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Friday, August 13, 2021

USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it




USBs, also known as (Universal Serial Bus), have existed for quite a while now. This technology has grown, extending its use cases to phones, computers, and laptops, replacing the mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports. Considering the history of this technology, USB Type-C is a new technology with advanced features and specifications introduced in 2014.

There are several USB types, but USB Type-C is the newest type of USB connector. The USB Type C is essentially oval; however, it is slightly thinner and elongated. One notable structural design advantage is its ability to be reversible. Today, most modern USB ports are designed to support the structural architecture of USB Type C. 

The USB Type C is an improvement from previous micro USBs; it provides better power and data transfer speeds. For instance,e considering the latest USB4 speeds, USB Type C can support data transfer speeds of 10 Gbits to 40 Gbits depending on the nature of the port. 

As earlier published on this website, USB 3.0, is not a structural definition; however, it is a standard for quoting the transfer speeds recorded by USB connectors.

USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it

When referring to USB 3.0, we describe the rate at which a USB connector can transfer data. However, we refer to their structural design when referring to USB Type C or USB Type B.

As the technology world advances, there is an increasing need to transfer files and general data faster. Technology advancements, especially around computers, revolves around increasing speeds and efficiency. 

Today, mobile phones and computers are required to process large amounts of data in concise periods. This trend has necessitated the need to develop faster methods of transferring data.

The USB Type C is the immediate answer to these data transfer problems. Nearly all technology companies now use USB Type C on their new products. For instance, today, the USB Type C standard is officially used in all PlayStation 5 series by Sony. It is also used in the Nintendo Switch, Android smartphones, Xbox Series, and most headphones and controllers. 

USB Type C can be used to transfer video data if one desires. Its faster transfer rates allow it to support this revolutionary idea. So, for instance, if you have a USB Type C connector, you can connect your laptop to your desktop display monitor, and you'll be able to transfer video output. 

Before we dive deeper into the specifications of this revolutionary USB, it is prudent to look at its history to understand where we are coming from and appreciate its development until today.

The History of USB: How we arrived at USB-C

USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it

The concept of a Universal Serial Bus was introduced in 1996, and it was intended to facilitate the communication between a PC and its numerous peripheral devices that used complex connectors. The USB essentially replaced various parallel and serial ports that were previously used by these peripheral devices. 

The USB history begins in 1996 with its initial release. At this time, the technology used a USB Type-A plug and a receptacle and a USB Type B plug and receptacle. During this era, the main USB software version was USB Software version 1.0 that supported data transfer speeds of up to 1.56 Mbits per second and a power transfer rate of 100 mA.

However, this technology was quickly improved, and in 1998, a USB Specification 1.1 was introduced to the market. This achieved a much faster data transfer rate of up to 12 Mbits per second. It operated on the USB Software version 1.1 with a power transfer rate of 100 mA. 

In 2000, USB Specification 2.0 debuted the market, seeing USB Mini and USB High-Speed introduction. At this time, the universal form factor was Mini with three different USB types. These USB types included, Mini Type AB receptacle, Mini Type A Plug and receptacle, and a Mini Type B plug and receptacle.

All three of these USB types used the USB Software version 2.0 with a power transfer rate of 500 mA and an incredible data transfer speed of 480 Mbits per second for the USB High Speed. 

The technology lasted for several years before it realized improvements in 2007, with USB On-The-Go and USB Micro introduced. The universal form factor was changed to Micro during this era, which necessitated three new USB types. The three USB types include Micro Type AB receptacle, Micro Type A plug, and Micro Type B plug and receptacle. Unfortunately, the Introduction of USB Micro did not come with an increase in data transfer speeds and power transfer speeds. 

