Review: CalDigit AV Pro 2 Combines External USB-C Storage With a USB Hub and 30W of Charging Power

CalDigit recently launched its AV Pro 2 storage hub, a USB-C accessory that serves not only as an external drive with up to 8 TB of storage, but also acts a peripheral hub with two additional Type-A USB 3.0 ports and can charge a connected computer at up to 30 watts.


The AV Pro 2 is available in a range of capacities in both traditional 7200 rpm hard drive and solid-state drive models, ranging from 3 TB to 8 TB for the HDD models and coming in at 1 TB or 2 TB for the SSD models. I've been able to spend time with a 3 TB HDD model, and I've come away impressed with its capabilities. Stepping up to an SSD model would offer even more performance, although at substantially higher cost and lower capacities.

Overview


The AV Pro 2 can be oriented either vertically or horizontally, with small cushioning pads provided on one of the large faces for horizontal placement. For vertical placement, CalDigit includes a clear plastic stand, also equipped with cushioning pads, to provide stability.

A large green LED power button is located on the front of the AV Pro 2, making it easy to turn the drive on and off. The LED shines steady when there is an active connection, flashes while the drive is being accessed, and turns off when the drive goes to sleep, keeping you informed of its status and helping protect against data loss. As always, you should eject the drive from your system before physically disconnecting it, and you can use either the built-in eject function in macOS or a dedicated menu bar utility from CalDigit.

MacBook Pro with AV Pro 2 and Tuff external drive

CalDigit is still in the process of finalizing the utility software for the AV Pro 2 and it should be available as a download from the company's support site "in a few weeks," although I was able to use CalDigit's existing menu bar utility for other docking stations and it worked fine with the AV Pro 2.

The AV Pro 2 itself measures 9.5 inches deep by 5.8 inches wide by 1.8 inches tall (in horizontal orientation), and weighs approximately 4.37 pounds. It's not light, as there is quite a bit of aluminum making up the enclosure and the drive module, plus the drive itself and the electronics inside the enclosure.

It certainly has a hefty feel, so this is something you're going to want to leave on a desk rather than take with you unless absolutely necessary. The enclosure is made of a silver brushed aluminum that matches Apple's Mac finishes, with aluminum ribbing along the narrow sides.

Storage Drive


One of the great features of the AV Pro 2 is the removable drive module, which is compatible with both traditional hard drives and solid-state drives in 3.5-inch form factors. The removable module, which is fairly rare in a single-drive system, offers flexibility for easily moving the drive to and from other enclosures or managing multiple drives, and is fully compatible with some of CalDigit's other storage products such as the T4 RAID array line.

Traditional hard drive options for the AV Pro 2 include 3 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB, 6 TB, and 8 TB capacities, and CalDigit advertises speeds up to 200 MB/s for these models. In my testing, the HDD model came close to that 200 MB/s mark for both read and write. CalDigit says the 1 TB and 2 TB solid-state drive models max out at 430 MB/s.


The AV Pro 2 includes support for USB attached SCSI protocol (UASP), which can improve single-drive storage device performance by allowing for simultaneous bidirectional commands and thus faster transfers.

The drives arrive pre-formatted for Mac in HFS+ format, although they can obviously be re-formatted as needed.

Swapping out the drive module is a simple two-step process involving a pair of keys provided in the box. The first step is to use the larger drive key to gently twist a drive module lock counterclockwise to unlock it, and then inserting the smaller drive pin into the release hole to release a large spring-loaded lever on the front of the module that can then be easily grasped to pull the module out.


Installing a drive module is even simpler, only requiring you to slide the module in while making sure the lever catches the rim of the enclosure opening and then snapping the lever closed. A quick twist on the module lock with the drive key secures it.

With a spinning hard drive and a small fan inside the AV Pro 2, there is a little bit of noise while the disk is active, but it's not overly distracting. When the disk goes to sleep, the AV Pro 2 is silent.

Ports


The AV Pro 2 includes a USB-C port and a USB Micro B port, both on the 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard, and CalDigit includes a 0.5-meter USB-C to USB-C cable and a 1-meter USB Micro B to USB-A cable in the box to allow you to connect to both the latest USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 computers and older computers offering only legacy USB-A ports.


