What you need to know about USB Type-C.

A new laptop, smartphone, TV, external drive, or other gadget may have a USB Type-C connector. We will tell you how it differs from the usual interfaces, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and what you need to consider when choosing the appropriate cable.

To understand the difference between USB Type-C and classic USB connectors, let's go back a few years. The USB Type-C specification appeared in 2014 in parallel with USB 3.1. Then USB Type-C was supposed to replace type A and B cables (previous USB specifications) when connected to laptops, TVs, monitors, multimedia players, smartphones, tablets, external drives, etc.

Before USB Type-C, the specifications were known:

USB 1.0 - approved in 1994 for connecting peripherals to PCs and laptops. This port was actively used only in the two thousandth;

USB 2.0 - is still actively used in two types of connectors: Type-A and Type-B. On mobile gadgets, their more compact versions are used: Micro-B and Mini-B. The maximum speed in USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mbps, the maximum current is 500 mA;

USB 3.0 is a relatively recent specification, with support for up to 5 Gbps. The maximum current increased to 900 mA. In 2013, USB 3.1 Type-C was approved, and this type of connector received an oval shape and more compact dimensions than the dual USB 3.0 Micro B.

In this story, you can see that with the advent of new standards, not only the speed changed, but also the points maintained - this is very important for the normal power supply of equipment. Even USB 3.0 turned out to be too weak for recharging a laptop, where the battery capacity can easily reach 10 Ah. In parallel, manufacturers began to make thinner gadgets, which made it necessary to reconsider the need for HDMI and Thunderbolt.

These two problems had to be solved with the advent of USB 3.1 Type C, in which instead of the 8 contacts that were in USB 3.0, there were 24 contacts at once. Additional contacts here provide a higher data transfer rate (including SuperSpeed), one is responsible for the orientation of the connector, the others have a service purpose. In Type-C, the USB 3.1 standard is the main one, and there is no fundamental difference between them.

What USB Type-C gives

USB Type-C supports USB PD, which transfers up to 100W of current in both directions. But the most important thing is that the speed of data exchange is noticeably growing. If the port supports Thunderbolt 3 mode, then it reaches 40 Gbps!

And one more pleasant bonus: using USB Type-C it is easy to copy videos in high resolution - up to 5K inclusive. Thanks to the increased speed, it will take not a couple of hours, but only a few minutes. Accordingly, the HDMI port becomes unnecessary.

How Apple influenced the adoption of Type-C

Apple immediately began to equip its appliances with USB Type-C inputs, as its experts were involved in the development of the specification. In 2015, the first MacBook 12 "went on sale with one USB Type-C instead of USB 2.0 / 3.0 and other usual ports. Of course, the fans did not like this - it seemed that they were deliberately limited in their capabilities and were obliged to buy not quite familiar (and still very expensive) cables and other accessories for equipment.

In the MacBook Pro, Apple has finally moved away from USB 2.0 / 3.0 and again left only Type-C. Now in technology, different USB 3.1 specifications are randomly encountered:

MacBook 12 ”uses USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1 (up to 5 Gb / s);

MacBooks (released since 2016) use

USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gb / s) and additionally support Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40 Gb / s).

In other words, owners of a MacBook with a 12-inch screen can forget about Thunderbolt 3 support, and this should be taken into account when choosing a suitable cable - there is no point in overpaying for redundant functionality in it.

At the same time, users of this laptop can transfer video via HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort using the same USB Type-C.

The 2016 MacBook Pro and several later models have only two out of four ports that support Thunderbolt 3. And a laptop released in 2018 has four out of four. In the new 12-inch MacBooks, everything has remained unchanged.

Pros and cons of USB Type-C

Let's start with the strengths of USB Type-C.

Versatility . USB Type-C implements the interface of all previous USB standards. In the future, USB Type-C can replace other interfaces on mobile devices, laptops and other gadgets, including it can be used instead of HDMI and even the usual 3.5 mm audio jack.

Fast data transfer . Already now it is 10 Gb / s, and with the approval of the USB 3.2 interface, the speed will reach 20 Gb / s. This allows you to very quickly copy photos and videos in high resolution, which "weigh" from several hundred megabytes to several gigabytes.

