Don't You Dare Remove My Ethernet Port!

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read

I found this article sitting in my drafts folder from 2012 and decided to publish it today. Any similarities to current port removal arguments is completely coincidental.

You know, I really like this new laptop from Apple, but the fact that they took away Ethernet, which is clearly superior to WiFi in just about every way, is baffling to me. Who the hell do these guys think they are to tell me when it's okay to take away critical functionality that has been there for decades?

For starters, everyone knows that Ethernet is objectively better than WiFi. Sure, when Apple removed the CD-ROM drive, we all agreed that flash storage was better, just as when they removed the floppy drive we knew that CDs were better. I'm not saying Apple was too aggressive in those cases, but this is a whole other story.

People rely on Ethernet for all sorts of things. I guess I can no longer just walk into a hotel room and jack into their wired connection, which I know they all have and "just works." Now I have to pray my hotel has WiFi if I want to get any work done at all. Or what about presentation spaces which have only been fitted for Ethernet and have not switched to WiFi yet? Or even my home network, where I want to have the best speeds possible? WiFi is getting better (maybe next year it will be great), but Ethernet is far faster and more reliable than WiFi will ever be.

And let's not forget about the accessibility concerns of losing Ethernet. I can buy a perfectly good Ethernet cable for $6 on Amazon, while getting a wireless router is going to be a much larger investment. I know there are cheap wireless routers out there, but everyone knows you have to spend upwards of $100 to get something that's worth a damn. I'll bet Apple even sells their own wireless router that they can attach to their laptop sales and increase their attachment rate.

Of course they fucking do.

But despite this, it's obvious Apple knows that there are still many places in the world where WiFi is not an option and that they're moving too fast. So to please the millions of people who this is going to be a bad decision for, they have created a USB Ethernet dongle that lets you plug in your "old" Ethernet cable into your new Mac. We all know dongles suck, and its outrageous that Apple isn't bundling this in with every new MacBook Air/Pro, but I have to recommend this overpriced accessory to every single person buying a new Mac laptop right now.

It's absolutely fucking ridiculous that you can spend $2,000 on a laptop and still not get basic functionality like Ethernet. The fact that Apple also calls this a "Pro" model is equally ridiculous, as this is core functionality that's just plain missing. Look at all the Windows laptops I can buy that still have Ethernet!

So why is Apple doing this? Would you believe it's for the same goddamned reason it always is? It's about getting thinner and lighter.


Let's look at the previous MacBook Pro line:

Seriously, how much thinner does Apple think we want our laptops to be? The MacBook Pro pictured above weighs 4.5 pounds and is less than an inch thick. And Apple felt the need to remove the Ethernet jack because they could save a few millimeters here and there? It's silly to think that computers will ever need to be half as thick and half as heavy as they are today. Nobody is asking for that, so why take away ports like this?

And in the grand scheme of things, the Ethernet port doesn't consume much volume in a computer. Apple gains negligible space by removing this core functionality, with means they probably aren't going to add any battery. Besides, the 2012 MacBook Pro gets 6 hours of battery life, which is just fine. What good is longer battery life if I can't reliably connect to the internet?

Don't believe me, ask Andy Ihnatko why ports matter1:

So I was pretty relieved to learn that Apple’s new thinner design would expand the MacBook Pro line instead of replacing it. It’s just not worth it to drop an Ethernet port solely on the ideological principle that notebooks should always, always, always be made thinner. ... Just don’t even try to convince me that I’m silly for seeing “onboard VGA and Ethernet” as desirable features. Hundreds of podiums and Ethernet-only hotel rooms beg to differ with you.

I'm open to discussing when the right time will be to remove the Ethernet jack from laptops, but the argument of "it has to go away someday, so why not now" doesn't hold water. You remove technology when there is something better to replace it. Every instance of Apple removing ports in the past as been because there was smoothing we all agreed was better. That simply isn't the case with Ethernet, and I don't think you will find anyone who will tell you they think WiFi is as reliable, as fast, as easy to set up, or as secure as Ethernet. If they do tell you wireless is better despite its technical shortcomings, just disengage, they've clearly drunk the Apple Kool Aid and there is no saving them. The next thing you know they'll tell you they can use the iPad for real work!

  1. In all seriousness, I love Andy and think he's a great guy. But even in 2016 he's still upset at Apple for not having Ethernet on the MacBook Pro line.