USB-C: Is the New USB Cable a Replacement for All Other Device Connectors?
USB-C could replace all other cords — eliminating the need for different connectors for different connections.
The new style USB port promises a lot: it's small, secure, easy to plug in, transfers data faster, connects computers to display, supplies power to laptops, and works both ways. It is the latest technology shift that comes with all the new abilities.
The move to USB-C is shaping the real replacement for older USB standards to other standards such as:
- 3.5mm audio jack
With several Windows and Mac laptops now featuring USB-C connectors, the USB-C connector is here to stay — ushering in an age of the one-size-fits-all cable.
However, most consumers still don't comprehend the USB-C implementations. The world needs more explanation about the new connector, what it can handle, and how it can simplify business operations.
What Is USB-C?
USB-C — also USB Type-C — is a recent type of connector for transferring both data and power using a single cable. The new USB cable could replace all other device connectors, even the laptop, and TV power cord.
The Type-C cable's capabilities include:
- Transfers data faster
- Powers devices, even high-power devices like laptops, monitors, and TVs
- Connects computers to display
- Transmits sound
The best part is that nearly all manufacturers accept the USB-C connector, including the blue-chip tech companies like:
The only challenge is that manufacturers don't clarify the capabilities of the USB-C in their devices. After all, not all USB-C ports are the same.
What Can USB-C Do — The All-in-One Port for Everything?
For the most part, the traditional USB Type-A port is a data port for connecting peripherals or drives like keyboards. The USB-C can do so much more depending on the port's implementation. At its core, it's designed to perform two main functions:
- Transfer data fast
- Deliver enough power
The two core features open up a world of capabilities the USB-C can handle, including:
- Deliver enough power to charge or power devices like laptops, monitors, TVs, smartphones, or other devices.
- Send video signals and power simultaneously, a feature that lets you connect to and power an HDMI, DisplayPort, or MHL device when you have the right adapter and cables.
- Transfer of audio over the interface.
- Quick-charge many popular devices.
- Transfer data faster — up to 40 GB, which is impossible with other USB types.
All USB-C capabilities are great although they differ depending on the manufacturer.
For instance, in the laptop space, USB C capabilities like charging, display, and audio still vary from laptop to laptop. If the manufacturer isn't clear about what their device's USB-C port can do, it may cause confusion among consumers.
After all, a USB-C standard supports connecting a DisplayPort or HDMI display with adapters, but not every computer has the USB-C port connected to every system's graphics hardware.
What Are the Biggest Advantages of USB-C?
The biggest advantage is that USB-C eliminates the need for any other cable. Besides data transfer, the connector can:
- Supply power to devices like laptops and workstation
- Allow external device connection
- Allow video output
- Transmit audio
The connector executes all of the tasks better than the existing solutions. For example:
- Unlike the USB-A, the USB-C connector is symmetrical — both sides are similar, so it's impossible to insert it incorrectly
- Since USB-C is based on USB 3.1, it allows greater transfer speeds of up to 40Gbs
- Allows higher power transfer, a feature that makes it capable of powering and charging high-power devices like laptops, monitors, and even TVs
- It's narrow enough that it can fit on phones with ease, making it the best standard connector for phones, computers, game consoles, and other devices
However, many people aren't oriented to the USB-C, which brings about a certain level of confusion.
The Confusion of USB-C — Why Consumers Find the USB-C Changes Puzzling at First
The world considers USB-C a technology refresh for nearly all cable needs — combining power and data transmission with audio and display connectivity. However, feature compatibility is a major problem.
Various manufacturers don't offer a clear supported functionality list per device.
For instance, a device might come with a USB-C port, but the manufacturers don't specify if the port connection will:
- Support video output or input
- Charge or power the device (laptop, monitor, TV)
- Transfer sound
- Only transfer data
Manufacturers need to clarify the capabilities of their devices' USB-C better.
Even more frustrating, some manufacturers don't clarify if the port on the device is USB-C. This poses a bit of a challenge because ThunderBolt and USB-C can use the same connector.
To top it all, there's more frustration in the variety of cable standards and connectors, to the extent that consumers find it difficult to determine what type of USB-C they require.