Photos and videos that weigh several gigabytes can be conveniently uploaded to the cloud storage to free up space on your smartphone or laptop and always have access to files. OnlineLime subscribers can use Yandex.Disk - free of charge or on favorable terms - depending on the tariff plan or the need for volume on the cloud, and at the same time get a subscription to Disk Pro as a pleasant bonus. Disk Pro means using the service without ads, extended file modification history and no limits on downloading files 

Accelerated battery charging . The maximum transmitted power increased to 100 watts shortens the charging time of the device.

Balanced connector . With USB Type-C, you don't have to think about which side to insert the cable into the connector. This is important if you are in a hurry or connect devices in poor lighting conditions. It also reduces the risk of damaging the connectors on both sides.

Another plus is not obvious, but it follows from the versatility: replacing several other interfaces with USB Type-C, manufacturers will be able to create more compact devices. Many brands are already working to make their products lighter, more mobile and more user-friendly.

Now about the shortcomings - they also exist.

Fragile construction . This is a balanced plug, but you should handle it carefully. The same Apple also makes its Lightning plugs and connectors symmetrical, but in practice they turn out to be more durable and resistant to mechanical damage.

A limited number of USB Type-C devices. The interface was designed as universal, but never became one. Therefore, many manufacturers continue to produce computer, mobile, video and audio equipment with USB Type-B, Type-B Mini or Type-B Micro connectors. When the world will move to mainstream USB Type-C is anyone's guess. In the meantime, to connect gadgets that do not support the USB 3.1 interface, you have to use adapters and adapters, although they will not provide the record data transfer speed that many expect from Type-C.

High quality requirements for accessories. If you want to get the most out of USB Type-C and extend the life of the connector, use only cables that can handle the voltage recommended by the developers of the standard. There have been examples of poor quality connectors that have ignited smartphones. Therefore, we recommend using products from trusted brands (and they are not the cheapest, by the way) - for example, Belkin.

How to choose USB Type-C

Not always with USB Type-C you get high-speed USB 3.1 Gen1 / Gen2 connectivity or USB Power Delivery for fast recharging. Some manufacturers "save" and use less instead of 24 wires. There is nothing wrong with that, unless you plan to get the most out of USB Type-C. The main thing is that the manufacturer honestly indicates what exactly supports his cable. Then it will be easier for you to choose it for your tasks.

Fast recharge

In the USB Type-C specification, the maximum charging power is 100W. But even in the package with the MacBook there is an adapter that imposes certain restrictions on it at 61 W for the 12-inch model and 87 W for the MacBook Pro line, which includes 13 and 15-inch models. Therefore, if you connect the 61W charger to the MacBook Pro 15 ", the batteries will recharge one and a half times longer.

Fast copying and video transmission

USB Type-C will help you quickly copy high-definition video and output the signal from a laptop to a monitor or TV screen. The copying speed will depend not only on the wire and the number of contacts in it, but also on the capabilities of the connected devices. For example, regardless of the cable type, copying speed from your MacBook 12 will always be limited to 5 Gbps.

If you plan to connect Thunderbolt 3 devices using a USB Type-C cable, keep in mind that the shortest cable length (no more than 45 cm) will get the most effect. As the length increases, the data transfer rate will be noticeably slower. For example, if at 45 cm you get a copying speed of 40 Gbps, then a two-meter cable will provide only 20 Gbps.

Now the capabilities of USB Type-C can be appreciated by owners of MacBook and Chromebook Pixel 2 laptops, Samsung Galaxy and Xiaomi smartphones, and some TVs. But until now, users argue about whether it is necessary to replace the usual USB 2.0 / 3.0 with such a connector, or whether USB Type-C should be left as a pleasant bonus for now so that we can get used to it and appreciate all its advantages.


  1. Unlocking USB Type-C wisdom! Comment on the insights gained from the article. Share your thoughts on the convenience, versatility, and evolving technology behind USB Type-C connections.
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  2. The author's explanation is clear and informative, making complex technical concepts accessible to a wider audience. With practical tips and usage scenarios, readers can navigate the world of USB Type-C with confidence. The inclusion of details on compatibility and advantages over other connectors adds value to the discussion, making it a valuable resource for tech enthusiasts. Overall, a well-rounded guide for anyone seeking to grasp the significance of USB Type-C in modern technology.
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