Using Generic Macbook Air adapters

To say that Apple has deftly convinced mainstream users that their approved cables and adapters are made of rare metals that have more value than Warren Buffet's stocks is an understatement. The Thunderbolt to Gigabit adapter currently retails for $29.00, while the Moshi USB 3.0 to Ethernet adapter costs $34.95. The online Apple Store also offers Belkin and Moshi Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapters at $34.95 a piece. Suffice to say, online stores such as Newegg and Amazon have non-Apple approved adapters for your Macbook, but they are still pricey due to association to the much-beloved Cupertino-based company even though plenty of motherboards and laptops now support Thunderbolt and Mini-DisplayPort.

Although my Linux machines don't require fancy cables and the excellent Lenovo Thinkpad T450s at work has enough ports to accommodate most enterprise environments, I can't rule out the day I might need my Macbook Air for presentations. In addition, a USB 3.0 to Ethernet adapter would certainly help when I run routine personal backups from Mac OSX to my openSUSE 42.1 and Debian Jessie servers.

In most cases, I would avoid getting generic, unmarked Apple accessories - I would normally try out any brand with a logo even if it had an obscure name. However, when an Apple fan who believes that using any Apple product is the pinnacle of technology recommends inexpensive, generic adapters for my Macbook Air (2015), it's hard not to get tempted to give it a go. My Apple-devoted co-worker, a Chinese GUI designer who fervently believes Microsoft causes a disease, suggested I purchase the same type of adapters he uses with his two Macbook Pros and iMac.


I ended up getting a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable and an Apple-branded but clearly third-party manufactured USB 2.0 to Ethernet adapter for 63 RMB (roughly $10.00). Years of working with ASUS, DELL, and SONY hardware have made me skeptical of non-branded items and I half-expected the Mini DisplayPort connector to wiggle once inserted or the Ethernet pins to snap on first use. Instead, once I connected the HDMI end to my AOC T2264M LED TV and configured Mac OSX settings to extend the screen, I spent the rest of the evening watching Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep (1946) and crushing on Kat Dennings in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008).


Note: Don't forget to switch to HDMI audio in VLC or your media player when connecting displays using a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter.

The USB 2.0 to Ethernet adapter with its convincing Apple logo and sticker required updated Mac OSX drivers from the hardware manufacturer (see a later post for details on installation). Forums are rife with suggestions and troubleshooting steps to get generic Ethernet adapters to work in Mac OSX El Capitan, but I had no issues whatsoever after I installed the drivers. I haven't tested the maximum throughput of the Ethernet adapter yet, but after configuring El Capitan's network settings, I immediately went to work on SFTP commands to transfer some large files from the Air to my openSUSE machine.

Note: Obviously, a well-designed home Wi-Fi network (even one running on 802.11n) would make an Ethernet connection redundant for a Macbook Air. However, an Ethernet connection does have its merits, particularly in a mixed network environment.

All in all, the $10.00 I spent for both adapters was well spent, and I may spring for a VGA adapter in the future from the same supplier soon. At that price, it certainly doesn't hurt to have an extra adapter in case I work with projectors and monitors without an HDMI port. 


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