If you buy a new device or appliance, like a keyboard, mouse, or even a smartphone cable, you may have the option to get a version with USB-C instead of the familiar USB-A connector. On the surface, they look totally different, though they seem connected by the name. Is USB-C a similar type of connector? Is it better? And if it’s worth buying new devices with the USB type C connection, is it worth upgrading your old devices?
The Benefits of USB-C
As the name implies, the USB-C connector is the next stage in evolution for the USB connector. Though it appears different than the USB connectors we’ve seen since 1996, it offers a number of distinct advantages over the type A, 3.1 connections currently popular:
- Higher transfer rates. Rather than being restricted to 9 pins, the USB-C connector has 24 pins. This grants it a number of benefits, including much faster transfer rates. In fact, depending on what you’re transferring, you could see transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps—several times faster than USB 3.2 generation 2.
- Alternate transfer modes. It’s not just about transferring files at faster speeds, however. USB-C also supports alternate modes of transfer, including non-USB protocols like Thunderbolt 3 and Display Port. This allows you to transmit video directly through the cable, rather than using it only as a form of data transfer; you can also connect up to 3 different monitors with the help of a single USB-C adapter.
- Faster charging. USB-C has also gotten a lot of attention because of its faster charging capacity. Historically, USB has only supported 5V of charging. Now, the USB-C power delivery system offers 20V of charging at 5A, or a maximum rate of 100W. This is an incredible leap forward, which allows you to charge bigger devices and charge everything much faster. Newer smartphones can charge in a matter of minutes when using USB-C.
- Connector shape. Though minor, many people have experienced the annoyance and frustration of trying to plug in a type A connector the correct way; it’s not reversible, so you may need to fiddle with it to get it right. The type C connecter is much smaller and it’s truly reversible, so you won’t need to mess with it nearly as much to get a secure connection.
All these advantages sound great, but are they the only factors you need to consider?
One of your main concerns may rest with the longevity of the cable. USB has remained the standard for so long in part because it’s so familiar to the masses. Everyone can recognize a USB connector, and most people are willing to buy USB-based devices, so manufacturers are encouraged to continue making them, and the cycle continues. USB has also historically been backward compatible, making consumers confident their devices will work in the future.
But what about USB-C? Is this going to become the new standard, or is this just a passing trend? It may seem like it’s a gamble, but all early factors point toward USB-C taking over as the new standard for data and power transfer. It’s better in almost every way, with the only downside being the cost of manufacturing, which isn’t a dealbreaker. With more and more computers shipping with USB-C ports, you can bet that this connection type will be around for many years.
The other thing you need to consider is your number of USB-C ports. To take full advantage of a USB-C cable, you’ll need a port that can support it. If your current computer has one or more USB-C ports, you should strongly consider purchasing all your new devices and cords with a USB-C connector instead of a USB-A connector. But if your computer doesn’t have any USB-C ports (if it’s an older model), and you’re not interested in upgrading in the near future, you may get less use out of such an upgrade.
Note: For many applications, you can use a USB-C to USB-A Adapter Cable
Upgrading Your Old Devices
Another question is whether you should spend the time and money on upgrading all your old cords and devices. Here, the most important thing to consider is how you’re using the device; there’s a limit to the effectiveness of USB-C. For example, it can help you transfer data to a hard drive faster, and charge your phone faster, but it might not improve your keyboard performance by much.
USB-C is the objectively superior form of USB, despite not yet fully replacing its predecessors. If you’re interested in buying a new USB device and you have USB-C ports available, USB-C should be your choice by default in most cases. In a matter of years, USB type C is set to become the new standard, and for good reason.
Note: If you have a USB-C computer and don’t yet want to upgrade your USB-A devices, consider a docking solution like the OWC USB-C Travel Dock or the OWC 10-Port USB-C Dock with Mini DisplayPort to HDMI 4K Adapter!