The AV Pro 2 also includes a mini USB hub built into it, consisting of a pair of USB 3.0 Type-A ports on the rear of the enclosure. The Type-A ports can be used to connect peripherals such as mice and keyboards, add additional hard drives, or even daisy chain more AV Pro 2 units. The USB ports also include support for Apple's external SuperDrive, and they can provide up to 1.5A/7.5W of standalone charging, so you can recharge an iPhone or other device even if the AV Pro 2 isn't connected to a computer.

I tested CalDigit's fast Tuff external SSD hooked up to one of the AV Pro 2's rear USB ports, and I saw speedy data transfers from my MacBook Pro in the range of 425 MB/s read and write. That performance is actually surprisingly fast considering the connection is only 5 Gbps USB 3.0 and has the AV Pro 2 between the Tuff and the computer.


Beyond its various USB ports, the rear of the AV Pro 2 also includes a DC-in port for the power supply connection, a vent for the small fan to keep things cool, and a Kensington lock slot if you wish to secure the AV Pro 2.

USB-C Power


While MacBook owners will appreciate the 30 watts of power the AV Pro 2 can supply to their computers over a USB-C connection, MacBook Pro owners may find it coming up a bit short depending on their usage patterns, as the 13-inch MacBook Pro can draw up to 60 watts while the 15-inch model can draw up to 87 watts at peak demand.

I did test the charging capabilities of the AV Pro 2 with a Late 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, and over the course of a workday the AV Pro 2 was able to keep my Mac topped off at 100 percent charge. Granted, I wasn't doing any heavy lifting like video processing with my Mac, but for moderate uses the AV Pro 2 can actually keep up with or at the very least significantly slow the rate of battery discharge.

I asked CalDigit why the AV Pro 2 is limited to 30 watts of charging power, and a representative told me it was a combination of factors. For many users like myself, 30 watts is actually enough. Boosting power output to 60 or 85 watts would require a much larger power supply, and given the relatively small size of the AV Pro 2 as a single-drive storage device, a larger power supply would be an extra cost and a bit of an inconvenience. The AV Pro 2 already includes a 60-watt power adapter, with 30 watts going to the drive itself and 30 watts able to be passed through to a connected computer.

From a more general perspective, CalDigit views storage as being the primary function of the AV Pro 2, with the charging capabilities being a bonus. Under many circumstances, 30 watts will be enough to keep even a MacBook Pro topped off, but if you're putting your machine under heavy loads or need to recharge a depleted battery quickly, you'll want to use a higher-powered charger.
A customer will get the convenience of single cable charging but if they're in a rush they'll need to connect the factory charger. It's really only for instances when someone needs to charge quickly before they go somewhere. When working with the files on the AV Pro 2 or overnight charging they won't see much difference.
While tradeoffs in size and component costs are understandable, it's still a bit disappointing that the AV Pro 2 can't fully support charging a MacBook Pro over a single USB-C connection. It seems that it would likely be sufficient as an everyday power source for my needs, even with a 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it definitely wouldn't be for users with heavier workloads, and for many users it could be hard to tell until they really spend some time with it.

Wrap-up


Pricing on the AV Pro 2 starts at $249.99 for a 3 TB HDD model, with higher-capacity options available at 4 TB ($299.99), 5 TB ($349.99), 6 TB ($399.99) and 8 TB ($449.99). If you're looking for faster speeds but with lower capacities, CalDigit offers the 1 TB SSD model for $549.99 while the 2 TB SSD model costs $849.99. All models come with a one-year warranty.

CalDigit is currently offering a 15 percent discount on all capacities through November 6 simply for signing up for the company's newsletter through a pop-over on the AV Pro 2 product page.

Amazon is currently knocking $50 off of several of the lower-capacity models including 3 TB, 4 TB, and 5 TB HDD options for an even better deal, although stock is quite limited.

CalDigit also offers extra drive modules bundled with HDDs ranging from 1 TB ($109.99) to 6 TB ($349.99). Standalone SSD modules will be available in 1 TB ($449.99) and 2 TB ($749.99) capacities, and they should be added to CalDigit's site in the very near future. Each package also includes an archive box for storing and organizing extra modules.

Note: CalDigit provided the AV Pro 2 to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.


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PSA: iPhone 8 Fast Charging Works With Third-Party USB-C Power Adapters That Support Power Delivery

A recent support document on Apple's website confirms that you don't need one of Apple's USB-C power adapters to fast charge the latest iPhones.


Apple says the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and presumably the iPhone X, can be fast charged with any comparable third-party USB-C power adapter that supports the USB Power Delivery specification.

