You’ve unboxed your new MacBook (Air or Pro) but that’s not the end of the adventure or spending. You will need some essential accessories and owe yourself some cool extra gear to go with the new Apple laptop.
If it’s been a while since you last upgraded, it’s almost certain that you’ll need some new cables and adapters to link older USB-A devices to the MacBook’s USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports - don't worry, we'll explain more on the technical details.
We spend most of our time testing and reviewing gear that works with Macs: every USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 dock, hub or adapter, the most interesting cables, fastest hard drives, wall chargers, laptop stands, external displays, mice, keyboards, and more. We list our favourites here.
Apple sells most of these must-have MacBook items, but you can often find better products cheaper elsewhere, and we’ll help you do that.
Here’s our guide to the best accessories for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. And it’s also a great gift guide for your favourite MacBook owner.
You need to know a few things about the type of MacBook you are buying for, so below this round-up, we have simple explanations of the technical bits you need to understand, such as USB-C vs Thunderbolt 3 speeds and MacBook charging, which differs for each model.
USB-C to USB-A adapter
Apple’s current MacBooks have ditched old-school USB-A ports for USB-C, which is a much friendlier, reversible connector.
You are much better off choosing devices that use USB-C, but you don't need to upgrade all your existing accessories.
There are fewer devices that use USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, and you’re bound to have a bunch of older peripherals (flash drives, hard drive, keyboard, mouse, and so on) that are suddenly incompatible.
Fear not. You can buy a simple adapter that turns a USB-A connector into one for USB-C.
Swedish company Volutz offers a two-pack USB-C to USB 3.0 Adapter Female adapter that will connect USB-A peripherals with type-C devices at 5Gbps speed.
Simply connect one end to the adapter and your old device will work with the latest laptops.
There's no point having a Thunderbolt 3 to USB-A adapter as the 40Gbps speed benefits of T3 will be blunted by the other end's 5Gbps limit, but USB-C will do just fine for most purposes.
Or you can buy a USB-C to USB-A cable, which we talk about more later on.
A more flexible option is a USB-C hub (sometimes called an adapter) that connects your MacBook to multiple ports, including several USB-A ports, HDMI for attaching a second display or connecting to a TV, headphone jack, SD and MicroSD card readers, Gigabit Ethernet for wired Internet connection, and even more USB-C ports.
You should also look for a hub with passthrough charging so you can power your laptop via the hub rather than use up another of your laptop’s USB-C ports – this is especially important if you have a laptop like the 12in MacBook that has just the one C port.
One of the most able is the D-Link 8-in-1 USB-C Hub that boasts three USB-A ports, passthrough charging up to 100W, card readers, Gigabit Ethernet and 4K HDMI (at 30Hz).
If Wi-Fi is good enough for you and you don’t need the wired Ethernet connection, we also recommend Kingston’s Nucleum 7-port hub, which can be found a little cheaper online and is a great option.
There are many to choose from, so take a look at our roundup of the best USB-C hubs and adapters.
Thunderbolt 3 dock
More able than a hub is a full docking station for your MacBook, and these come in T3 format, too.
(A T3 laptop can use a USB-C dock, but a USB-C laptop can’t use a T3 dock.)
T3 docks are usually more expensive, but do offer the full 40Gbps bandwidth.
Our favourite fully able T3 docking station is the compact Caldigit Thunderbolt Station 3 Plus (TS3 Plus).
This offers 14 ports, including five USB-A 3.0 ports and two USB-C ports (one at 5Gbps and the other at 10Gbps), two T3 ports (one supporting 87W power delivery), An SD Card slot, Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort, and Audio In and Out ports.
T3’s 40Gbps bandwidth means you can attach two external displays at 60Hz 4K. 60 frames per second (fps) is recommended for sports broadcasts or gaming.
USB-C can run 4K screens but only at 30Hz.
It has just one DisplayPort, but you can connect a second external display using the other T3 port and an adapter. If your screen or screens are HDMI, you’ll need adapters.
Caldigit also offers a portable dock, the Thunderbolt 3 MiniDock, with dual two display outputs (either HDMI or DisplayPort), 5Gbps USB-C port, two USB-A ports, and Gigabit Ethernet.
It doesn’t support Power Delivery, however, and draws power for the connected peripheral devices from your MacBook unless they have their own power supply.
More options for the best MacBook docking stations in our comprehensive roundup.
Maybe you don’t need the power of T3 and are happy with a cheaper USB-C docking station.
You won’t be able to attach a 4K display and run it at 60fps, but most people are fine with 4k at 30fps, which this dock’s HDMI port will allow.
Our favourite is Twelve South’s StayGo, which is also pretty portable.
