivered power -- and the Bolt-S does in fact deliver 87W of charging power. But, The cable does not carry data, so users needing data transfer need to use a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 cable into one of the MacBook Pro's three other ports for external devices and accessories, eliminating the possibility of a single-cable solution for everything.




In our initial tests, Apple's standard USB-C cable required less force to pull out at a 90-degree angle from the side of the case -- essentially straight-on. Both plugs required about the same force to yank out at around 70 degrees in either direction.

After 70 degrees in either direction, force increased on the USB-C cable to remove, with a 15-inch MacBook Pro sliding across the desk up to two feet before removal in every case. Past 50 about degrees, an unrestrained laptop slid about three feet until the angle decreased, and the USB-C cable pulled out.

Apple's battery life will get you home, and back to your safe desk.

However, at 70 degrees, the force required to break the Vinpok Bolt-S's connection decreased rapidly, with the cable needing only about half the force required to break the connection at around 30 degrees from the edge of the case -- and importantly, minimal migration on an unrestrained computer before the break.

Compared to MagSafe 2, the Vinpok cable requires a bit more force to remove at all angles, but not a lot more.

Not an exact clone of MagSafe

Unlike USB-C itself, the connections inside the plug itself aren't symmetrical along the horizontal axis. While we weren't particularly interested in forcing a connection, the polarization of the magnets on the plug prevented a casual, and misaligned, connection.




That little USB-C end designed to plug in to the computer goes in there very firmly. So firmly, in fact, that we had to get out a pair of needle nose pliers to extract it when we wanted the port back. This is a feature for the "stuff the computer in the bag and go" crowd as it won't pop out casually, but less so if you need the port back frequently.

Your mileage may vary

We've been using the Vinpok cable for about a week. But, beyond a testing environment, our workstations really aren't subject to accidental cable pulls, causing a topple of our two-kilobuck computer to the floor. Like with just about anything else, if a product doesn't solve a problem for you, there's no reason to buy it.

It isn't 2006 anymore. Battery life on anything Apple is shipping with USB-C is much longer than older machines that first sported it. It's not all that difficult to crank out a full day of work in a coffee shop on the battery, assuming you aren't wrangling 4K video and a profoundly fresh venti latte from the barista at the same time.

If you are, you need power (and presumably a non-spill mug) to do it. And, probably high-speed external drives as well.

The long and the short of it is, if MagSafe has ever saved your bacon and you fear it might need to again, and you can spare giving up a USB-C plug on a semi-permanent basis, then the Vinpok Bolt-S is worth a look. Otherwise, Apple's battery life will allow you to crank out that novel from the coffee shop, get you home, and back to your safe desk.

If your desk isn't safe, tips to make it so are a topic for another day.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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The $29 Vinpok Bolt-S does what it does adequately and without complaint. We're just not sure that beyond a vocal few, that the removal of MagSafe from Apple's product line is that big a deal.

Preorders for the cable have begun on the Vinpok website. Additionally, an IndieGoGo campaign has also launched to further fund mass production and has already met the funding goal.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 5,578member
    For all the hand waiving from the critics, i doubt there will be a very big market for these things. It’s a kludgy solution for a shrinking problem. 
    Solistompyspheric
  • Reply 2 of 28
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,283member
    For all the hand waiving from the critics, i doubt there will be a very big market for these things. It’s a kludgy solution for a shrinking problem. 
    It seems unlikely that many will find this absolutely necessary. From the weight to battery life to USB-C the need for MagSafe is not as important as it was a decade ago. Plus, I swear the current design has less magnetic attraction than the original, although I've not been able to test that.

