Little did we know that MagSafe 3 would be such a big upgrade for the 2021 MacBook Pro when the first rumors mentioned the magnetic charging port’s return. Apple has indeed brought back MagSafe charging to the MacBook. MagSafe 3 comes in the form of a USB-C-to-MagSafe-3 cable and USB-C power adapter. These ship with every 2021 MacBook Pro, from the cheapest 14-inch version on offer to the most expensive 16-inch version you can configure.
MagSafe 3 doesn’t only bring back the peace of mind when it comes to accidentally tripping on your MacBook Pro cable. It also delivers support for fast charging, which will replenish 50% of battery capacity in 30 minutes. That’s a great feature to have on a laptop that already promises amazing battery life. But not all fast-charging speeds are the same, as USB-C charging continues to be available on the new MacBooks. Yet USB-C charging can only go so far. That’s why you need to understand how the different charging methods work to ensure you get the right USB-C charger for your brand new MacBook Pro.
Not all 2021 MacBook Pro chargers are the same
Apple says on its website that the 14-inch MacBook Pro supports fast-charge with the 96W power adapter. But if you buy the $1,999 14-inch model, which features an M1 Pro SoC with 8-core CPU, you only get a 67W charger in the box. So MagSafe 3 or USB-C charging will not deliver fast charging.
What you can and should do is select the 96W power adapter during checkout. For $20 extra, you get the same charger that ships with all the other 14-inch versions. That’s M1 Pro and M1 Max variants that have 10-core CPUs.
That way, you can take advantage of the top charging speeds available for both USB-C and MagSafe 3 for the 14-inch model.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with a brand new 140W USB-C power adapter that’s also Apple’s first GaN charger for MacBooks. This charger will support even faster charging speeds than the 14-inch model. And in this case, MagSafe 3 delivers faster charging than USB-C. That’s because the MagSafe 3 cable sports a brand new charging tech.
The new MagSafe 3 charging standard
There’s been plenty of discussions online about the 2021 MacBook Pro’s fast charging abilities in the past few days. The mystery might have been finally solved, per 9to5Mac.
All USB-C chargers support a charging standard called USB-C Power Delivery (PD). This allows USB-C cables to deliver power at up to 100W. That’s why it makes sense to spend $20 extra and purchase the 96W power brick with the cheapest 14-inch MacBook.
But Apple helped develop a new standard called USB PD 3.1 Extended Power Range (EPR), which supports charging speeds of up to 240W.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro charger uses the USB PD 3.1 EPR standard but only goes up to 140W. But you need the MagSafe 3 cable to take advantage of 140W charging speeds. That’s because the USB-C cables that you can buy today do not support EPR. Furthermore, it looks like the USB-C ports on the MacBook Pros won’t support fast-charging over USB-C in the future when those USB-C EPR cables do appear.
That said, it’s unclear what happens if you use a 140W charger with MagSafe 3 with a 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Then again, charging speeds matter more if you constantly run out of battery juice. That’s hopefully something that won’t happen on the new MacBook Pro models.