It has three USB-A ports (one with Fast Charging), USB-C ports for connecting to the laptop and also 85W of PD charging, one HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet and SD/Micro SD card readers.
USB-C Wall charger
If the MacBook comes with a wall charger, why would you need another one?
A spare is always useful, of course, but why not grab one that does more than just charge your laptop?
Satechi makes three wall chargers that I swear by and often use on my travels.
The Type-C 75W Travel Charger can PD charge a laptop at up to 60W, and has three USB-A ports (one Quick Charge 3.0 capable). So you can charge your MacBook at 60W and share the remaining 15W among up to three other devices. See below the product roundups for more details on each MacBook's charging requirements.
There’s a similar charger, the 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger, that has two USB-C PD ports and two USB-A ports - useful if you have more than one USB-C device to charge.
The third option, the 108W Pro USB-C PD Desktop Charger, has the two USB-C PD slots and two USB-A but an overall power capability of 108W, so can power a 15in or 16in MacBook Pro at full 90W power, with 18W over for other devices.
Alternatively, you might just want one that’s super light from travel. Here we like the RAVPower Pioneer USB-C Charger, which charges at 61W - not quite enough to power up a 15in or 16in MacBook Pro at top speed so you might have to charge for longer. See our MacBook charging tips below this product roundup.
This charger uses GaN (Gallium Nitride) technology instead of traditional silicon, which helps make it more compact, and also more efficient - so less energy is wasted by being converted to heat.
HyperJuice makes a GaN USB-C charger that is capable of 100W charging. It also includes two USB-C and two USB-A ports, so you can spread that 100W around multiple devices - say, two laptops at 50W each - if required. It’s not yet released outside of crowd-funding site Indiegogo, but we ordered one and received it after a couple of months. So, we’d probably recommend this when it’s more readily available.
See other recommended USB-C PD laptop wall chargers.
Laptop power bank
A wall charger is fine is you are near a wall with a power socket, but less useful if you are out and about or in economy class at 35,000 feet.
This is when you need a separate charged battery power bank to refresh your MacBook's rapidly fading battery.
Our top choice is the RAVPower Portable Charger, which has a battery capacity of 20,000mAh, which RavPower claims will charge a 13in MacBook Pro 0.84 times and a 16in MacBook Pro to about half power.
You can buy laptop power banks with higher capacities, but they are usually much bulkier, and when travelling you will appreciate the smaller size. It weighs 369g but is shorter and narrower than most phones, although obviously much thicker.
USB-C PD car charger
Sometimes a wall charger is pretty useless, such as when you are travelling in a car.
Thankfully, you can buy a car charger so your MacBook Pro or Air. can arrive fully charges, even if you aren't after a long drive.
The LinkOn 63W Car Charger will charge a laptop with its 45W USB-C PD, and use the rest of that 63W on another device via the USB-A Quick Charge 3.0 port.
To get your MacBook to act like a desktop you need a second (or third) screen.
There are many external displays you can choose from, and much will depend on the size of screen you need, and of course your budget.
I went for a big 4K screen at a reasonable price, the Samsung LU32J592UQUXEN 32in Ultra HD 4K (3840x2160) LED Monitor.
Setup is simple, although you'll need a proper docking station rather than a USB-C hub for best results. See above for the best docking stations to connect your MacBook to the external display. Go for a Thunderbolt 3 dock if you want that 4K at the full 60Hz experience.
Choose a monitor with HDMI if you can. We found HDMI a much easier connection than DisplayPort.
We have rounded up all the best monitors for Mac so you can see more options to suit your screen needs, but for a smaller home office setup we recommend HP's HP Pavilion 27 LED display, which has a slimline screen panel that's just 6.5mm thick, and a thin border around the edges that really emphasises the size of the screen. It's not quite 4K but has a Quad-HD resolution of 2560x1440.
External hard drive / SSD
MacBook internal storage is expensive, so you might want to add an external hard drive or SSD.
SSD (Solid State Drives) are much faster than hard drives, and Caldigit’s Tuff Nano SSD is the fastest we’ve tested with Read and Write speeds close to 1,000MB/s. Available in 512GB and 1TB capacities.
Thunderbolt 3 compatible, it’s rated at 10Gbps rather than 40Gbps, which is plenty fast enough anyway.
It’s also dust and waterproof – hence the rugged Tuff name. And it’s pretty tiny – which is why it’s called Nano. Read our full Caldigit Tuff Nano review.
If you need a larger-capacity SSD, consider the 1TB Samsung T7.
Another option is to buy an SD card or Micro SD Card from 64GB to 512GB, and use one of the compatible readers on a hub or adapter. This provides an inexpensive and highly portable storage solution for backups and other uses. See our roundup of the best SD and Micro SD cards.