An official Lightning to USB-C cable is still needed, and it's not included with any iPhone. Apple charges $25 for a one meter cable, and $35 for a two meter cable, in the United States. There aren't any MFi-certified alternatives yet.

Apple's own USB-C power adapters that support USB-C Power Delivery include:
Aukey has a few cheaper third-party options available on Amazon:
Fast charging enables the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X to charge to 50 percent battery life in just 30 minutes.

Disclaimer: This article is not affiliated with Aukey, but MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may get paid if you click one of the above links and make a purchase.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: USB-C, fast charging
Buyer's Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)

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OWC Launches New USB-C Travel Dock Suitable for MacBooks

OWC has launched a new USB-C travel dock suitable for Apple's latest MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.


The dock connects to a Mac or PC with a single USB-C cable and provides access to the following five ports:
  • 2× USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
  • 1× USB-C port for power
  • 1× HDMI 2.0 port
  • 1× SD card reader

The USB-C port provides up to 60W of pass-through charging, while the HDMI 2.0 port can drive a 4K display at 30Hz.

The compact-sized dock is available on MacSales.com in MacBook-like Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray for $49.99 in the United States.

It's also available on Amazon in select colors.

Tags: USB-C, dock, OWC

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Upcoming USB 3.2 Specification Will Double Data Rates Using Existing Cables

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, comprising Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies, today introduced an upcoming USB 3.2 specification, which will eventually replace the existing USB 3.1 specification upon release.

An incremental update, USB 3.2 is designed to define multi-lane operation for USB 3.2 hosts and devices. USB Type-C cables already support multi-lane operation, and with USB 3.2, hosts and devices can be created as multi-lane solutions, allowing for either two lanes of 5Gb/s or two lanes of 10Gb/s operation.


With support for two lanes of 10Gb/s transfer speeds, performance is essentially doubled over existing USB-C cables.

As an example, the USB Promoter Group says a USB 3.2 host connected to a USB 3.2 storage device will be capable of 2GB/sec data transfer performance over a USB-C cable certified for USB SuperSpeed 10Gb/s USB 3.1, while also remaining backwards compatible with earlier USB devices.
"When we introduced USB Type-C to the market, we intended to assure that USB Type-C cables and connectors certified for SuperSpeed USB or SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps would, as produced, support higher performance USB as newer generations of USB 3.0 were developed," said Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman. "The USB 3.2 update delivers the next level of performance."
Along with two-lane operation, USB 3.2 continues to use SuperSpeed USB layer data rates and encoding techniques and will introduce a minor update to hub specifications for seamless transitions between single and two-lane operation.

More information about USB 3.2 will be unveiled at USB Developer Days 2017 later this year.

Tags: USB-C, USB 3.2

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iPhone 8 Expected to Include Faster 10W USB-C Wall Charger

Earlier this year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said the widely rumored 5.8-inch iPhone with an OLED display will feature a Lightning connector with USB-C Power Delivery that enables fast charging capabilities.

"iPhone 8" mockup by Benjamin Geskin for iDrop News

Lending credence to that rumor, Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis today in a research note said the so-called "iPhone 8" will come bundled with a 10W power adapter with a USB-C connector and an integrated USB-C Power Delivery chip.

Curtis said the USB-C Power Delivery chips built into both the iPhone and 10W power adapter will be supplied by Cypress Semiconductor. The research note suggests it'll be the same CYPD2104 chip used in the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

An excerpt from the Barclays research note distributed to clients, obtained by MacRumors and edited slightly for clarity:
We believe that in the iPhone 8, Apple likely includes Cypress Semiconductor's USB-C Power Delivery chip in the phone and an additional chip within the power brick in box (likely a new 10W, which would use a more integrated solution with Cypress Power Delivery).
Like the new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the so-called "iPhone 8" would be capable of fast charging with a Lightning to USB-C cable connected to the new 10W power adapter or Apple's 29W USB-C power adapter for MacBook.

Apple will presumably include a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box if it's going in this direction, possibly instead of the traditional Lightning to USB cable. Apple could also opt to include a female USB-C to male USB-A adapter in the box.

Apple's current 5W Power Adapter for iPhone and 12W Power Adapter for iPad both have slower USB-A ports.

