Charging Your Laptop Via USB – Enter USB Type-C

The current computer USB convention has been in the market for so long. This has lulled us into assuming that nothing more can be done to make USB better other than increasing its speed as seen in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. This assumption is wrong – or is at least on its deathbed now that USB Type-C is ready to replace the current USB Type-B.

Its connector will be small enough to fit into your phone, and robust enough to charge your laptop

Its maiden mainstream voyage was on the Apple’s new Ultra-minimalistic MacBook. It is slowly making its way into peripherals with storage devices first on the line. The simplest way of identifying this Type-C is that both connectors are symmetrical meaning that you can connect the peripheral and the computer together regardless of what side of the cable is up.

There is more to the new convention than the USB Type-C symmetry

For a start, USB Type-C connections will be able to handle more power meaning that you could charge your laptop just as you charge a phone or power your screens through a USB port. This would do away with both the VGA/HDMI cable and the power cable.

USB Type-A and Type-B connectors
USB Type-A and Type-B connectors

Understanding the difference

USB Type-C is not here to replace USB 3.0 or 2.0. These operate on different metrics. Whereas USB 3.0 or 2.0 refers to the data link speeds, the type would refer to the connector’s looks or any additional things it can do. This means that USB Type-C connectors will still subscribe to the 2.0, 3.0 or 3.1 conventions

2.0: 480mbps

3.0: 5gbps

3.1: 10gbps

What fuelled the invention?

Over time, all we needed was a way to connect peripheral devices to the computer. We wanted a cable to connect the hard drive to the USB port, but never to a phone. We wanted a way to connect a printer to a computer, but never a flash memory stick to a smartphone.

However, with the playing ground changing, the need for a symmetrical connector becomes more pronounced. I wouldn’t mind connecting my phone to a printer to issue direct commands, or hooking up to a hard disk to retrieve some backed-up files. The defined role of host and target is becoming more blurry with inventions making each gadget almost as intelligent as the other.

With the new cable, you wouldn’t have to rummage through a tangle of USB cables looking for the appropriate one to charge your phone or connect the external drive to your laptop computer. One cable will be good for the job.

Connection capabilities

USB Type-C will operate on alternate modes. It could either be an HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort or a USB port. This means that all the ports on your computer, from the HDMI to the power port could all consolidate to one Type-C port, or perhaps a couple for convenience.

Power delivery

The most amazing thing about Type-C is its power delivery capabilities. USB Type-A and B are unidirectional power trains. This means you can only take power from the host to the target. Type-C is bi-direction. Theoretically, if your smartphone is strong enough to recharge you laptop, this port would be all you need. To cater for this massive power needs, USB Type-C will support a delivery of up to 100 watts of power in comparison to the current 2.5 to 3 watts of Type-B

Backwards compatibility

The good thing is the hardware, and some of its functions like 100 watts of power isn’t backwards compatible. You will need an adapter to bridge the gap between Type-B ports and Type-C connectors. The underlying USB technology is however, the same meaning that you can still easily use Type-C on B provided you have the hubs. Moreover, the 100 Watts shouldn’t worry you since appliances only take as much current/power as they need from the source. You won’t blow your phone if you charge it on Type-C.

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