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A Brief Look At: USB Type-C™

Article ID: 55
Last updated: 12 Dec, 2017

A Brief Look At: USB Type-C™

What is it?

Type-C™ is the new USB plug and port connection developed by the USB Implementers’ Forum (USB-IF) which is the governing body for USB technology. It seeks to replace the standard USB (Type-A) found on most computing devices with a versatile, smaller, and reversible connection.

The underlying technology of this new connection is designed to support faster data transfer rates as well as power delivery to devices. Type-C also can support alternate display protocols such as DisplayPort™, Thunderbolt™ 3, and MHL™. Devices that will support Type-C range from notebooks and smartphones to external Hard Drives and printers.  The shift in technology is in part motivated by the preference for devices to be more compact yet more capable then they have previously been, a capability not easily achieved with a technology that is over 16 years old.

Types of Type-C

USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 are the only official implementations presently available. What happened to USB 3.0? The USB-IF has renamed this specification USB 3.1 Gen 1 with the implementation of Type-C.

Transfer Rates

USB Type-C transfer rate capabilities are a core feature to this new technology – particularly with USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3.  

Type

Plug

Connection

Transfer Rate (max)

USB 2.0

C to C

480 Mbps

USB 3.1

Gen 1

C to C

5 Gbps

(5,000 Mbps)

USB 3.1

Gen 2

C to C

10 Gbps

(10,000 Mbps)

Thunderbolt 3

(Includes USB 3.1)

TB3 to TB3

40 Gbps

(40,000 Mbps)

Power Delivery

The addition of the power delivery capability to USB Type-C effectively reduces the clutter of having to carry multiple cables and adapters for power, A/V, and data transfer. This additional specification to the Type-C technology offers the possibility to carry one cable and a small adapter to both charge and interface with other devices like flash drives or HDMI equipped monitors. 

Power Delivery is in its infancy but will become more widely adopted as device manufactures and connectivity providers develop the technology. Eventually, Type-C will support 100 watt charging, meaning devices larger than tablets and small laptops will be supported.

Alternate Modes

For the first time, the USB-IF has allowed alternate protocols on their connectors to extend the capabilities of this connection. The addition of non-USB formats like DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and MHL will allow devices to connect to displays and transfer data at higher speeds through a single USB-C cable. For example, Thunderbolt 3 can allow for bandwidth up to 40Gbps and support dual 4k displays @ 60Hz. This allows for ultra-fast data transfer to and from a Hard Drive or support for the latest TVs and monitors all in a compact adapter.

Not all Type-C cables or devices are capable of supporting these technologies. Always consult the specifications for your devices to confirm support for alternate modes. As an example, some laptops support Type-C but do not support Thunderbolt 3 or alternate modes. Computers and smartphones with USB-C 2.0 or USB 3.1 Gen 1 will not support alternate modes and thus, are not capable of transmitting video. 

Form Factor

With the evolution of devices using Type-C technology, many electronics will have fewer connectivity ports, becoming slimmer and more portable while remaining just as powerful.  In fact, Apple has done just that on their 12” Apple MacBook, which features only a single Type-C port and is 24% thinner and 15% lighter than the 11” MacBook Air.

This reduction of connectivity options means that adapters will become more important accessories. For example, a laptop equipped with a single Type-C port will require a user to have an adapter to connect an HDMI equipped monitor or a USB hub for standard USB devices like hard drives and printers. Currently, Cable Matters has several connectivity solutions for Type-C devices and is continuously adding more.

What’s the difference between Cable Matters Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 products and other brands?

The USB-IF provides the requirements for manufacturers to follow, however it is the responsibility of those brands to ensure consistent performance of their products and to properly support them. As a member of the USB-IF we ensure that our Product Research and Development Team diligently tests compatibility with a broad range of devices so our Type-C products perform as advertised.

Cable Matters is among a limited group of manufacturers to officially support Thunderbolt 3 technology. Combined with strict quality control and supported by a responsive customer service team, Cable Matters is the clear choice for your Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 connectivity solutions.

Sources & Disclaimers:
· Universal Serial Bus Type-C Cable and Connector Specification Revision 1.2 March 25, 2016
· "5.5.4". Universal Serial Bus Specification (PDF) (Technical report). 2000. p. 40. v2.0.
· Apple MacBook, apple.com; Apple, MacBook, MacBook are trademarks of Apple Inc. 
· Thunderbolt and the Thunderbolt logo are trademarks of the Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries 
· USB Type-C™ and USB-C™ are trademarks of the USB Implementers Forum

Article ID: 55
Last updated: 12 Dec, 2017
Revision: 11
Comments: 0
Tags
USB-C type-C Thunderbolt 3 Alternate Modes

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