What You Need to Know About USB-C in 2018

A couple of years ago I wrote about USB-C and thought I was covering everything you need to know about the new connector system. However, as it has become more entrenched in technology, it’s become apparent that USB-C and its applications aren’t going to be as simple as we anticipated. Here’s what you need to know about USB-C in 2018 and what to look for in USB-C devices.


The Challenge with USB-C

The biggest challenge with USB-C is that not all USB-C ports and cables are made equal. You might wonder how this is possible given that the idea behind USB-C was to standardize and simplify things but USB-C really refers to the shape of ports and connectors, rather than their functionality. In terms of functionality, USB-C offers a lot of options like data transfer, charging, video output, and more. However, this versatility makes features expensive to implement. This means that manufacturers balance cost and functionality make decisions about which features to build into their USB-C ports and cables. For example, while your new laptop might have a few USB-C ports, only one might work to power it.


To add to the confusion, the versatility of USB-C stretches a little further making it possible for manufacturers to add their proprietary functionality, like fast charging.


What To Look For In USB-C Ports and Cables

With that information in mind, it’s easy to see that there are a few pitfalls when it comes to USB-C. So how do you know what functionality ports and cables support? Well, the simplest answer is that you’ll have to review spec sheets. Spec sheets should give you information about data transfer, power, and any other standards supported by a port or cable. This is especially important if you’re purchasing devices that will need to work together. For example, if you want to output video from your phone but your phone’s USB-C port doesn’t support video output you won’t get very far.


When it comes to items like chargers, I recommend sticking with the original cable and charger that came in the box. These are guaranteed to maximize power throughput, maintaining any quick charge standard that’s built into that device. If you lose these items or need spares, you’ll want to try to purchase them from the manufacturer for best results.


As time goes on and the technology becomes less expensive, I anticipate things will get much simpler and USB-C ports will support all the functionality USB-C is capable of. Until then, keep an eye on spec sheets and purchase cables and devices from trusted manufacturers.

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