    On the other end of the spectrum are those that want MagSafe on everything and want it to also push data. You can see with this setup that it's already hard enough to get 5 pins for power and it's still an unsightly design. And I don't even know where to begin with the stupidity of MagSafe headphones on an iPhone.
  • Reply 3 of 28
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 438member
    Does it work well if the receptacle is put in the charger instead of the laptop?
  • Reply 4 of 28
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,777member
    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
  • Reply 5 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator
    Eric_WVGG said:
    Does it work well if the receptacle is put in the charger instead of the laptop?
    Works the same either way. But, I'd imagine in a trip event, that the cord pulling out of the power plug may not be a great deal of protection.
  • Reply 6 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    SoliStrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 28
    mattrogers_2mattrogers_2 Posts: 10unconfirmed, member
    Once again...I read something online about a promising new product...only to find that it's, yet another, stupid Kickstarter. 

    Good luck getting your product before 2020.
  • Reply 8 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator
    Once again...I read something online about a promising new product...only to find that it's, yet another, stupid Kickstarter. 

    Good luck getting your product before 2020.
    We reviewed the full, retail package. While it certainly isn't shipping today, I think 2020 is a bit unfair.
    Soli
  • Reply 9 of 28

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire. MagSafe protects from breaking socket or cable plug not only on dragging your work Mac on floor and sending to repair.after it. If you did not expereince that then perhaps you are spending most of time with computer and not very active life style between computer work and indoor/outdoor activity. I know batteries help, but you may choose to work while charrging to have batteries ready whenever you leave your place and go working remotely. After all portable computers are not made just to save space at home and replace desktops - they were invented for remote work mainly.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire. MagSafe protects from breaking socket or cable plug not only on dragging your work Mac on floor and sending to repair.after it. If you did not expereince that then perhaps you are spending most of time with computer and not very active life style between computer work and indoor/outdoor activity. I know batteries help, but you may choose to work while charrging to have batteries ready whenever you leave your place and go working remotely. After all portable computers are not made just to save space at home and replace desktops - they were invented for remote work mainly.
    USB-C is an utterly mainstream solution - it doesn't get more mainstream than it. It is the undisputed future of USB, and is going nowhere. It is not an Apple solution, or a niche technology like 1394/FireWire. 

    It is the future, whether you like it or not.

    MagSafe, on the other hand, was only used by Apple and is the definition of a boutique, not-mainstream answer to a question. USB is older than it by 10 full years at this point. With USB-C, comes USB-PD, allowing for massive battery banks to be connected to a computer, and the computer taking advantage of it, without expensive solutions like that needed for the old barrel and plug pre-MagSafe or for MagSafe.

    I have three kids, so describing my life as "active" doesn't quite cut the mustard. But, I exercise enough common sense to know that stretching a cable connected to a lightweight computer across a gap to a wall isn't the best idea.

    In the history of my mobile computing, dating back to 1994, with a five-year stretch on a submarine in the middle of that, my entire family has had precisely one laptop out of dozens hit the floor because of a cable accident. So, you could probably say that I'm familiar with the need for a remote work computing device that takes up little room.

    And, the good news is, if you need that functionality that MagSafe used in a very specific, non-standard fashion, this leverages standards to still bring it to you.
    edited August 2017 stompy
  • Reply 11 of 28
    For all the hand waiving from the critics
    I waive my hands. Look, no hands!
    StrangeDaysspheric
  • Reply 12 of 28
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,283member

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire. MagSafe protects from breaking socket or cable plug not only on dragging your work Mac on floor and sending to repair.after it. If you did not expereince that then perhaps you are spending most of time with computer and not very active life style between computer work and indoor/outdoor activity. I know batteries help, but you may choose to work while charrging to have batteries ready whenever you leave your place and go working remotely. After all portable computers are not made just to save space at home and replace desktops - they were invented for remote work mainly.
    Are you serious?! There has never been a more mainstream, universe port interface than USB-C in the history of computing. And MagSafe is as proprietary and costly as it gets since you need to spend $80 to replace an old cable since the PSU is attached.
    edited August 2017 stompy
  • Reply 13 of 28
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 835member
    Soli said:

