The best travel accessories for your MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Retina MacBook

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Traveling with any MacBook is a lot easier today than it was five or ten years ago. Apple’s latest laptops consume much less space than their predecessors, and last much longer when they’re in active use. Whether it’s on a seat-back tray or resting in your lap, your MacBook can deliver quite a few hours of productive work time, video viewing, or even gameplay without assistance. But it can do even more if you bring the right accessories along.

My goal is to help you choose the best items to carry with you on the road — the type of items I’ve spent years testing. The picks below are highly practical and focused to make good use of space and address real-world concerns that many travelers have. Read on!

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Purported ‘iPad Pro’ dummy model dredges up age-old rumor of dual Lightning ports

It’s been a while since we heard rumors that a new iPad model would sport dual connectors for hooking it up to a computer or accessories, but a set of photos circulating online is bringing that idea back to the forefront.

The photos claim to depict the back of Apple’s upcoming “iPad Pro,” a larger 12.9-inch model of its existing tablet. Not a whole lot of new details are visible in the photos, but a spare Lightning port can be spied on the side of the device. Typically the Lightning port is located on the bottom edge.

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The best iPhone/iPad USB flash drives with Lightning connectors

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There are now several companies selling USB thumb drives for iPhone and iPad since the first ones with built-in Lightning connectors debuted late last year. By connecting a small and lightweight thumb drive directly to your iOS device, you can avoid limitations of onboard storage and cloud services and instead store and stream media like music, video, and photos using the drive’s additional storage.

A few things to consider when searching for the right Lightning drive: some have a battery that requires charging, companion apps for managing and streaming content from an iOS device vary in quality, and I found some have designs that make using the drives and your iOS device at the same time easier than others. Lastly, pricing varies quite a bit based on the the options below with drives ranging from 8GB to 256GB and other options offering bring-your-own storage using a micro SD card slot. Read more

Review: Aukey’s PB-N30 is the first iPhone external battery with a female Lightning port, but does it matter?

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When the first iPhone 6 battery cases hit the market late last year, one 9to5Mac reader commented repeatedly that he was holding out for something with a female Lightning port on the bottom, rather than the currently ubiquitous alternative, micro-USB. Why would anyone care? Well, if an accessory can recharge using Lightning, the same charging cable you get with any iPhone can be used with its accessories, too. That means you’ll have one less cable to carry around, a convenience that inspired Apple late last year to offer accessory developers access to female Lightning connectors.

The rollout has been slow: there’s still no Apple-authorized accessory with a Lightning port, since Apple was still only previewing the feature early this year. But a developer called Aukey decided not to wait for Apple’s seal of approval. As of this week, it’s selling what it claims is “the first and the only portable charger in the world with Apple Lightning input port,” the PB-N30 3600mAh External Battery Charger ($36, sold on Amazon for $15). Given the low price, it’s no surprise that there are a bunch of caveats to consider, but if you’ve been jonesing for a battery with a Lightning port, now you have an option.

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How-To: Transfer, edit, and share DSLR or point-and-shoot photos using your iPhone or iPad

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Apple’s iPhones became Flickr’s most popular camera phones in 2008 and most popular cameras overall soon thereafter, but even now, iPhones constitute only 9.6% of the photo-sharing site’s userbase. Despite the iPhone’s undeniable popularity, over 90% of photographers are using other cameras: Canon has a 13.4% share, Nikon 9.3%, Samsung 5.6%, and Sony 4.2%, with tons of other brands following close behind. While the cameras in phones continue to improve every year, they’re not the best tools for photography — they’re just the ones most people carry with them all the time.

If you shoot photos with a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera, you probably aren’t sending images directly to the Internet from the camera itself. You probably come back home, transfer your photos to your computer, then edit and share them with Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom or one of Apple’s three photo management apps — iPhoto, Aperture, or the beta version of Photos.

For around $30, your iPhone or iPad can change the way you shoot, edit, and share photos. Using the right accessories and apps, you can easily publish DSLR-quality photos a minute after snapping them. I’ve been doing this for years, and it works incredibly well; today, it’s actually better than at any time in the past, thanks to recent iPhone and iPad hardware improvements. This new How-To guide will walk you through everything you’ll need to know to use your iPhone or iPad as a photo editing and sharing station, looking at photo transferring accessories, editing software, and sharing options…

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Review: RAVPower’s Savior delivers 9000mAh of Apple-certified Lightning battery power at a great price

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RAVPower has done a great job of changing the traditional price-to-performance equation for Apple device chargers. Its two-, four-, and six-port wall chargers (reviewed here) are the best options I’ve seen at their price points, so it’s no shock that its Savior 9000mAh External Battery Pack (MSRP $100, street price $50) delivers great value, as well.

