Here’s a guide to everything USB-C can do and which features you should look for when purchasing your next USB-C device.
What is USB-C?
USB-C is an industry standard connector for transmitting both data and power in a single cable. USB-C connector, USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) developed by. It was developed by the group of companies that have developed, approved and managed the USB standard over the years. USB-IF counts more than 700 companies in its membership, including Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft and Samsung.
This wide acceptance by large dogs is important, as it’s part of the way USB-C is so readily accepted by PC manufacturers. Compare this to Apple-backed (and developed) Lightning and MagSafe connectors, which have limited acceptance beyond Apple products and are obsolete because they are not a small part of USB-C.
Is USB-C Like Micro USB?
The USB-C connector looks like a micro USB connector at first glance, but its shape is more oval and a bit thicker for its best feature of rotating.
Like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no upward or downward direction. Align the connector properly and you never need to turn it over to install; The “right way” is always up. Standard cables also have the same connector at both ends, so you don’t have to find out which end goes where.
USB-C and USB 3.2: Numbers Below Port
Where USB-C gets tricky is with the numbers plugged into the ports. The most common speed at which USB-C connectors are rated is 10 Gbps. (This 10 Gbps is theoretically twice as fast as the original USB 3.0.) USB-C ports that support this top speed are called “USB 3.2 Gen 1 × 2”.
The little crease is that USB ports with speeds of 10 Gbps can be found in the original, larger shape (USB Type A rectangles we all know) and are called USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 1. Some desktop computers However, it is more common to see 10 Gbps speed USB ports with Type-C physical connectors.
Note: Some legacy USB-C ports only support 5 Gb / s maximum speeds, so use a “USB 3.2 Gen 1 × 2” or “10 Gb / s to verify that a specific USB-C port supports 10 Gb / s transfers. It is important to look at the “sn” assignment.
Even more complicated issues: The number scheme around USB 3 has changed since 2019, referring to these ports like a swamp. Until last year, many USB-C ports carried the USB 3.1 label (“USB 3.2” wasn’t a thing yet) on Gen 1 and Gen 2 variants, and some specs continue to refer to the old name along with the SuperSpeed brand. Confusingly, USB-IF decided to eliminate the use of “USB 3.1” in favor of these various flavors of USB 3.2, as outlined below in this handy decoder chart.
The definitions of USB 3.2, USB 3.1 and SuperSpeed that you see on each line above are equivalent, only their names are different. If you see a USB 3.1 label, it is best to ask the device manufacturer or vendor directly about the port’s maximum transfer speeds.
As you can see above, the latest and fastest USB-C ports use the USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 specification with maximum speeds of 20GBps. USB-IF opted for “2 × 2” because the new standard doubled the data strips on a USB-C cable to achieve a transfer rate of 20 Gbps. These latest ports are not yet widely available, but computer manufacturers and risers may find them on some high-end desktop motherboards.
Basic Support: Many Roles of USB-C
You can think of your old USB Type-A port as a data port for connecting drives or peripherals like mice. But USB-C can do much more depending on the specific port’s implementation. One of USB-C’s most useful capabilities, when designed this way, it provides enough power to charge a host device such as a laptop or smartphone.
USB-C’s support for sending simultaneous video signals and power means you can connect and power a local DisplayPort, MHL or HDMI device or connect to just about anything, assuming you have the appropriate adapter and cables.
Be sure to check the specifications of any computer you are considering to buy, because not all USB-C ports are the same. Each one we’ve seen so far supports both data transfers and power delivery to devices connected via USB-C. However, while the USB-C standard supports connecting DisplayPort and / or HDMI displays with an adapter (via the DisplayPort protocol over USB), not every computer manufacturer has connected the ports to each system’s graphics hardware. Some USB-C ports on a system may support video output connection while others may not; or none at all. It is important to look at the details.
Thunderbolt 3: More Speed Tiering to USB-C
Perhaps the most useful protocol a USB-C port can support is Thunderbolt 3. This provides support for up to 40 Gbps throughput, as well as lower power consumption and the ability to carry up to 100 watts of power through the interface.
A USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support means that one cable is all you need to push the power and transfer large amounts of information (including video data for two 60 Hz 4K displays) to and even from a complex device. A computer is something that most laptop manufacturers are starting to exploit. Some models of Apple’s MacBook Pro have four of these connectors as we’ve seen to date, giving you more expansion potential than you have with previous versions of USB.
Now, as with DisplayPort over USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 support might not be available on every USB-C port you see. Check a device’s property sheet or documentation for the Thunderbolt 3 tag to be sure. Some devices may have multiple USB-C ports, and only some support Thunderbolt 3 features.
Thunderbolt uncertainty, with the upcoming USB 4 standard will change. While USB 4 ports support Thunderbolt 3 speeds by default, they will remain backward compatible with USB 3. Some newer devices will likely have both USB 4 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 ports, and both will use USB’s physical connector form.
Adapters and Cables
USB-C is electrically compatible with legacy USB 3.0 ports. But because of the new port shape, if you want to connect anything that doesn’t have a USB-C oval shape, adapters or cables with proper plugs are indeed required.
Sometimes it comes with a new laptop; in other cases, you may need to purchase it separately. For example, Apple sells a variety of USB cables and adapters to connect USB-C to other technologies such as Lightning or Ethernet. If you browse online retailers, you can find a variety of them for PCs. Some even support older or more esoteric protocols to make a device you owned years ago run on today’s hardware.
Do you need USB-C?
The presence (or absence) of a USB-C port becomes more and more important when purchasing a PC. If you buy an ultrathin laptop, it will almost certainly have at least one USB-C port, which will automatically launch you into the ecosystem. If you like desktop computers more, at least one in the I / O panel on the motherboard side and high-quality and on gaming desktops you can be sure you will probably find more ports. Some desktop computers and aftermarket PC cases also places one on the front panel.
Even if you don’t need USB-C now, you will soon. We’re just drawing on what USB-C can do, but one thing is certain: The next generation of cross-platform connectors are quickly replacing legacy protection, just as the original USB standard replaced Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), FireWire. Parallel, PS / 2, SCSI and serial ports on Mac and PCs. USB-C is truly the port to rule them all.
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