Consumers go through the mess of protocols and standards to choose from, including:
- USB 2
- USB 3
- USB 4
- DisplayPort Alternative
- Thunderbolt 3
- Thunderbolt 4
Such a variety of similar choices is rare with previous connections, which begs the question:
How Can USB-C be Less Confusing: Clearing the Mess?
USB-C is merely the plug shape and size. Manufacturers should clear the confusion with better label cables and the proper USB-C specs. Users should see a label on the USB-C cable and a list of its functionalities. For instance, a laptop should have labels on its port to differentiate USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, USB 4, USB 3, and USB 2 to sort the mess for the consumer.
After labeling a port as USB-C, the manufacturer should list what their connector can achieve because not all USB-C connects to every graphic hardware. A consumer should know if the USB-C connector can:
- Charge the device
- Transfer data
- Can send simultaneous video signal power so that the user can be able to connect to and power HDMI and DisplayPort with an adapter.
In other words, manufacturers should specify if the device's USB-C port connects to the system's graphics hardware.
How Fast Are the USB-C Connectors
A typical USB-C connector can transmit data, power, video, and audio. However, the port you're connecting to the USB-C cable determines how fast the connection is.
Devices have varying types of USB ports, which are categorized into three types:
- USB 3.1
- USB 3.2
- Thunderbolt 3 (mainly found on Apple computers)
Generally, plugging a USB-C into a USB 3.1 port can transfer 10GB of data per second, the 3.2 port gets you 20 GB per second, and the Thunderbolt 3 port allows 40Gbs transmission.
USB-C transfers data much faster than any other type of connector.
Apart from data transfer, the USB-C cables also transfer power and can charge:
- Portable devices
- Security cameras
Like a typical USB A connector, a standard USB-C connector provides 2.5 watts. However, most devices come with Power Delivery (PD) protocol that allows USB-C cable to deliver up to 100 watts.
This feature allows the USB-C to charge or power high-wattage devices like laptops. Such power delivery is impossible for the older USB standards.
What's the USB Type-C Alternate Mode?
Alternate Mode (Alt Mode) is a feature of USB-C that allows the USB connection to transmit non-USB signals without the need for conversion.
Current USB Type-C Alt mode includes:
- Analog Audio
For instance, you can directly display on a monitor using the USB-C with the DisplayPort Alt Mode.
The monitor would need to have a USB-C port to make the connection. Alternatively, you can use a USB-C equipped laptop with a monitor with typical video ports such as HDMI, VGA, DVI, and DisplayPort. However, you'll need a USB-C video adapter.
How Does Thunderbolt 3 Work Over USB-C?
Thunderbolt 3 is a protocol that uses the physical USB-C connector and displays networking, high-speed storage, and more.
To use thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, you'll need:
- A computer with a Thunderbolt 3 port — the port nearly identical to a regular USB-C port but with an additional ThunderBolt logo next to it
- Thunderbolt 3-compatible devices such as a hub, monitor, or external hard drive
A Thunderbolt 3 port can act as a regular USB-C port. However, a USB-C port cannot support Thunderbolt 3 devices. The Thunderbolt 3 port can work with a USB-C cable but gives a throughput of 20Gbs.
Purpose-built Thunderbolt 3 cables can transfer at a speed of 40Gbps.
Can USB-C Replace the 3.5mm Headphone Jack?
USB-C can replace the 3.5mm headphone jack. Intel proposed the production of smartphones without the typical headphone port and instead, rely on the charging and data slot for audio output.
USB-C Will Simplify Business Work Set-Ups
Should we go back to different connectors for different purposes because USB-C has some confusion?
One thing is clear:
USB-C cables have greater abilities and will prevail eventually. Manufacturers will design devices with USB-C to replace nearly all other cords. It'll be a power horse for everything:
- Faster data transfers
However, consumers still find the shift to USB-C puzzling.
You don't have to sweat it. We can help you discover how adopting USB-C can help you make your business more efficient and productive. Contact us today to get unparalleled IT services to help you maintain peak operations.
Thanks to the team at Tektonic in Toronto for their help with this article. Learn more at https://www.tek-help.com