Currently, the new USB standard that is often adopted in various devices like smartphones is “USB Type-C”. It is easy to understand that the shape of the connector part is different from the conventional USB, however what other points have been evolved? In this content, we introduce the features and benefits of USB Type-C, as well as features that have never existed before.
・1. What is USB?
USB is an abbreviation for “Universal Serial Bus” and was considered as a unified standard for terminals that connect all peripheral devices to a personal computer. However, in reality, in the process of evolution to improve performance, there have been the shape of connectors such as Type-C and Micro USB, differences in communication speed and specifications. Various types of USB now exists.
・2. Features of USB Type-C
USB cables are widely used in various standards, but what are the characteristics of USB Type-C, which was formulated as a new standard? Here, we introduce the differences between the conventional USB connector and USB Type-C.
・2-1. Connector shape
USB Type-C connectors uses a “terminal shape that is symmetrical vertically and horizontally”. Therefore, these can be inserted reversibly when the connector is connected, and unlike the conventional USB terminal, the problem of “not being able to insert due to upside down” do not occur. In addition, it is almost the same size as Micro USB used in conventional Android smartphones and tablets, and can be easily installed in small mobile terminals. Since the terminal also equip a USB 2.0 compatible lane, it is compatible with the conventional USB standard. Even if the shape of the connector is different, it can be connected to various devices by using a conversion cable or adapter.
In addition, the conventional USB cable has a difference in the shape of the connector on the host side and the device side. In the case of USB Type-C, it is possible to use the same Type-C connector on either side. Currently, we are in a transitional period when unifying the standards, and many connector shapes are used and it is in a complicated situation though, supposedly in the future it will be possible for all devices to be connected by one USB Type-C cable.
・2-2. High-speed data transfer
Since USB Type-C is compatible with USB 3.x standard, high-speed data transfer is possible. The data transfer speed is 5 Gbps for USB3.1 Gen1 (USB3.0, USB3.2 Gen1), 10 Gbps for USB3.1 Gen2 (USB3.2 Gen2), and 20 Gbps for USB3.2 Gen2 x 2. However, not all products USB Type-C cables supports USB 3.x standard, and whether high-speed data transfer is possible depends on each product.
・2-3. Supports alternate mode
“Alternate mode” is a mode in which signals other than USB standard can be sent to the cable. Since USB Type-C supports this alternate mode, it also supports video output. In alternate mode, USB 3.x standard lanes are used to send and receive non-USB signals, and the remaining USB 3.x lanes or USB 2.0 lanes are used for USB signals. For this reason, a USB 3.x standard compatible cable is required to use the alternate mode.
Since when transmitting and receiving signals other than USB, the number of lanes used for transmission and reception varies depending on the type of data, if you output large capacity data such as 4K video of 60 frames per second with a USB Type-C cable, a communication speed of the USB hub may drop to the equivalent of USB 2.0.
In addition, the alternate mode can exchange signals of the high-speed communication standard “Thunderbolt 3” at a maximum of 40 Gbps. There are two types of cables for Thunderbolt 3: “passive type (without signal adjustment function)” and “active type (with signal adjustment function)” though, the active type can receives signals only Thunderbolt 3 and USB 2.0. If you want to use it as a USB 3.x standard cable, we recommend a passive type cable.
・2-4. Compatible with USB PD
USB Type-C is compatible with USB PD (USB Power Delivery) and can supply up to 100W of power. Since the voltage is also compatible with 5V, 9V, 15V, and 20V, it is possible to charge various devices. However, when installing USB PD, all connected devices must support USB PD standard. Also, one of the benefits of using USB Type-C is fast charging. The USB Type-C connector exchanges information on the supply capacity of the charger and the required current and voltage on “CC” line that is used to communicate device information. This communication realizes quick charging.
・3. Notes on USB Type-C
You need to keep in mind that not all USB Type-C cables support Alternate Mode or USB PD when choosing a USB Type-C cable. It is not possible to use then even if the connected devices do not support them. Therefore, when purchasing a USB Type-C cable, it is necessary to check the information of both the cable and the device to be connected, and then select the corresponding cable.
In addition, USB Type-C can also play music by connecting it to earphones using a conversion adapter, however in that case the product must support DAC (a function to convert signals from digital to analog). Please note that music may not be played even if you use a product that does not support DAC.
・4. Conclusion. USB Type-C cable with many benefits
USB Type-C has various functions such as video output and power supply of up to 100W, as well as data communication. In addition, there are great advantages on the user side, such as being able to connect to any device with just one cable. In 2019, “USB 4.0” was announced as the next-generation USB standard. With the advent of USB 4.0, which uses a Type-C connector, it is expected that you will be able to enjoy the benefits of USB Type-C, such as the unification of complicated USB standards.