How "Universal" is USB-C Really?
You may have started to see USB-C connectors, but how much do you really know about this “universal connector”? While USB-C is certainly a step in the right direction, it still has its flaws. We’re here to go over exactly what it is, what it’s great for, and its drawbacks.
What is it?
The USB Type C connector is just the newest in the family of USB. It’s round on all ends and can be inserted either way and will always fit (finally, no more flipping your USB 4 times over before inserting!). The important thing to remember is this is a USB type, and not a USB version or interface. The type refers to its actual shape- rounded ends with certain pins arrangements and wiring. The versions (such as USB 2.0 or USB 3.1) are what distinguish data transfer rates and other features. The USB-C connector can handle data transfer, video signal, and power supply all in one little cable, with capabilities of supporting older versions as well as newer ones once they come out.
The most obvious benefit of the USB-C cable is never having to worry about finding the right cord to charge whichever device you’re using. With one universal cable, you can always be rest assured that you have the correct one! Additionally, it’s easy to keep a cleaner desk without a bunch of different wires everywhere.
Like we mentioned earlier, the USB Type C cable is reversible! Unlike older cables where you flip the cord over and over and it seems like neither side fits, USB-C plugs in the same both ways, making it easy to plug your cable in without a thought. Furthermore, the cable is the same on both ends, so it does not matter which end you plug in, making this cord as reversible as it can possibly be.
Another benefit to using USB-C is its versatility for different protocols. Now, with this cord, you can use it for HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and MHL. This means activities like hooking up your laptop to your TV is easier than ever when you can use the same cord. This way, you won’t have to worry that your devices have the correct ports to interact because they would all have the same ports.
One of the most exciting features of USB-C is its incredibly fast data transfer rates. The USB 3.1 Gen 1 (SuperSpeed) can transfer up to 5 GB/s, and the USB 3.1 Gen 2 (SuperSpeed+) can transfer up to 10GB/s. The difference between these speeds, for example, would be downloading an HD movie, using a Gen 1 cable, and taking 17 minutes. Using a Gen 2 cable, however, can download it in as little as five seconds.
The biggest issue with USB-C is also its biggest advantage. Coupled with its extreme versatility is its confusion of the details. Different devices (your phone, TV, computer, etc.) may support USB-C, however these devices may support different USB-C features such as Alternate Mode, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI. This creates confusion for users who do not keep track of which devices support what features.
Additionally, the universality of USB-C means that the cord is manufactured by anyone. Just as any other product, it is important to read the details of what is included when ordering a cord to make sure you are purchasing one with the features you want. Remember, USB Type C only tells us what the cord looks like-rounded edges and reversible. Data transfer rates, video capabilities, and other features all vary by the USB version and generation. It is important to look for these labels when purchasing a USB-C cable to avoid confusion. For example, one cord off Amazon might only be $8, but has slow transfer rates. Another cord could be $15, but has SuperSpeed+ capabilities (fast data transfer) and HDMI support.
There are certainly both advantages and disadvantages to using USB-C. While it is claimed to be “universal”, it is not quite universal in all the ways we’d expect it to be. This being said, USB-C is a great step in the right direction for universality especially because USB-C supports newer versions and features of USB that will be released in the future, meaning the same cords can be used even after devices change. We think USB-C is a great choice as long as you pay attention to what features it supports and what devices support what features.