What is USB Type-C?

Based on materials from androidauthority.com

If you've been lucky enough to have a new smartphone in the last couple of years, chances are it has just such a port for charging and maybe even audio. It is officially called USB Type-C, and no matter which side you plug the cable into the device, you can't go wrong. However, the new standard is not just a universally pluggable version of the old micro-USB. Let's take a closer look at what it is, USB Type-C, and what advantages it gives.

USB Type-C close-up

First, a little history. The USB connector itself comes from 1996, this is the same USB Type-A that you can still see in laptops and PCs. In 2000, the micro-USB connector appeared along with USB 2.0, and until the introduction of USB Type-C in 2014, most mobile devices were equipped with it.

USB Type-A, B, micro and mini differ only in the shape of the connector itself, and all the main internal connections are the same. Faster cables and USB 3.0 ports boast an additional high-speed data link. USB Type-C has three times more pins than USB 3.0 – 24 instead of 8. Thus, this is not just a universal connector, in USB Type-C, along with the number of pins, the number of possibilities has significantly increased.

Despite this increase in the number of pins, USB Type-C is a very small connector that takes up no more space than the old USB micro-B. This is partly why it spread so quickly in the smartphone industry.

As you can see in the graph above, USB Type-C is backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and even older 2.0 cables, and retains the pins used for these traditional data transfer protocols. There are a huge number of Type-C to Type-A or micro-B cables on the market, but with them you will not be able to take advantage of some of the advantages of USB Type-C, and this situation has led to problems with fast charging smartphones.

Data transfer rate and charging

The new pinout had a definite impact on both the data transfer rate and the charging of the devices. In terms of speeds, USB Type-C was designed to provide the same speeds as USB 3.1 / Gen2, i.e. up to 10 Gbps. This is twice the capability of standard USB 3.0, which delivers 5 Gbps, and more than 20 times the capabilities of USB 2.0, which offers 480 Mbps.

The move to USB Type-C was supposed to make things easier by reassuring users that all new devices deliver the fastest speed possible. However, due to the need for backward compatibility, only full-fledged USB Type-C cables and connectors guarantee data transfer speeds at the USB 3.1 level, while a number of devices can only provide speeds at the USB 2.0 level, despite the presence of a new connector. It is also worth remembering that if you connect to backward compatible connectors via an adapter such as Type-C to Type-A, you will only have access to the lower speeds of the older connector.

Moreover, the Type-C connector is also used in the Thunderbolt 3 standard, which provides even higher peak data rates, up to 40 Gbps, as well as support for video transmission over the DisplayPort connector.

USB Type-C is designed not only for data transmission, but also for charging any gadgets, and not only mobile ones. The connector can receive and send up to 100W, which makes it suitable for charging laptops and other devices. And this is where things get complicated as there are many different standards and protocols for charging USB devices.

By default, USB 2.0 connectors provide charging up to 5V, 0.5A, values ​​for 3.0 connectors increase to 5V, 0.9A. USB Type-C outperforms them, supporting 1.5A and 3.0A amperage due to dual connections. Again, the shape of the connector itself doesn't guarantee you specific charging capabilities, but in theory, Type-C provides faster charging speeds out of the box.

In addition to the default charging capabilities, Type-C devices can be fully compliant with USB Power Delivery specifications, which can be used in addition to the basic charging capabilities, giving up to 100W. However, Power Delivery is not limited to Type-C devices and works when connected to Type-A and other connectors with the desired characteristics.

To summarize, USB Type-C devices should provide faster data transfers and charging than their predecessors. However, the specific results depend on the manufacturers and not necessarily on the connector type.

Many tasks – one port

In addition to data transfer and charging, USB Type-C is designed to support a wide range of different modes and standards, making it a versatile solution for a range of technologies. A certain number of audio and video modes are supported, and the connector here is intended to replace 3.5 mm and an HDMI cable.

In terms of audio, the connector supports digital audio according to the USB specification Audi o Class including the latest version 3.0. Analog headphones are also supported through the connector in Audi o Adapter Accessory Mode, which reassigns the SBU of the port and CC pins from left to right and provides a microphone connection. With this connection, the devices can also be powered at 5V 0.5A.

The video through the connector can go in various standards such as HDMI, superMHL and DisplayPort. They operate via Alternate Mode, which frees up SBU pins for high-speed data transfer for use by other standards. HDMI Alt mode is available through an adapter, supports up to 4K resolution, surround sound and even 3D content playback.

Display Port over USB-C is supported by USB 2.0, 3.1 and Thunderbolt connectors, providing 4K 60Hz 24-bit HDR playback, up to 8K resolution and multi-channel audio. Finally, superMHL works with USB 2.0 and 3.1 via a Type-C adapter with 4K and 8K resolution up to 60fps on fast enough devices. Dolby Atmos is supported, as well as backward compatibility with existing MHL specifications.

However, all these modes also require additional hardware and software capabilities, not only the required port, so in each case you need to look at the capabilities of your specific device.


Thus, USB Type-C is a complex connector, not only because of its physical characteristics. This standard provides a wide range of capabilities – more than ever before, from faster data transfer and charging to additional multimedia capabilities.

Despite all the benefits that users should be attracted to, this standard is the hardest for them to understand. One connector – many functions: it sounds attractive, but the optional support means that simply by looking at the connector, you cannot know its capabilities. A certain knowledge of the matter is required from the buyer of the device – it is more difficult to understand that you have purchased the right product with USB Type-C support and the right cables than with previous standards. And this is not good.

And while USB Type-C is so much more than just a universal connector, ironically, it's the ability to make the mistake of inserting the cable into the connector that makes it such an attractive feature when choosing a device.

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