Equipped with wall blades for easy recharging, Savior combines a high-capacity 9000mAh battery with an Apple-certified Lightning cable, competing with similar accessories such as myCharge’s Hub 9000 — but for half the street price. Read on for why Savior is so easy to recommend, as well as details on the compromises it makes to keep its size and price down.

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Review: Duet, the app that turns your iPad into a Lightning-connected Mac monitor

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I’m a big-screen fan. It’s the reason my primary Mac is still a 17-inch MacBook Pro, and why I have that hooked up to a 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display when I’m in my home office. When travelling, though, I have fewer pixels to play with. Sure, I could get a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, but I favor physical screen space over smaller screen elements.

There are existing apps out there, like Air Display, that let you use an iPad as a second monitor for a Mac, but they work via WiFi, which poses two problems. First, they often don’t work on WiFi hotspots, which you’re likely to be using when away from home. Second, even when they do work, there is an annoying amount of lag.

Which is where Duet comes in. Instead of using WiFi, it feeds the video signal from your Mac to iPad using a standard Lightning or 30-pin cable. Built by ex-Apple engineers, I figured it ought to be work well, so put it to the test …  Read more

Details on Apple’s upcoming Lightning port specs for third-party accessories

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We previously told you that Apple will be licensing its female Lightning port to third-party accessoriesfollowing an announcement to Made for iPhone licensees late last year. Since then, the company has released specs for the Lightning port that details exactly what Apple hopes to achieve by opening it up to third-parties, including how it could improve accessories. Read more

Review: Incipio’s offGRID Express is the most affordable Apple-authorized iPhone 6 battery case

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If I had to choose one word to describe how Incipio’s past iPhone offGRID battery cases felt, it would probably be “svelte,” as they were all impressively thin and gently curved. Starting today, Incipio is shipping its first offGRID case for the iPhone 6, and it notably trades “svelte” for “edgy” design. Offered only in matte black, it’s called offGRID Express ($80), and Incipio claims it’s the first Apple-certified iPhone 6 battery case that’s actually available for consumers to purchase. This time, the back is somewhat angular, due in part to a larger battery pack than prior models, and the sides are equipped with the fancy metallic button protectors rival Mophie has only offered in its most expensive Juice Packs.

Incipio’s message is clear: by offering 3000mAh of power at an $80 price point, offGRID Express is practically daring Mophie – and any other Apple MFi-licensed manufacturer – to step up and take a swing at its value proposition. Yes, comparatively unknown vendors are selling cheaper options, and Tylt offers a 3200mAh, Apple-licensed alternative called Energi for $100, but offGRID Express actually matches it in recharging performance for a lower price. It’s positioned directly at consumers who care about both quality and cost, not just one or the other. Read more

Holiday gift guide: Making music with your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

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It doesn’t take much to get up and running recording music on your Mac, iPad, or even your iPhone. With a few pieces of additional hardware and the right software, it’s easier than ever to have a home recording setup that, thanks to iOS and some great third-party apps, is as simple and as intuitive to use as iOS itself.

Head below for our latest guide to the essentials for making music with your iPad, iPhone, and Mac, many of which are currently discounted for Cyber Monday: Read more

Apple will soon let third-party products use its Lightning port, opening up new possibilities for accessories

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Last week at Apple’s yearly briefing for accessory makers in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad (MFi) licensing program, the company unveiled new Lightning connectors and specs for Lightning receptacles that will soon be available for implementation in MFi accessories. The new Lightning receptacle, scheduled to start shipping next year, will allow accessory makers to build new types of accessories that include a port for Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector previously reserved for its own iOS devices (pictured above). Read more

Apple will brief MFi accessory makers on HomeKit, Lightning headphones, iBeacon & game controllers next week

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Apple’s annual MFi summit, an event for accessory manufacturers in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod licensing program, will focus on getting accessory makers ready for new technologies including HomeKit hardware, iBeacon, Apple’s new Lightning headphones spec, and game controllers, according to Apple’s official event schedule. Read more