After hearing a lot of uncertainty and confusion about the 2018 iPad Pro’s USB-C port, I took a little bit of time to indulge my curiosity and find out what it’s capable of. As it turns out, the answer is “almost anything”.
My initial test used Apple’s standard USB-C adapter, released with the Retina MacBook in 2015. Power pass-through, HDMI out and USB to a lightning-powered keyboard worked perfectly, with the exception of the keyboard’s media control keys. A tiny icon displaying this actual dongle shows up in the top-right corner, and everything connects. iMovie sees the external monitor and sends full-screen video to it. For some reason, I didn’t expect this
Emboldened by Apple’s first-party USB-C solution working, I took it a step further:
Here, we have an off-brand USB-C adapter, that has seen many years of abuse. This hub offers USB-C power pass-through, HDMI out, two USB-A ports, an SD card reader and a Micro SD card reader. Once again, all of the ports worked perfectly. Plugging in a Micro SD card opened up Photos’ import dialogue, just like using Apple’s official SD card dongle. Photographers no longer need to carry a spare card reader exclusively for dumping their images to iOS.
On top of all that, iPad successfully recognized my headphones, plugged in through the ancient Griffin iMic, which predates the original iPhone by at least two years. This tells us that iPad is happy to play nicely with a USB audio interface without any MFI limitations. Just like in iPad Pro’s promo film, I had a video editing setup complete with professional audio monitoring, full screen video playback, card reading and a keyboard.
As Apple inches along to eventually giving us access to external storage and developers creep forward to supporting more keyboard shortcuts and second-display functionality, the iPad Pro is going to become more useful to more people in more use-cases. The shift to a full-featured USB-C port is a massive, and easily underestimated step in that direction