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A socket with many possibilities: What you need to know about USB-C

A socket with many possibilities
What you need to know about USB-C

Written by Klaus Wedekind

In principle, USB-C is just a practical connectivity system. It is not necessarily clear from the connection to any interface with any standard behind it. The possibilities are many and the different nomenclature can be very confusing.

It was published back in 2014 USB port forum USB-C connector system, but it took a while to get it working. In the meantime, not only every new Android smartphone has the practical socket to which you can no longer plug the cable wrongly. Today’s laptops, computers, and other devices also have at least one USB-C input and even iPhones will be used next generation You have unit connection.

There could be a lot more behind USB-C

However, the USB-C socket does not mean that there is an interface behind it that uses all the capabilities of the new connection. What transfer rates are achieved or whether the entry is also suitable for a power supply or for connecting a monitor, one often only sees in the small print of the manual.

Transfer rates depend on the USB standard used. USB-C is no longer compatible with USB 1.0, which was introduced in 1996 and only allows transfer rates of 12 megabits per second (Mbit/s). The oldest supported standard is USB 2.0 from 2001. After all, it can use 480 Mbit / s.

A big leap forward was USB 3.0, which was released in 2008. With this standard, the maximum data rate increased to 5 gigabits per second (Gbps), which remained the maximum speed until 2013. Then came USB 3.1 and the big confusion.

Some logos can be found next to the USB-C ports.

(Image: USB Implementers Forum)

It couldn’t get more confusing

With the new standard, the transmission rate has not only doubled to 10 Gb/s. For reasons that are hard to understand, the USB makers decided to rename USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 (Gen 1) and designate the new standard as USB 3.1 (Gen 2).

The introduction of USB 3.2 with data rates of up to 20Gb/s in 2017 made it even more difficult to track. Because at this point, USB 3.0 has become USB 3.2 Gen 1 (x1) and USB 3.1 has become USB 3.2 Gen 2 (x1). The actual USB 3.2 is called USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.

Understood? No. Officials have noticed this too and have tried to make things clear with the designations SuperSpeed ​​for data rates of up to 5Gb/s, SuperSpeed ​​+ 10Gbps for maximum speeds of 10Gb/s, and SuperSpeed ​​+ 20 GPS for maximum transfer rates of 20Gb/s. gigabit/s

That helps as long as the manufacturers also label the inserts accordingly. Usually you will see a logo with “SS” and the maximum speed as a number next to the socket. But on many devices you will search in vain for a logo, just by looking at the manual you will get smarter.

There is also Thunderbolt

The USB-C jack can also be a Thunderbolt port, which can be identified by the lightning bolt icon. It uses the standard developed by Intel and Apple USB-C since version 3. At a rate of 40Gb/s, Thunderbolt 3 was also the fastest USB-C standard for a long time, until USB 4.0 was released in 2019, which has the same speed limit.

In fact, USB 4.0 is partly a descendant of Thunderbolt 3, from which the protocol was inherited. A USB 4 2.0 version with a maximum data rate of 80Gb/s has been available since September. In one direction, up to 120 Gb/s can be used. Users don’t necessarily notice the difference between Thunderbolt and USB, because the standards are so much compatible.

Intel gave Thunderbolt 4 the green light two years ago, and the top speed here hasn’t increased with the new standard, instead other requirements have been tightened. Among other things, connections must now support an 8K display with a refresh rate of 60 Hz (Hz). Laptops can charge up to 100 watts

USB-A to USB-C Adapter.jpg

Older devices with a USB-A cable can be connected to the USB-C ports using an adapter.

(Photo: IMAGO/NurPhoto)

One charging cable for everything

Even with the USB protocol, USB-C is not limited to data transfer. Since USB 1.0, the maximum charging current has increased from 0.1 A (A) to 5 A, the power has increased from 0.5 to 100 W, and the voltage from 5 to 20 V.

To do this, however, the connection must support USB Power Delivery (USB-PD). Otherwise, you can’t get more than 15 watts on the USB-C connector. You can tell if this is available on a USB-C port by the “PD”, battery icon, or watt specification, among other things.

USB-PD is a standard in itself, allowing the power adapter and the charged device to communicate with each other to negotiate the optimal current and voltage. With version 3.1, released in 2021, it will be possible in the future at up to 48V and 40W using advanced bases.

The displays are also connected

As with Thunderbolt, the USB-C port can also be used with USB standards to connect displays. There is also Alternate Mode (Alternate Mode), which allows the connection to also transmit signals other than USB. This means that USB-C can function as a DisplayPort, among other things, as it can use up to 8K at 60Hz. HDMI, DVI, or VGA connections also work with an adapter.

Whether a USB-C port supports DisplayPort can be seen from the logo next to the input, which consists of a P in a D – if the manufacturer attached the label. Of course, USB-C can also transmit audio signals via Alternate Mode.

If a USB-C port has the above capabilities, they can be used simultaneously. This means that power can be supplied to the laptop while the monitor is plugged in via the socket and other data is being transmitted.

If you’re using a hub with multiple inputs, a single USB-C input can suffice. In the future, it is likely that there will be no more connections, and wide USB-A sockets will gradually disappear. In emergency situations, there is an adapter to USB-C for almost every connector.