USB-C to USB-C cable
Your MacBook comes with a 2m USB-C cable to connect the laptop to its wall charger.
This is fine for charging purposes, but for fast data transfer, look for a Thunderbolt 3 cable, see below.
There are cheaper and better USB-C cables than Apple offers. Check our roundup of the best USB-C cables for more options.
The Satechi USB-C cable is braided for extra strength, and is 2m long. If that’s too long for you, read about our favourite best short cables such as the AmazonBasics cable that’s just 15.2cm long.
Or try the Anker Powerline+ USB-C to USB-C cable, from Amazon.
Thunderbolt 3 cable
Even though the MacBook uses Thunderbolt 3, Apple ships a USB-C cable, which is capable of 480Mbps (the same as USB-2.0) rather than T3’s 40Gbps.
This doesn’t matter for charging, but when you attach your laptop to a T3-compatible device, such as a dock, make sure you use a proper T3 cable. The T3 cable is backwards compatible, so will also work with USB-C products but at a slower 10Gbps.
Unless you splash out on an expensive Active T3 cable, a passive T3 cable has a maximum length of 0.8m to keep that 40Gbps bandwidth and 100W charging potential.
Plugable’s 0.8m (2.6ft) Thunderbolt 3 Cable is all you need to make the most of your MacBook’s Thunderbolt 3 power.
For longer, active T3 cables, try StarTech.com, available at Amazon, in lengths up to 2m (6ft).
USB-C to Lightning cable
Apple might have embraced USB-C for its computers, but still uses its own Lightning connector for its iPhones and most of its iPads.
So you may require a USB-C to Lightning cable if charging from the MacBook or MacBook’s charger.
The Anker USB-C to Lightning Cable is a great choice in different colours at a decent price.
USB-C to USB-A cable
If you want to connect an older USB-A device to your MacBook, you have a few options, including the simple adapter mentioned earlier.
Volutz also sells dedicated USB-C to USB-A cables at various lengths from 1ft to 10ft.
The cables are nylon-braided for strength, with a claimed bending tolerance of 50,000.
The Volutz USB-C Cable 5 Pack feautres cables of varying lengths, cleverly colour coded.
Or you buy them individually at the length that suits you best.
Elevating your screen to an ergonomic height is important for relieving neck strain, and will also improve your video calls by putting you at eye level with the camera.
We’ve chosen Twelve South’s Curve, which raises your MacBook 6.5 inches off your desk so you can sit up straight and look directly at your screen – and keeps your laptop cool with air flowing underneath it.
A more portable solution is Satechi’s Aluminum Laptop Stand, which folds flat and weighs less than 500g. It’s also available in a range of Apple-friendly colours.
See more best laptop stands for MacBooks.
A lot of MacBook users never really get the hang of using the laptop’s trackpad and yearn for a mouse.
Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 is great at £79 or $79 (we love the Space Grey version) but has a major flaw in that you can’t use it while it’s charging as the port is on its backside - so if suddenly dies on you, you’re stuffed for a while as it charges. And it charges via Lightning rather than USB-C.
The Logitech MX Master 3 charges via USB-C and can be used at the same time as charging. It has physical vertical and horizontal scroll wheels, which take some getting used to. The tracking is super fast and sensitive.
Its battery life is sensational. A single minute of charge will get you three hours of use, and when fully charged, it lasts an incredible 70 days.
A much cheaper option is the Satechi M1 Wireless Mouse (£29.99 / $29.99), which also has an accurate and speedy scroll wheel.
A MacBook’s keyboard might be “full size” but it does not compare to a proper external keyboard.
Obviously, you want a wireless keyboard (save those side ports), and we love the Satechi Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – available in Silver, Space Grey, Gold and Rose Gold.
It charges via USB-C, so no need for an extra Lightning cable – just use the charging cable that shipped with your MacBook. Battery life is up to 80 hours between charges.
You bought a laptop because it’s portable, right? And the last thing you want to when carrying your MacBook around is get it scratched or damaged.
We like the stylish Mujjo MacBook Sleeve in vegetable-tanned leather and felt, available for 13in and 15in MacBooks but not the 16in Pro yet.
It looks super stylish – its felt so nice, you want to stroke it.
It has an integrated document-storage compartment, so you might be able to leave your bulky backpack at home for shorter journeys.
It's available in black felt with tan leather, or just black.
For more options, read our roundup of the best cases, covers and bags for MacBook.
Thunderbolt 3 isn’t the only connector on Apple’s MacBooks. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack that you can also use to connect some decent speakers.
We love the sound quality of the 16in MacBook Pro’s internal 6-speaker system, but are less impressed by the audio on the Air or 13in Pro.
