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Close to the Metal Ep. 17: Can you really live with just one USB port?

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Ports. They’re usually not the most exciting topic of discussion, but they also impact everything you do with your computer. That might be why geeks get into nasty arguments about them. And lately, there’s been plenty to argue about.

The culprit is USB Type-C. This new connector, most often seen in conjunction with the USB 3.1 standard, is both smaller and easier to use than past USB ports. It’s also physically compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and, when paired with the latest USB standard, can carry significant power. That means it’s possible for one port to do everything, including charge a laptop.

Taking advantage of that gives hardware engineers freedom to reduce the size and weight of a device in ways that just weren’t possible a few years ago. But it’s also controversial. The world is full of older USB Type-A devices that aren’t compatible with Type-C. And a single port means you can’t plug in multiple devices without an adapter — which can defeat the point of a slim, simple device.

That’s a big problem, and some geeks swear that they’ll never buy a laptop without a battery of trusty, old-school USB ports – not to mention some video and audio connections, to boot. But what about the average user? Can you really get by with just a single port? And what sacrifices do you need to make if you decide to buy a slick, thin device like the Apple MacBook or Asus Zenbook 3?

We’ll discuss that, and more, on this week’s Close to the Metal.

Close to the Metal is a podcast from Digital Trends that focuses on the geekier side of life. It tackles the topics PC enthusiasts argue over in language everyone can understand. Please subscribe, share, and send your questions to podcast@digitaltrends.com. We broadcast the show live on YouTube every Wednesday at 1pm EST/10am PST.