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USB Type C: You should pay attention to these differences

The USB Type C has many advantages to offer. However, the many different variants are confusing and lead to bad buys and disappointment that the hoped-for functions do not run as (quickly) as desired. Find out which variants are available and what differences you should look out for.

What is USB-C?

USB-C is the latest USB type or evolution that is intended to gradually replace all previous ones – USB-A, USB-B, and USB Mini-B.
The aim of USB Type C is to minimize or simplify the confusing range of connections for PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Many devices – hard drives, notebooks, PCs, smartphones – already have the connection, but by no means all.

Depending on the version, the USB type C allows significantly faster data transfer – at the beginning of USB history, only 1 MB per second could be transferred. With USB Type C 3.1, up to 10 GB per second can already be transmitted.

USB-C is not compatible with previous USB types but offers various advantages over them.

The USB Type C variants and their differences at a glance

Not every device, USB-C socket, or cable actually provides the complete range of functions that many hope for.
For example, there are big differences in power supply, data transmission, and image signals – as well as everything from one socket. There are a variety of different pin assignments and thus the functionality of the interfaces.
The different terms, which have often been changed in the past, also cause confusion.

The different terms, which have often been changed in the past, also cause confusion.

USB 2.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.1 USB 3.2 USB 4.0
Alternative designations Hi-Speed USB 3.2 Gen 1 oder SuperSpeed USB USB 3.2 Gen 2 oder SuperSpeed USB 10 GBit/s USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 oder SuperSpeed USB 20 GBit/s
Data transfer (speed) up to 480 Mbit/s up to 5 Gbps up to 10 Gbps up to 20 Gbps up to 40 Gbps
distribution widespread widespread still in the process of establishing itself as a standard little common not common

Data transfer rate

A USB-C connection is not always synonymous with fast data transfer. Just because the PC may have a USB-C port or use a USB-C cable doesn’t mean it will transfer data at 10Gbps.
Data is only transmitted at the 10 Gbit/s typical for version 3.1 if the plug and socket correspond to this version. The data transfer rate differs depending on the version: With USB 2.0, this ranges from a maximum of 480 Mbit/s to a maximum of 20 Gbit/s with USB 3.2.

Power supply

Note that the maximum possible power supply can vary greatly for USB-C connections. This can range from 10 watts for smartphones to 100 watts for notebooks. Not every USB-C cable can charge a notebook simply because the power supply is too weak.
The amperage can usually be seen on the plug of the cable.

Power Delivery

Not every connection also offers the option of charging (USB Power Delivery – USB PD).
You can tell your device or cable has this feature if the jack or cable has a double S on a dark battery icon. If the double S shows up without a battery, Power Delivery is not possible.

Audio and video transmission

Not every interface offers the option of connecting a monitor, for example, via a display port. This function is usually only available if there is a DP character on the socket.

Which USB Type C for what? The different possibilities and functions

So always make sure before you make your purchase: Does the Type-C interface of my device even support the functions I was hoping for? Does my device work together with the selected end device? Cables and sockets are equally important to ensure functionality.

Think about how you want to use the interface:

  • Charging: When charging, the first thing that matters is which device it is. Accordingly, the interface must have the appropriate performance so that this is technically possible at all. At the same time, this ensures that the device to be charged is not damaged.
  • Charging and data transfer: If data transfer is also to be possible, you must pay attention to the USB-C versions of the respective interfaces. If these do not match, you cannot benefit from the maximum data transfer rate.
  • Charging, data transmission such as audio and video transmission: If you also want to be able to use the DisplayPort to transmit audio and video signals, you should look for a DP symbol on the socket. Only then can you connect a monitor, for example, via this interface.

Why USB-C? The advantages of the format

  • Multitasking: Depending on the variant, a USB-C interface can do many things at the same time – charging, data and image transfer. One connection does what previously required three different ones.
  • Compact format: Compared to the USB-A connector, the USB-C connector is comparatively smaller – this also contributes to narrower and smaller devices.
  • Simple handling: Handling is simplified because plugs and sockets are the same at the top and bottom.
  • Protects the material: The easier handling also protects the socket, which suffered with USB-A plugs.
  • Higher data transfer rate: USB-C interfaces can transfer data much faster if the plug and socket standard match. For USB-C 3.1. up to 10 Gbit/s are possible.
  • Faster charging: In addition to faster data transfer, devices with USB-C interfaces can also be charged faster.

Disadvantages of the USB Type-C

  • Misleading through different terminology, which in turn leads to frustration after the purchase
  • Various peripheral devices must be connected via a docking station if they are to be used at the same time.
  • The data transfer speed is throttled when USB-A devices are connected to the USB-C interface.

USB Type C equals Thunderbolt: what’s the difference?

While USB Type-C is a “common practice” interface offered by various devices from different brands, Thunderbolt™ is a hardware interface that Intel® developed together with Apple®.
Physically, the plugs in version 3 don’t take anything. USB-C cables are compatible with Thunderbolt 3, but Thunderbolt 3 cables are not compatible with USB-C sockets.

Thunderbolt 1 and 2 have a Mini DisplayPort connector, while Thunderbolt 3 has a USB-C connector.
With Thunderbolt 3, up to 40 gigabits per second can be transmitted.

Thunderbolt 3 can be recognized by a lightning bolt on the connector. With Thunderbolt 3, you can use DisplayPort transmission and send and receive data over 40 Gbit/s. Power delivery is also possible.

The disadvantage of Thunderbolt: The interface is usually only built into Apple devices or devices with Intel processors.


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