Since Apple revealed its new 12-inch MacBook on March 9 there has been a lot of talk about something called USB Type-C.
But what is it? What does it do?
At its simplest, USB Type-C, or USB-C, is a new USB standard that will eventually replace the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports you find on many current smartphones and computers. USB Type-C introduces a number of solutions that solve the issues that many users of USB-compatible devices have had to deal with, and it marks the beginning of some impressive new features that should change how we interact with our computers, smartphones and other gadgets.
That said, here are the six main things you need to know about the USB Type-C format:
If you have ever used a USB cable you have likely had to readjust and realign the darn thing to the "right way up" in order to just connect it.
USB Type-C fixes that frustration with a reversible plug that allows a device to be plugged into port either way, whether it's upside-down or right-side up - in other words, all the sides are right-side up. This ought to save precious seconds and short tempers while charging a smartphone or accessing a storage dongle.
However, the industry shift to Type-C will be gradual, so in the meantime, you can try the Ryo Adapter, an adapter that allows for a reversible plug in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices. It is now available on Kickstarter.
There are a lot of USB cables out there of various sizes. So much so that it can be confusing as to which is the correct USB cable you need to use for your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
USB Type-C cable's design seeks to solve that issue by working with different-size devices, from tablets and laptops to slim smartphones, despite coming in at about the size of the USB 2.0 Micro-B. That's roughly a third of the size of a USB Type-A plug.
With USB Type-C, you will just need a single, tiny cable. No more messing around with different USB cables for the various devices you own.
It Transmits Video And Audio
A USB Type-C cable will be able to transmit audio and visual signals using DisplayPort technology.
It accomplishes this by using an Alternate Mode ("Alt Mode") to deliver full DisplayPort performance, including support for 4K, 5K, and existing DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, and VGA-enabled displays.
So, basically, you will be able to use any number of monitors and displays with USB Type-C, including those that support ultra-high-definition.
It Charges Your Device
The new USB Type-C standard supports 100-watt USB Power Delivery. For comparison, a USB 2.0 connection only offers up to 2.5 watts of energy, which is good enough for charging your smartphone, but a laptop could require up to 60 watts.
It's also works both ways, so a device can send or receive power, making it bidirectional. Even better, power can be transferred while using the DisplayPort feature. Potentially, with USB Type-C, you could plug your laptop into a monitor connected to a power cable, and the monitor would charge your laptop as you used it as an external display.
However, both the device and the cable have to support USB Power Delivery in order for this to work.
It's Faster Than USB 2.0
USB Type-C supports the 3.1 SuperSpeed standard, meaning that files can be transferred at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. Meanwhile, USB 3.0 transfers data at speeds up to only 5 gigabits per second. USB 2.0 transfers at up to 480 megabits per second. Basically, file and data transfers will be at their fastest with the USB Type-C.
Similar to the power charging, both parties involved (the cable and the device) would have to support USB 3.1 SuperSpeed in order for faster transfers to occur.
It Will Require Adapters
Due to the new design, the USB Type-C connector will not be backwards compatible with any other types of USB connections. However, there are already a couple of adapters out there like Apple's USB-C Digital Multiport Adapter that allow you to connect an HDMI or VGA output, larger USB Type-A connector or smaller USB Type-C connector via a single port.