USB connections of some description are on pity much every gadget and piece of electronic hardware manufactured these days and Apple is now in the process of upgrading all its iPhones to be equipped with a USB-C connection rather than the well-known Lightning ports that were introduced the very first iPhone way back in June 2007. If you would like to learn more about what is USB-C and the benefits of this hugely popular connection. This quick guide will take you through the main differences and benefits compared with other connections.
In short USB-C is the latest USB interface designed to provide much faster charging and data transfers when compared to previous USB ports that were more rectangular in shape and took the form of the common USB Type-A ports. Previous used to connect computer peripherals to motherboards laptops and USB hubs. These days USB Type-C is the predominant connection type of preference and offers a wealth of advantages over its older counterpart. Below is a diagram showing the relative shape of all the USB ports currently available.
What is USB-C?
To sum up the benefits of the latest generation USB-C port these would be reversibility allowing the user to insert the USB-C cable in any orientation. Unlike the frustrating USB-A ports which needed to be in the correct orientation to fit. The symmetry of the oval-shaped USB-C connectors and pin configurations allow the port to be completely reversible. USB-C has also been designed to not only provide standard USB transmission specifications but also a wealth of non-USB transmission technologies which are categorized in the connections Alt-Mode specifications. USB-C ports can also provide two-way power charging using Power Delivery 3.0 technology as well as digital audio conversion into analogue sound. We will cover each of these benefits in more detail below.
Not all USB-C ports are the same.
When using USB-C ports it is worth mentioning that even though your hardware may include a USB-C style port. The connection on your hardware may not support all the described capabilities. Connector reversibility is the only feature that is common across all USB-C connections. You will need to check with your hardware provider as to what specifications its USB-C port is capable of providing in the way of Alt-Mode capabilities. Such as Alt-Mode which combines multiple interfaces, two-way power charging and digital audio conversion to name a few.
The design of a USB port allows manufacturers to select the level of USB-C functionality its product supports and this normally dependent on the price point and function of the hardware the USB-C port. For example, perhaps on certain devices the USB-C port only supports data speeds of USB 3.2 Gen2. Whereas other devices may allow the USB port to deliver power via Power Delivery 3.0 or via Thunderbolt technologies. So before purchasing any hardware make sure you understand what each USB-C port is capable of providing as this can vary greatly depending on what the manufacturer decides. USB-C has been described as “one connector to rule them all” thanks to its wide variety of different capabilities.
USB-C connections are so versatile that they can be used to provide video, audio, power and data/peripheral connectivity through a single connection. Below is a diagram providing an overview of the different USB-C ports available and whether they support the DisplayPort technology. This Alt Mode capability allows USB-C ports to transfer data and video using the popular DisplayPort video interface. These USB-C ports are referred to as DisplayPort compatible or DP Alt Mode and allow you to connect video sources such as monitors, projectors, TVs and more. As long as both pieces of hardware are equipped with USB-C DisplayPort connections.
Remember not all USB-C ports on laptops and mobile phones support DisplayPort Alt Mode functionality. One way manufacturers sometimes show Thunderbolt functionality with a lightning bolt as in the image below. Although this is not always the case. The only true and sure way to know whether your device supports DisplayPort over USB-C is to check your hardware specification with its manufacturer.
USB-C Thunderbolt compatibility
Another confusion point with USB-C ports is its compatibility with Apple’s Thunderbolt ports. Similar to those USB-C ports that support DisplayPort, manufacturers have to purposely design their USB-C ports to support Thunderbolt 3 and above functionality. For a USB-C port to be able to support Thunderbolt 3 connections. It is also worth knowing that Thunderbolt 3 supports DisplayPort functionality so if you are manufacturer has enabled a USB-C port for Thunderbolt everything should be compatible.
Although you will need to use a Thunderbolt 3 cable between Thunderbolt 3 ports in order for transmissions to work correctly. Thunderbolt 4 is the latest generation of Thunderbolt a standard developed by Intel, in collaboration with Apple. Again due to the wide variety of different devices out there make sure you check your devices hardware specifications to make sure you fully understand what the USB-C port is capable of providing and supporting.
Thunderbolt 4 benefits
- High bandwidth: 40 Gbps of bandwidth dynamically allocated for data and video, ideal for heavy workloads or fast file transfers
- Quick charging: Up to 100W of power for laptop charging and up to 15W for computer-powered accessories
- Rich display options: Up to two 4K 60 Hz displays or one 8K 60 Hz display on a single connection
If you are interested in learning more about the details of Thunderbolt 4 jump over to the official Intel website for full specifications.
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