Given the "iPhone 8" is expected to have around a 2,700 mAh L-shaped two-cell battery pack, faster charging would be a welcomed addition. The device is also widely rumored to feature wireless charging.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: Barclays, USB-C, Lightning

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LG’s 32-Inch ‘4K’ Wide Color USB-C Display Now Available for $999

LG's new 32UD99 display is now available to order for $999 from retailers such as Amazon and B&H Photo Video, as noted by AnandTech.


The 31.5-inch IPS LED display features Ultra HD resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels, which is often marketed as 4K, support for 95% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut, and a USB-C input for single-cable connectivity with a 12-inch MacBook or 2016 MacBook Pro. It also supports HDR10 and AMD FreeSync.

A complete rundown of the LG 32UD99 display's tech specs:
  • 31.5-inch
  • 4K Ultra HD resolution (3,840×2,160 pixels)
  • 140 PPI
  • IPS LED
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 5ms response time
  • DCI-P3 wide color gamut (95%)
  • 550 nits peak brightness
  • Ports: USB-C input, DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI 2.0a ports, and two USB 3.0 ports
  • Up to ~60W power delivery to MacBook Pro
  • Other features: HDR10, AMD FreeSync, dual 10W speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack, narrow bezel design with pivoting and height adjustable stand

Here's how LG's UltraFine 5K Display, now $1,299.95, stacks up:
  • 27-inch
  • 5K resolution (5,120×2,880 pixels)
  • 217 PPI
  • IPS LED
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 12-14ms response time
  • DCI-P3 wide color gamut (99%)
  • 500 nits peak brightness
  • Ports: Thunderbolt 3 input and three USB-C 3.1 ports
  • Up to 85W power delivery to MacBook Pro
  • Other features: Built-in 1080p camera, dual 5W speakers, microphone, Thunderbolt 3 cable included, adjustable and VESA compatible stand
LG's 32UD99 arguably looks nicer than the UltraFine 5K, while its larger screen, HDR10, and AMD FreeSync support are attractive features for gamers. But, for $300 less, you are getting Ultra HD resolution instead of 5K, USB-C instead of Thunderbolt 3, no webcam, lower power delivery, and slightly less coverage of the P3 color gamut.

Read our Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Display Buyer's Guide for other options.


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Western Digital Reveals ‘G-Drive USB-C’ With High-Capacity Storage and MacBook Charging Capabilities

Western Digital today announced the newest addition to its G-Technology brand "G-Drive," called the G-Drive UBS-C. The company said that the new device was designed with power users and creative enthusiasts in mind, allowing them access to high-capacity storage and charging on the MacBook Pro through the USB-C port.

The G-Drive USB-C is available in 4TB, 8TB, and 10TB capacities so users can store HD videos, photos, music, backups, and more on the device, which is also Time Machine compatible. The drive also supports traditional USB 3.0 connections, and ships with a USB-C to USB-A cable to make it backwards compatible with systems that include USB-A connectors. A USB-C to USB-C cable is also included.

Western Digital's new drive has a transfer rate of up to 195 MB/s, and in terms of charging the company said that the G-Drive USB-C provides up to 45 watts of USB Power Delivery. The drive is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 as well.
“The addition of the G-DRIVE USB-C external drive provides tech enthusiasts a single-cable high capacity, high quality storage solution that meets their individual creative needs,” said Mike Williams, vice president of Advanced Technologies, Western Digital. “The G-DRIVE USB-C ensures pros can work seamlessly with the latest computers, and with a USB-C port and support for USB Power Delivery, it allows a user’s charging capability to be more efficient without having to worry about connecting yet another cable to their computer for charging.”
Users can pre-order the G-Drive USB-C for $199.95 at 4TB, $349.95 at 8TB, and $499.95 at 10TB beginning today. Western Digital said that the drive will be available this quarter through G-Technology resellers around the world.


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Review: LG’s $1500 38UC99 UltraWide Display Offers a Giant, Desk-Filling Workspace

We've already looked at LG's UltraFine 5K and 27UD88 displays as companions for Apple's latest notebooks, and today we're taking a look at another USB-C display option that brings something quite different: LG's 38UC99 curved "UltraWide" display.


This is a desk-filling display in the truest sense of the term: 37.5 inches on the diagonal with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 3840x1600. It has fewer pixels than a true 4K or Ultra HD display, but its sheer size makes up for it in some unique ways. While the UltraFine 5K and 27UD88 displays work best at Retina or scaled resolutions, the 38UC99 uses a full 3840x1600 desktop that leaves everything on screen at just the right size to be useful. No, it's not a Retina display in this mode, but until we have 8K displays this will have to do.