In 2008, a breakthrough happened in the industry by introducing a new software version, USB Software version 3.0. This led to the introduction of the USB SuperSpeed Types. These developments led to several USB Tyes, including

  • SS Micro Type B plug & receptacle
  • SS Type B plug & receptacle
  • SS Type A plug & receptacle
  • SS Micro Type AB receptacle
  • SS Micro Type A plug

This series realized an increase in data transfer speeds of up to 5 Gbits per second for the USB superspeed types. Also, the universal power transfer rate was 900 mA. 

These USBs served the industry until 2013 when USB Specification 3.1

was introduced. In the same year, USB SuperSpeed+, also known as SS+, was introduced. These two improvements doubled the rate of data transfer from 5 Gbits to 10 Gbits per second. Similarly, the power transfer speed nearly doubled, recording speeds of up to 1.5 A

As previously mentioned, the USB Type C, today's topic, was later introduced in 2014. It was released with Type-C's new form factor and came with the Type C plug and receptacle. This USB uses USB Software version 3.1 with data speeds of 10 Gbits and power transfer rates of up to 3A. 

In 2017, USB 3.2 was introduced in the market. It uses the same USB Type C but improved the speeds to 20 Gbits per second, and power transfer rates to 5 A 

Finally, in 2019, the industry introduced USB Specification 4 that utilizes USB software version 4. Although it still uses USB Type C, the data transfer rate doubled to 40 Gbits per second while maintaining the power transfer rate at 5 A. 

What is USB Type-C? Why is it Superior to its Predecessors?

USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it

The USB Type C has established itself as the most superior USB type. The relatively new technology offers faster data and power transfer speeds that position it right at the center of today's innovations.


When considering the long history of USBs, there is a clear indication of why USB type C is superior. Although introduced in 2014, its technology has improved to increase the data transfer rates within it.


However, the underlying technology has increasingly changed. For instance, since 2014, we have had the USB Type C as the primary USB, used on nearly all new devices. In 2014, USB Type C supported data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbits per second. Similarly, the rate of power transfer within these devices stood at 3 A. This is because, at the time, the USB operated on the USB Software version 3.1.


Currently, the USB Type-C's available are capable of much more due to the upgrade of their internal ecosystem. Today, USB Type-C's operate of the USB Software version 4.0, which allows them to process data transfer speed of up to 40 Gbits per second. These speeds have been the fundamental breakthroughs in the industry, allowing for fast charge devices, high-speed data transfer, and even video data output through these USB cables.


USB Type C has demonstrated its superiority over its predecessors regarding data transfer rates and power transfer speeds. Below, we will dissect the advantages and use cases of USB Type C.

Advantages of USB Type-C over its Predecessors

Considering the technical specifications mentioned above, it is clear that USB Type C can be used extensively today. Due to its universal nature, its applications have span far and wide to make it the industry standard for data transfer.

USB Type C has become universally accepted because of these practical reasons. But what are these reasons?

Well, let's take a look.

  • Impressive power transfer rates

The USB Type C has enabled the existence of a revolutionary charging system. Back in the day, people used to spend hours charging their smartphones to 100%. However, today, with the advancements in USB Type C, people can now benefit from fast charging technologies. Fast charging typically supports 20 volts and 5 A (amps) of power.  

  • Higher data transfer speeds

Similarly, there are tremendous benefits of using the USB-Type C cables. Typical USB Type C cables support the USB 3.1 with higher data transfer speeds than its predecessor. The USB 3.1 platform supported data transfer speeds of 10 Gbits per second. However, developments have been made on the initial USB Type C cables since then. Today, modern cables support USB 4 that supports speeds of up to 40 Gbits per second.  

  • Reversibility 

This is more of a structural and design benefit. When looking at the past USB cable series, pins or clips were part of the design. This way, these pins become loose after a period, and clipping USB cables to their ports becomes difficult. To solve this problem, USB Type C has a unique design that makes it reversible in that it can be inserted in orientation.  

  • Video data output support

Unlike its predecessors, the USB Type C has the capability of handling video output. This is applicable when, for instance, you need to establish a connection between your laptop and desktop monitor.  

