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A Brief Guide to USB Type C

USB Type-C™ and USB-C™ are trademarks of USB Implementers Forum.

Recently I found myself visiting a client to help set up one of their brand new laptops, a beautifully slim HP Spectre. My inner technophile loves moments like this getting to see new pieces of technology in action. I was surprised at how light it was, how thin it was and how fast it was.

But most of all...I was surprised because there was nowhere to plug in my USB stick!

HP Spectre USB Ports

As it turns out, the HP Spectre is an example of a laptop like the new MacBook Pro and a growing number of other mobile devices which ONLY uses a new type of USB connector called USB Type-C™ also referred to as USB-C™. Yes, that even means there were no ports for external monitors such as DisplayPort or HDMI. Not even a headphone jack or a network port!

What is USB-C?

It seems that USB-C has some large shoes to fill, but what exactly IS USB-C and what are its capabilities?

USB C Picture

USB-C itself is a new type of physical, slim line connector. Both the cable and the plug are designed to be reversible so it does not matter which end of the cable is used for which device/peripheral or which orientation the plug is inserted. It also supports the most recent SuperSpeed+ USB Specification allowing for speeds of up to 10Gbit/s.

Unfortunately, while it is a USB product the new connector type will not fit into previous USB Type-A or Type-B formats. To continue using current USB connector types adapters will need to be purchased.

USB Types Picture

The main ideal behind USB-C is that it has been designed to meet the needs of current and future devices. This manifests in a few different ways:

• It is designed to be slim so it can fit new mobile platforms that have increasingly thinner form factors.
• Future improvements to USB speeds such as the successor to USB 3.1 will be built on USB-C cables.
• It has increased Power through supporting the new USB Power Delivery standards. This lets USB-C:
      o Provide up to 100W of power to a device
      o Intelligently provide devices only with the power they need to run
      o Provide Bi-directional power so that a device can charge other devices or be charged through USB-C
• It intends to reduce the number and types of cables required to connect devices. This is especially apparent in its “Alternate mode” which lets USB-C support commonly used protocols.

Alternate Mode

Part of USB-C drive to consolidate the number and types of cables used to connect our devices is its “Alternate Mode”. Alternate Mode lets third party protocols such as HDMI & DisplayPort use a USB-C cable to connect to a device.

A good example would be connecting a laptop to a monitor using a USB-C cable and ports. The cable then uses HDMI or DisplayPort protocols to “talk” to the device to provide picture and sound through the monitor.

Even more exciting is Apple building Thunderbolt 3 on USB-C cabling as an Alternate mode. The Thunderbolt 3 Protocol supports transfer speeds of up to a staggering 40Gbit/s as well as the ability to “daisy chain” up to 6 Devices to one port.

The Pain before the Gain

It sounds too good to be true really. The prospect of reducing cable clutter as well as removing confusion over choosing the right type of cable for the right device.

The main problem is that while USB-C supports the way that HDMI, DisplayPort and older USB formats “Talk” it will not support the physical connector without having to purchase an adapter.

The technology behind USB-C is truly promising and once it is widely integrated across the range of devices we use today and in the future we will begin taking advantages of only requiring a single cable. Until then in order to stay connected with older devices and peripherals we will still need to carry around a set of additional adapters.

If you need help with your new Laptop purchase or to ensure you have the relevant adapters, docks & peripherals to begin taking Advantage of USB-C technology right away then contact us today. Just give us a call on (023) 8086 8947 or click the button below to request more information.

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