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire. MagSafe protects from breaking socket or cable plug not only on dragging your work Mac on floor and sending to repair.after it. If you did not expereince that then perhaps you are spending most of time with computer and not very active life style between computer work and indoor/outdoor activity. I know batteries help, but you may choose to work while charrging to have batteries ready whenever you leave your place and go working remotely. After all portable computers are not made just to save space at home and replace desktops - they were invented for remote work mainly.
    Are you serious?! There has never been a more mainstream, universe port interface than USB-C in the history of computing. And MagSafe is as proprietary and costly as it gets since you need to spend $80 to replace an old cable since the PSU is attached.
    I disagree. USB-A is far more common than USB-C. Until quite recently almost every computer made in the past 17 years came with USB-A ports. Take a look at wired keyboards, wired mice, flash drives, hard drives, etc. and nearly all have USB-A connectors. Buy an iPhone 7 and that Lightning cable has a USB-A connector.
  • Reply 14 of 28
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 835member


    The long and the short of it is, if MagSafe has ever saved your bacon
    That would be me over 100 times.
    welshdog
  • Reply 15 of 28
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,283member
    linkman said:
    Soli said:

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire. MagSafe protects from breaking socket or cable plug not only on dragging your work Mac on floor and sending to repair.after it. If you did not expereince that then perhaps you are spending most of time with computer and not very active life style between computer work and indoor/outdoor activity. I know batteries help, but you may choose to work while charrging to have batteries ready whenever you leave your place and go working remotely. After all portable computers are not made just to save space at home and replace desktops - they were invented for remote work mainly.
    Are you serious?! There has never been a more mainstream, universe port interface than USB-C in the history of computing. And MagSafe is as proprietary and costly as it gets since you need to spend $80 to replace an old cable since the PSU is attached.
    I disagree. USB-A is far more common than USB-C. Until quite recently almost every computer made in the past 17 years came with USB-A ports. Take a look at wired keyboards, wired mice, flash drives, hard drives, etc. and nearly all have USB-A connectors. Buy an iPhone 7 and that Lightning cable has a USB-A connector.
    Of course it's more common. I neither said nor implied that USB-C was used by more devices today. Lightning surely still outnumbers USB-C. I said it was more mainstream and universal since the dominant trend is USB-C for the future of CE and beyond. There is no need for USB-A, micro-USB-B, DisplayPort, miniDisplayPort, or even HDMI and miniHDMi along with many, many other port interfaces on devices ranging from PCs to smartphones and even BT headphones. Even as Android-based devices drop the 3.5mm jack in favor of USB-C headphones it will continue to chip away at even more single-function port interfaces in ways that USB-A has never been able to do. It's reversible, and currently offers 40Gbps when paid with a TB controller and 100W. This is the future of port interfaces, not just USB.
  • Reply 16 of 28

    Apple is all about the details and quality, I find the removal of MagSafe is kind of a big deal
    Out of curiosity, why?
    Because USB-C is not mainstream solution and it will die like 1394/FireWire
    LOL, what?
  • Reply 17 of 28
    I'm so worried because of other scam campaigns. You saw the product, do you think it's legit? What about the retail package? 
  • Reply 18 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator
    virtsou said:
    I'm so worried because of other scam campaigns. You saw the product, do you think it's legit? What about the retail package? 
    What about it? It's a retail package, a box sealed in plastic.

    The product works, and does what it says it will. The danger of crowdfunding is that the product won't work out, or will hit unexpected snags. Vinpok isn't a giant brand name, but this is not the company's first product, or first crowdfunding campaign.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 19 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,298administrator

    linkman said:


    The long and the short of it is, if MagSafe has ever saved your bacon
    That would be me over 100 times.
    You are probably the target market, then!
  • Reply 20 of 28
    That's good to know! I wasn't sure about the company because I saw no review of any of their products. Did they contact you to give you sample or just asked about that?
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