Treat yourself to a separate set of external speakers, like the affordable Bose Companion 2 Series III multimedia speaker system.
These sound great with a crystal-clear, deep sound in which the bass is prominent but not overbearing.
And they look smart either side of your new MacBook.
AirPlay 2 takes Apple into the multi-room speaker market, with the ability to stream music to several speakers in different rooms.
It’s superior to Bluetooth as it uses a Wi-Fi connection, which means a higher bandwidth, better sound quality, and longer range.
You can also now link together speakers from different manufacturers, so you can mix and match speakers around your home. See our round-up of what we consider the best AirPlay 2 speakers.
But if we had to choose one wireless speaker for our MacBook setup, we’d recommend the great Sonos One speaker.
We believe it’s worth the extra for a huge difference in sound quality, design and build.
The Sonos One has room-filling sound that’s rich and detailed, with a powerful and tight bass. A tweeter inside the One provides brightness resulting into a well-rounded mix that works for a wide range of music.
There’s also voice control via Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Read our full Sonos One review over at Tech Advisor.
AirPods aren’t just for iPhone users. They work just fine with Macs, too.
We’re going to recommend the more expensive AirPods Pro, because the noise-cancellation works just great and the fit in the ear feels more stable and comfortable.
Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.
Read our full AirPods Pro review
Each MacBook comes with a suite of free software applications. Among others, you get Photos, Music, Mail, Safari, iMovie and GarageBand.
You can survive just using the bundled Apple apps, but upgrading or adding new functionality often makes sense.
For business, Apple bundles its Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet, and Keynote presentations tool.
These are pretty good, but not as fully featured as Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
The latest version of Office for Mac is available via a Microsoft 365 subscription (from £59.99/$69.99 per year or £5.99/$6.99 per month), which updates the software continuously without the need of having to buy the whole program suite.
Read our Microsoft Office Buying Guide for full details.
Another alternative is the free Google Docs, with its Docs, Sheets and Slides. These are similar in functionality to Apple’s free apps but much more able for collaboration purposes, as you can share live documents between users.
Antivirus for Mac
It was once true that Macs weren't at much risk from viruses and other security threats 9and indeed are much safer than Windows PCs), but today it is highly recommended that you protect the vital files and personal and business information on your MacBook.
Ongoing threats include phishing attacks, fake malware, adware, browser hijacks, and more.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) service allows you to access websites that are ordinarily blocked in your country - so you can watch streaming entertainment services that normally might be blocked to you - for example, the US Netflix programmes from the UK, or watch BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.
Using a VPN you will also be better able to hide your location and identity online and get protection when using public Wi-Fi which is often not encrypted.
For more options read our choices for the best VPNs for Mac.
USB-C or Thunderbolt 3
We often talk about USB-C ports on MacBooks, but actually, the latest MacBooks have a faster variant of USB-C called Thunderbolt 3 (T3). It’s backwards compatible with USB-C, but much faster.
Both integrate data transfer, charging and video output in a single reversible connector.
The old-style non-reversible USB connector you’re more used to is called USB-A, available at speeds from 480Mbps (USB 2.0) to 5Gbps (USB 3.0).
While it may look like USB-C, T3 is much more powerful.
It gets a little confusing at this point but bear with us.
Most USB-C USB-C (3.1 Gen.2) has a potential speed of 10Gbps, but some (3.1 Gen.1) run at half that. Accessories should state whether they use the 5Gbps or 10Gbps standard. For most purposes, you won’t notice the difference, but it's important if you desire very fast data transfers.
T3 is capable of 40Gbps, which you will notice! However, T3 requires T3 cables, hubs and adapters, or docks to maintain that speed.
You can plug your T3 MacBook into a USB-C adapter or dock, and use a USB-C cable, but your connection will be at the slower speed.
The older 12in MacBook had one USB-C port.
Thunderbolt 3 Apple products include:
- MacBook Pro - 2016 or later
- MacBook Air - 2018 or later
You can tell USB-C and T3 apart by the "thunderbolt" lightning flash icon next to the port, which is a tad baffling as it is not Apple’s other connector standard called Lightning!
One other power-related technical aspect to consider is charging.
12in MacBooks introduced in 2015 or later and MacBook Air models introduced in 2018 or later require a 29W or 30W charger.
13in MacBook Pro models introduced in 2016 or later ship with a 61W charger.
15in MacBook Pro models introduced in 2016 or later have an 87W charger.
The latest 16in MacBook Pro (introduced in 2019) comes with a 96W charger.
You already have the charger that came with your MacBook, but some hubs and docks support Power Delivery (PD) - so look for accessories that charge your MacBook at the fastest rate.
You can use lesser-powered chargers, but they won’t charge as quickly as the higher wattage ones.