60 Watts/USB 2.0     60 Watts/USB 3.0     100 Watts/USB 2.0     100 Watts/USB 3.0/Video
Thunderbolt 3 short     Thunderbolt 3 passive     Thunderbolt 3 long     Thunderbolt 2

Current Macbooks and iPads have only one type of port (apart from the 3.5 mm audio jack and the small iPad with Lightning): the USB-C port. The basic idea was to create a port for everything. In the past, there were different ports including suitable cables for USB, Thunderbolt, network, power and graphics, but now everything is supposed to run via USB-C.

The whole situation has a serious disadvantage though: You can’t tell from a USB-C cable which protocol or which kind of data it can transfer – or how much current it allows. In the past you could tell by the cable what it was meant for. This is no longer possible today. Since the standard does not provide any labeling you cannot see which functions a cable supports. The separation into different functions is still existent in principle, but now you can’t tell which cable is the right one because all of them have a USB-C connector.

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Therefore we have listed some good cables for different purposes and explain what each cable can do. We start with the “stupidest” cables and work our way up to Thunderbolt cables with 100 Watt support. Cables have become complex products with very different characteristics – so you need to know what you want to do with them before you buy them. The original Apple cables support as USB-C to USB-C cable each 5 amps (100 watts) and the slow USB 2.0 speed. The Thunderbolt cables also conduct 5 amperes and provide 40 Gbit/s throughput.

The best USB-C charging cables with 3 amps (60 watts) and USB 2.0 for Mac and iPad

UGREEN USB C Hub with 4K HDMI Aluminum 5 in 1 Type C

The cheapest cable variant in the USB-C universe conducts a maximum of 2 amperes of current. This means that together with a USB-C power supply unit that can output 20 volts, a maximum of 40 watts of charging power is available (at the 5 volt level this means 10 watts, at 9 volts 18 watts, 12 volts 24 watts and at 15 volts 30 watts).

USB 2.0 is available as transfer speed, i.e. around 40 MB/s. An example of such a 2 ampere cable is the one that came with the MacBook 12″. It uses the 29/30 watt power supply to its full potential, but is too weak for more power for larger MacBooks (it works, however, only the power is limited. So if you only have one at hand you can use it without any problems).

If you also need a USB-C Hub for your MacBook to get back the ports, have a look at Ugreens cable and hub bundle.

Buy Ugreen USB-C bundle:   Amazon

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A 3 amp cable can transfer a maximum of 60 watts (at 20 volts, corresponding to 15 watts at 5 volts, 27 watts at 9 volts, 36 watts at 12 volts and 45 watts at 15 volts). So this is also completely sufficient for a 13″ MacBook Pro.

However, the limited function has two advantages: such cables are cheap and, because they use few cables, very thin and light. So if you simply need a long charging cable that doesn’t add much weight to the case, such a cable is a good choice.

The best USB-C cables with 3 amps (60 watts) and USB 3.0 for Mac and iPad

If you want to have a cable with you that can also connect an SSD, you should make sure that it supports the USB 3.0 standard. They are available with 5 Gbit/s and 10 Gbit/s support, but even the slower version with almost 400 MB/s is much better than the cheap USB 2.0 cables with their 40 MB/s. Interestingly, the fast cables are not only slightly more expensive, they usually also offer 3 amps of current, so that operation with 60/61 watt power supplies and larger MacBooks is possible.

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Since the cables support a higher amperage and also allow a higher data rate, they are a little thicker and more immobile than the very thin simple cables. For everyday use, however, they are a very good compromise: charging power around 60 watts, USB 3.0 speed and sufficient flexibility and weight. Since they are available for less than ten euros, this category is a good all-round cable.

The best USB-C charging cables with 5 amps (100 watts) and USB 2.0

5 ampere cables are necessary to transmit up to 100 watts of power. If the cable is to remain cheap, the data transfer speed is usually only at USB 2.0 level as with the 2/3 amp models. Such a cable is included with the 16″ MacBook Pro for example: It can charge quickly, but is only suitable for data transfer in an emergency.

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Here, too, the option for fast data transfer is not available, what makes the cables relatively thin and light. Instead, they charge your 16″ MacBook Pro with 100 watts of power, which is enough even when it is under full load. Of course the cables can also be connected to weaker MacBooks, less power is always possible.

The best USB-C cables with 5 amps (100 watts), USB 3.0 and video transfer

RAMPOW E Mark 100W USB C to USB C Cable 6ft 4K 20Gbps USB 3.2 Type C Cable

Cables that offer 5 amps of current flow and USB 3.0/3.1 speed usually also bring video transfer capabilities (we actually haven’t found any other).

The most powerful cables combine the previous features like high current flow and fast speed with 4K display capability. The USB Alternate Mode is designed to transfer a 4K video signal via a USB-C cable. This is only possible with cables that are fully wired.

If you like a nice but simple design, you can take a closer look at the Rampow product shown on the right. It offers all the features mentioned above and provides a 4K video signal in addition to the 100 Watt power delivery.

Buy Rampow USB-C Cable:   Amazon

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But it is not a matter of course that the display capability is included by default. So if you buy a cable for the display connection, make sure that it is video compatible. The cables are sometimes also available in 3m length. We would choose a 2m version for stability. If you want it to be 3m, try it before you hold the important presentation.

The best Thunderbolt 3 cables 40 Gbit/s (passive) 0,5m – 1,2m

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Cable 40Gbps Support

Thunderbolt cables look exactly like USB-C cables you will say and that is correct. USB-C means the mechanical connector and it is the same for both standards. Thunderbolt is a protocol and this is even faster than the USB 3.1 Gen 2 protocol and reaches a maximum of 40 Gbit/s.

The low-cost model from Pluagble shown on the right has for example 0.8m and is sufficient for short distances on the desk if you want to connect a fast SSD or a RAID system for example.

Buy Plugable Thunderbolt Cable:   Amazon

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Therefore there are passive and active cables which amplify the signal internally. Passive cables are cheaper because they do not need any additional technology, but they are shorter.

The best Thunderbolt 3 cables 20 Gbit/s (passive) 2m

If you need a Thunderbolt cable and are satisfied with 20 Gbit/s, you can also buy longer passive cables, which are slightly cheaper than active ones. You will lose some speed, but you can use the Thunderbolt protocol and use a cable with a certain length.

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The best Thunderbolt 3 cables 40 Gbit/s (active) 2m

Active cables are necessary if the maximum Thunderbolt speed is to be maintained over a longer distance. The cables listed here are available for selection. They are more expensive than the passive ones, but they always guarantee clean data transfer even over several meters.

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The best Thunderbolt 2 cables 20 Gbit/s & Mini Display Port

If you still have an older Thunderbolt 2 port or if you want to connect only a display according to Mini Display Port Standard, you can use one of the cables mentioned here.

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For the connection from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 we have also listed an adapter. When using this adapter the maximum transfer rate is of course the maximum of Thunderbolt 2, i.e. 20 Gbit/s.