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USB C: Everything You Need to Know

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) was released in 1994 to address the confusion that was caused by the different computer connector types. USB provides a quick and effortless connection between devices. For this reason, many manufacturers and users quickly adapted to it.

Today, many ports and connectors use USB-C. Many companies have picked and improved it since it was launched.

If you are keen, you may have noticed something different about the latest phones, laptops, and tablets. They do not come with Type-A USB ports as before. Instead, manufacturers have replaced them with Type-C USBs that are smaller and oblong connectors. Even Macbooks and Chromebooks are now part of the USB-C movement.

Keep reading this guide to learn about USB-C, its uses, and future.


What Is USB-C?

USB Type-C or USB-C is a relatively new connector that helps deliver data and power between computing devices. It features a symmetrical design allowing users to insert it either way. As such, you will not experience the frustrations associated with the previous USB ports.

The connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a group of companies that have been designing standard USBs over the years. The group consists of more than 700 companies, including Apple, HP, Intel, Samsung, and Dell, among others.

Because of the broad acceptance by established companies, many PC manufacturers have accepted the USB-C. This connector type supports USB 3.2 and 3.1 and other backward versions of USBs. Using the 24 pin cable, individuals can quickly transfer videos, power, and data between monitors. Plus, it can charge other devices.

The USB-C cable comes with a USB Type-C connector on both its ends. But, it can also use converters to convert USB-C to USB-A. These converters transfer data to a computer using the standard USB-A port.

Most cables and adapters for USB-C are white. But as this isn’t a standard requirement, you can find them in blue, red, black, and other colors.

What Can You Use a USB-C Cable for?

The previous USB-A ports were used to connect drives and peripherals like mice. However, the USB-C can be used for various other functions, depending on the implementation of a port. USB-C delivers sufficient power that charges the host device. As such, you can use it for charging your PC or smartphone.

Many laptops today are designed with USB-C ports instead of the standard barrel-style connector. Thus, individuals can attach an AC adapter to these ports and charge their machines.

Additionally, USB-C is capable of sending power and simultaneous video signals. As such, you can connect and power your native DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL, or any other device as long as you have the right cables and adapter.

The connector also allows audio transmission. However, it is not as effective as the 3.5mm headphone jack computers use. Also, note that while USB-C ports are different, the ones available support data transfer between devices and power the device connected over the USB-C.

However, be sure to confirm the specs of the machine you are buying first. Also, note that, since this connector is not as common as the USB-A and USB-B, some manufacturers, like SanDisk flash drive design both connectors, allowing use on either USB type.

How Fast Is USB-C?

The USB-C can transfer data and charge devices, and do both these tasks quickly. It features a speed of 10 gigabits per second for data transfer across all devices. Thus, it is just like transferring an HD feature-length file from one device to another within 30 seconds when working at its best.

As you can see, this is quite a high speed. In fact, it is twenty times quicker than USB-B 2.0. Moreover, since many companies now include USB-C support, users can transfer data and media from their laptops and phones quickly.

When it comes to charging, the USB-C can charge up to 100 watts. Thus, you can use it for charging many devices. Compare this with Apple’s Lightning Charger that features only 5 watts. Since it is a powerful option, it will take a few minutes for your device’s battery to charge fully.

USB-C Compatibility

USB-C cables are smaller compared to USB-A and USB-B. Therefore, they will not fit in these ports. But, individuals can buy an adapter that lets you plug your USB-C into older USB models. With an adapter, you can plug your USB-C device into a USB-A port using a USB-A/USB-C cable with a new USB-C connector on one end and the other end, on the old USB-A.

If your device only has a USB-A connection, but your computer only comes with a USB-C connection, you can still use this port using an adapter that allows these connections.

Is USB-C the Same as a Micro-USB?

USB Type C and micro USB connectors resemble each other first. But if you look closely, you will notice that the USB-C has a more oval shape and is much thicker, making it flippable.

USB-C doesn’t have an up or down orientation like Apple’s Lightning and Magsafe. Therefore, as long as you line it up correctly, you will not have to flip it over to connect it with your devices. Also, USB Type C standard cables use the same connector.

As such, you will not have to struggle to figure out where each end goes. Note that this has not been so with all USB cables since they were invented more than 20 years ago. Most times, users had to use different connectors for each end.

USB and Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt can connect to devices that have a USB port. Thunderbolt and USB are different things, although they have the same shape. Thunderbolt refers to the connectivity standards, while USB Type-C represents the port’s shape that connects different devices.

In addition, Thunderbolt supports speeds of up to 40 gigabits per second. Therefore, it is faster than the standard USB-C connector and consumes less power. Thunderbolt can power as much as 100W over an interface, making it even speedier.

If you want to transfer large files or data, like videos, to a computer or PC easily, Thunderbolt will be the best option. Some experts view it as a supercharged USB-C connector. However, the device is made by Intel and only uses the USB-C connector since it is popular and works with various platforms and companies.

Does USB-C Support Reversible Connections?

The reason why there are many USB connections is that devices are nowadays designed with different sizes and shapes. Thus, many connections are used to accommodate these devices. For instance, a full-size USB-A socket would not fit on a smartphone. As such, manufacturers have designed the USB-C, which is smaller and discrete.

This connector can suit all devices, including PCs, tablets, smartphones, cameras, etc. As they become more popular, there will come a time where one cable type will be enough for all your devices. However, note that you may still need a powerful adapter for charging large products.

But, one of the major drawbacks of older USB connectors is that they fit one way round. Think about it. How many times have you turned your USB cable to find the side that fits? Thankfully, USB-C addresses this problem by allowing reversible connections.

Individuals can plug it either way without risking damage caused when trying to force the cable to the right port. Also, note that it uses the same port on each end. Thus, it will plug in no matter how you get hold of it.

USB-C Docking and Backward Compatibility

USB-C supports different connection protocol types like HDMI and DisplayPort. Therefore, individuals do not need multiple ports on their devices for connection. Now, this feature is useful, especially for slim laptops where one can use a single USB-C port to connect to several devices. Thus, you can use one USB-C to connect your PC to a docking station.

However, note that a USB-C cable cannot fit into the original USB-A socket or vice versa. However, the USB standard is completely backward compatible. Therefore, you just need an adapter to connect a USB-C phone to a laptop with USB-A ports. However, devices using older standard ports only connect at the maximum speeds that their standards support, meaning they will not work faster when connected to a USB-C device.

Do I Need USB Type-C?

Individuals nowadays consider the presence or absence of a USB-C port when buying a new PC. Most ultrathins laptops have at least one USB-C port that will get you into this technology automatically. You can also find these ports on desktops, but they are mostly on gaming desktops.

Some aftermarket laptops and desktops put USB-C ports on the front panel as well. However, this will require a specific header connector to connect the motherboard and the other devices. But, the problem is that only the latest models have that special header.

USB-C technology is here to stay. So, even if you are not using it now, you will soon. Individuals are yet to explore fully what this connector can do. But, experts believe that cross-platform connectors are quickly replacing the old guard the same way the original USB replaced Apple Desktop Bus, parallel, FireWire, and serial ports on PCs and Macs.

You can contact us to have your questions answered.

Thanks to our friends at CEU Technologies in Chicago for their help with this article. Learn more about CEU and their IT services in Chicago.

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