Even without Retina resolution, this display is impressive. The sheer size of it gives you so much flexibility in terms of your workspace. I can easily have three large windows open side-by-side with room to spare.

UltraFine 5K, 38UC99, 2016 MacBook Pro (left to right)

I've been testing this in a three-display setup with the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, an UltraFine 5K, and the 38UC99. It's a ridiculous amount of desktop space that I can barely fit on my desk, and the MacBook Pro with entry-level graphics runs all of it without breaking a sweat.
Continue reading Review: LG’s $1500 38UC99 UltraWide Display Offers a Giant, Desk-Filling Workspace

Nintendo Switch Acts as External Battery Pack for USB-C MacBook Pro, Parental Control App Available

The Nintendo Switch launches worldwide tomorrow, March 3, and as journalists and reviewers have had their hands on the console for the past week, news of its hardware and software features have been shared online.

This week, Quartz technology reporter Mike Murphy discovered that when plugging the Nintendo Switch into a MacBook Pro through a dual USB-C cable, the Switch inexplicably acts as an external battery pack for the Apple laptop, providing charge to the MacBook instead of being charged itself. In the image, it appears that a third party USB-C cable is being used to connect the two devices (in the box, Switch only comes with a USB-C to AC adapter cable).



Murphy also discovered a slight workaround: if users power down the Switch before connecting it to the MacBook, then the MacBook will charge the Switch. The Switch will also charge off of Apple's USB-C wall adapter cable bundled in recent MacBook boxes, and sold separately online.

Nintendo confirmed on its website that the Switch has a non-removable 4310mAh, 3.7V Lithium-ion battery, and early FCC filings -- as well as recent pictures -- of the included AC adapter confirmed that the console draws power up to 15.0V/2.6A, equating to 39W. The non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro has a 54.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery and can draw up to 61W from a power adapter.

Since much of Nintendo Switch's battery-related questions are still up in the air in the time before launch, it remains unclear why the console would not automatically leech charge off the larger MacBook Pro. As game designer Bennett Foddy pointed out on Twitter, the connection between the Switch and MacBook Pro isn't inherently buggy or wrong, but it's easy to think that the MacBook Pro (battery life ~10 hours) would naturally provide power to the Switch (battery life 2.5-6.5 hours), like it does to iPhones and iPads.

In related Nintendo Switch and Apple news, Nintendo today launched its Nintendo Switch Parental Control app for iOS devices on the App Store [Direct Link]. The app will let parents remotely control the content of the games their kids play, as well as for how long, and even be able to restrict certain ESRB ratings and online features.


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One Analyst Thinks the iPhone 8 Will Still Have a Lightning Connector With USB-C Adapter for Europe

The Wall Street Journal today reported that at least one upcoming iPhone model will include a USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector.

If the report is accurate, a single USB-C cable could be used to charge the so-called iPhone 8, 12-inch MacBook, or the latest MacBook Pro models.
People familiar with Apple’s plans said its release this year would include two models with the traditional LCDs and a third one with the OLED screen.

They said Apple would introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices instead of the company’s original Lightning connector.
The Wall Street Journal has historically been a reliable source for iPhone rumors, so there is a good chance the report is true.

Nevertheless, the move towards USB-C has yet to be substantiated by other credible sources, and Apple changing the charging port on iPhones for the second time in five years, after switching from the 30-pin Dock Connector to Lightning connector in 2012, would certainly be a controversial decision.

At least one analyst is not convinced that Apple will ditch Lightning on its next iPhones, but he does believe USB-C will be in the mix.

Barclays managing director Blayne Curtis told MacRumors that he expects the iPhone 8 to keep its Lightning connector, while he believes that Apple will sell a Lightning to USB-C adapter in European countries to adhere to the European Commission's "one mobile phone charger for all" campaign.

This adapter would likely be similar to Apple's female-to-male Lightning to Micro-USB adapter, which allows an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with a Lightning connector to charge and sync with a micro USB cable. Apple sold a similar 30-pin Dock Connector to Micro-USB adapter in Europe to adhere to EU policy.

Many consumers have advocated for Apple to ditch its proprietary Lightning connector in favor of USB-C, which has become a standard feature on several Android smartphones, notebooks, and other devices. Whether it is an all-out USB-C port or yet another adapter remains to be seen, but it seems that Apple might be listening.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tags: USB-C, Lightning

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