  • It can be used as headphone jacks.

The USB Type C cable can also be used to transfer audio data. This has transformed the headphones industry, with many headphones today supporting it as the headphone jack, replacing the traditionally bulky ones. 

Several USB Type C use cases have not been mentioned above; however, these technology applications demonstrate their superiority. 

There's always a tendency to look into the future to determine subsequent trends in the technology space. Below are some of the futuristic developments in the USB world.

 

Which is better micro USB or Type C?

There are a few fundamental differences between a USB Type C and a micro USB. Firstly, the latter can only support power input, while the former can support both power output and input.

 
Similarly, a Type C charger supports fast charging of phones up to 18 watts and laptops up to 100 watts, while micro USB can only support regular speeds recorded in a Type A charger. 

Why is it called C type charger?

Type C is a naming system that dates back to the introduction of USBs. The two predecessors are USB Type-A and USB Type B; this is why the newer version is called USB Type C. 

How do I use USB-C with HDMI?

USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it

USB Type C can be used with HMDI in two major ways. This feature is important in connecting modern-day computers that mostly use USB C connectors and modern televisions using HDMI ports.


To use these two technologies together, there are two options;
You can use a single connector that has an HDMI cable on one end and a USB connector on the other end.


Also, you can use the two using an HDMI adapter that allows you to connect to a USB-C port and a socket that allows you to connect the HDMI cable.

Does Apple use USB-C?

Apple uses a cable that is popularly known as Apple USB-C to Lightning cable. This cable is primarily used to charge Apple devices. Similarly, they can be used to sync Apple devices and charge Siri remote controls.
 USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You’ll Want it

What's next after USB Type-C?

Today, USB 4 is the most recent and practical example of the future of USB Type C cables. The USB 4 Specifications are only available for USB Type C; therefore, they completely face USB Type A and B. However, even with the dramatic introduction of USB4, it is still expected to retain the backward compatibility feature.

What does this mean?

This implies that although the USB4 specs will only be available for USB Type C ports, it will be possible to plug the USB4 devices into a USB Type-A port with the help of a dongle. 

However, it doesn't imply that you'll be operating with USB4 speeds. In essence, this kind of connection will only support the initial rates that a USB Type-A port can handle. 

Also worth mentioning is that USB4 isn't the same as Thunderbolt, which is also a common confusion within the industry. Thunderbolt, which has now been developed into Thunderbolt 3, is a new invention by Intel that aims to rival the USB. 

Frankly, the future of Thunderbolt isn't so bright. The technology was kept private by Intel and had consequently hurt its growth. Thunderbolt 3 supports very high data transfer speeds, but only everything is correct. Here is an illustration of how a Thunderbolt 3 connection would work.

Theoretically, Thunderbolt 3 drives, enclosed into a Thunderbolt 3 port, using a Thunderbolt 3 cable can support up to 40 Gbps in both directions, across DisplayPort and PCle. It sounds quite rosy; however, you cannot transfer data if you take the same Thunderbolt 3 drive and connect it to a USB port with no provision for Thunderbolt 3.

This is a huge challenge since most chipsets and their controllers within the drives do not support Thunderbolt 3. This is often true, even for those PCs that have Thunderbolt 3 enabled ports. 

With the USB Type C world advancements, it is uncertain whether Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 will coexist in harmony. However, we can ensure that USB4 and its impressive specifications are the next steps for USB Type C. 

Conclusion

The Universal Serial Bus, USB has undergone numerous developments over the years. It has also experienced one of the most complex naming structures that often confused the general public. Ideally, USB technology has simplified data and power transfer modes throughout the computing world. As a result of USB 3.1 and beyond, users have now benefited from fast charging systems, higher speeds of data transfer, audio data transfer on headphones, and even the elusive video data output that can be supported on USB Type C. These advancements have been revolutionary for an industry that began with significantly low data transfer rates of 1.56 Mbits per second and power transfer speeds of 100 mA.

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