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USB Type C – easier, faster, stronger, more flexible






USB Type C offers many improvements for the USB standard: an ingeniously simple connection plus more speed and functions as well as more charging power.

The new USB type C standard brings four significant improvements to the tried and tested and widespread USB interface: Type C devices are easier to connect, allow higher data transfer rates, can charge mobile devices faster and transport non-protocol audio and video data streams.

Universal connection socket

Everyone knows how quickly the micro-USB socket on smartphones or tablets wears out – because we too often try to plug in the charging cable the wrong way first. With USB C, helpless fiddling is a thing of the past: The new USB-C plugs don’t have a top or bottom, but can be plugged in on both sides. That’s why a USB Type-C socket should be able to withstand seven times as much as a conventional type A connector:

According to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a Type-C connection must be designed for at least 10,000 mechanical plug-in processes. In purely mathematical terms, you should be able to charge your smartphone with a type C connection once a day for at least 27.4 years. Thanks to the small area (8.4 x 2.6 mm), a USB-C socket is also suitable for flat mobile devices as well as stationary computers and entertainment electronics.

USB type C: cross section of a connection socket

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USB type C: cross section of a connection socket

© USB-IF

Maximum speed only with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Ideally, the USB-C connection should also be based on the currently best data transfer protocol: USB 3.2 Gen2x2 with data rates of up to 20 Gigabit / s (2.5 Gigabyte / s). With USB 3.2, the data transfer protocol uses two wire pairs with 10 Gbit / s each in each direction. However, lower speeds are also allowed under the name “USB 3.2”: USB 3.0 connections that only have 5 GBit / s now run under the USB 3.2 Gen1 label and devices with USB 3.1 connection (maximum 10 GBit / s) s) are named USB 3.2 Gen2. So pay attention to the exact technical information and the logo on the packaging. You can only get maximum speed under the designation “SUPERSPEED ++” and “20 Gbps”, see also the following illustration.

USB-C is not just USB-C

In real life there are even some smartphones with a Type-C socket that are connected to a lame USB 2.0 controller, such as the Samsung Galaxy A50, A51 and A52 or the Xiaomi Mi 11. This also applies to the Lightning- to USB-C adapter for iPhones up to and including the 7th generation – including camera adapter. Even current top models such as the Samsung Galaxy S21, Huawei P30 Pro, Google Pixel 5 or OnePlus 9 Pro are not state-of-the-art with USB 3.2 Gen 1.

Powerful charging function

In recent years, USB has also blossomed into the universal interface for charging mobile devices – only Apple is still bricking. The USB-C connection is already very widespread in smartphones and tablets, and manufacturers only “afford” micro-USB in the lower price segment. The maximum power consumption that the USB Battery Charging specification allows here is 7.5 watts. But in order to satisfy the power hunger of full-fledged notebooks and to noticeably reduce the charging times of smartphones and tablets, USB C goes a step further at this point:

First of all, type-C devices are allowed a current of up to 3 amps at the standard voltage of 5 volts, so that up to 15 watts are available here. In addition, the USB Power Delivery Specification (USB PD) allows a variable supply voltage via the USB interface – and on top of that increases the maximum permissible current strength to 5 amps.

So that not every manufacturer cooks its own charging soup, the USB-IF has defined five profiles that range from 5 volts at 2 amps to 20 volts at 5 amps (see also the following figure on the right). USB C allows a power consumption of up to 100 watts – enough juice to quickly fill up the batteries of power-hungry notebooks.

Powerful charging function: With USB Type C, the maximum possible power consumption increases to up to 100 watts.

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Powerful charging function: With USB Type C, the maximum possible power consumption increases to up to 100 watts.

© USB-IF

Since the demands on the adapter, cables and plug connections also increase due to the higher voltage and current, new logo elements on the USB-C sockets are intended to provide orientation for ordinary Otto users: Only if the Tempo logo is in a battery with a black background The USB-C port USB PD is embedded. You will only get the fastest data connection and maximum charging current if the right logo is emblazoned on the USB adapter or cable in the following figure.

The battery symbol shows what speed the USB-C socket can handle and whether it supports USB Power Delivery

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The battery symbol shows what speed the USB-C socket can handle and whether it supports USB Power Delivery

© USB-IF

Drilled data line

Type C also improves the functionality of the USB interface in a revolutionary way: audio and video data can now also be transmitted via a USB-C connection – and this in parallel with the USB data and charging current. USB C supports the transmission protocols of DisplayPort, PCI Express & Thunderbolt. You already guessed it, there are also more logos for the additional functions of USB C. If the connection, adapter or cable is capable of parallel transmission via DisplayPort, the corresponding logo (on the right in the image below) should be emblazoned on the USB-C connector, with Thunderbolt 3 it is the lightning symbol.

Thunderbolt (left) or DisplayPort: USB C also knows logos for additional protocols for parallel audio and video transmission.

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Thunderbolt (left) or DisplayPort: USB C also knows logos for additional protocols for parallel audio and video transmission.

© USB-IF

However, all the USB-C logos have one catch: the symbols can be combined as desired, so that crystal-clear information about all the capabilities of a USB-C port would be possible. However, the USB-IF does not prescribe the use of all logos in a binding (or better: compulsory) way. You must therefore assume that the manufacturers of USB-C devices with a lean range of functions will also use the logos sparingly.

In this case, you have no choice but to take a very close look at the device specifications. Thunderbolt is the only exception: a flash on a USB-C connection guarantees the full range of Thunderbolt 3 speed including “SuperSpeed ​​++” speed and DisplayPort and power delivery support.

A look into the near future: USB 4

After Intel released the license for Thunderbolt 3 in March 2019, the USB-IF adopted the final USB 4 specification in September – it is based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol. The backward compatibility with USB 2.0 to USB 3.2 is not lost. The speed with USB 4 doubles again to up to 40 Gigabit / s (5 Gigabyte / s), but only if it says “USB 4 Gen 3×2”. Because according to the specification, USB-4 hardware only needs to achieve the current maximum speed (USB 3.2. Gen 2×2) of 20 GBits / s. What definitely remains is the mechanical connection: USB Type C.

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