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Or can I use a third party one that is half the price? If there will be compatibility issues then I would prefer the Apple, but if it's just the same (like not needing to buy a SuperDrive any USB DVD reader/writer will do) can a third party one be used?

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I suppose it would be most informative to put this question to the retailer or manufacturer of the 3rd party device that you're looking at in particular. Personally I'd wager that it would work though. – macaco Sep 1 '11 at 7:47
I found this to be a tricky area. Several popular sites I use for Apple-compatible products did not stock a non-Apple version of this adapter. Amazon has a variety of choices and some were only USB 1 while the USB 2 devices were closer in price to the Apple cost. Plus the reviews were all over the map including one comment that the cost of returning an item was greater than what they saved. Also issues were discussed where it works with OSX but getting it running on Windows could be troublesome due to driver issues. – bg2011 Sep 1 '11 at 9:15
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You don't have to but your mileage will vary between the adaptors if they work or not. The Apple ones have drivers built into OS X, most of the others should work but there'll be varying levels of success.

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Thanks, I will just get the Apple one for peace of mind. Don't want to deal with ethernet problems while traveling to save $15. – jjeaton Sep 1 '11 at 17:05

Apple does not provide USB 3.0 gigabit ethernet adapters, but e.g. Edimax and Kanex work for Apple and have adapters made for MacBook Air and more.

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