Everything You Need to Know About USB-C

Discover everything you need to know about USB-C in this ultimate guide! Learn its benefits, compatibility, and how to upgrade your tech game with this game-changing technology. Get the lowdown now!

Most Android smartphones and computers, such as MacBooks and USB-C, are now on everyone’s lips. But what is it, exactly?

USB-C is, first and foremost, a design

USB-C or USB Type-C is, above all, a standard relating to the cable connector, which does not have the same format as the micro USB connector that we knew until then, and that we found on many Android smartphones.

It implies that it is only a design, not technical properties. Thus, a USB-C can be a USB 2.0 or 3.1. However, this connector will always have this rounded format. The main physical characteristic of this connector is that it is reversible: it allows you to connect a device “in any direction.” Moreover, the two ends of the cable should also be similar, allowing again to ignore the direction of the connection. 

Note also that USB Type-C, its thick 2.4 mm connector, benefits manufacturers who wish to design ever-thinner products. This connector supports DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB Micro-B, USB Type-A, and USB Type-B protocols. It can theoretically replace all these protocols and all these ports.

USB-C carries a lot of data

Now that we know what a USB-C port is let’s look at its technical particularities. Theoretically, this technology makes it possible to recharge devices, exchange data, and transmit audio and video streams.

It is finally through the Alternate Mode that USB-C finds all its universality. This protocol allows the cable to be able to assign the different branches of the connector to functions. Thanks to him in particular, USB-C can manage audio/video streams, such as DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI.

Another protocol supported by USB-C: is Thunderbolt 4 on the latest generation MacBooks. Here, the USB-C of the product allows, for example, to connect two 4K screens. Since 2016, USB-C devices have also managed audio streams via version 3.0 of the USB Audio Device, which has allowed the emergence of a few products that remove the 3.5 mm jack port in favour of a single USB. 

Transfer speeds

USB Type-C Transfer speeds

There’s a legend that a USB-C device automatically performs data transfer speed prowess. In reality, it depends on the USB standard in force for the cable since the latter can be compatible with USB 2.0 or even USB 3.1.

USB 2.0, for example, is at most a speed of 480 Mbps, far from the latest generation of standards. Indeed, USB 3.1 has two generations, and we must be vigilant because we are talking about double speed on the latest protocol.

USB 3.1 Gen 1, known as “Superspeed,” offers a theoretical transfer speed of around 5 Gbps, while USB 3.1 Gen 2, known as “Superspeed+,” theoretically offers 10 Gbps. Apart from the actual speed being much lower than the speed promised, care should be taken when looking at a spec sheet to identify the USB protocol being used. For example, MacBook Retina and Chromebook Pixel 2 use the 3.1 Gen 1 protocol.

Even faster charging

On top of all that, USB is made for charging. As such, USB-C offers several energy profiles. While the USB standard only allowed 2.5 Watts of power until now, Type-C offers a minimum of 10 Watts, allowing the charging of a smartphone, and a maximum of 100 Watts, allowing the charging of a computer.

We owe this to the USB Power Delivery specification, which extends this power and allows charging in the host-to-device and device-to-host direction. Universality, therefore, also applies to charge.

For information, we owe all these standards (and difficulties, it must be said) to USB-IF, the organization founded by companies that developed the Universal Serial Bus (USB) specification.