We’re all familiar with USB-A and B, and the quirks of these older technologies, but how to get the most out of USB-C? This mighty cable brings the prospect of true universality much closer, offering greater power, versatility, and data throughput than its predecessors.
Read on to discover the ways how you can make the most of USB-C with your devices or have a look at ViewSonic USB-C products.
It’s a fact: anyone who’s used a computer in the last quarter of a century must have used a USB. Since its first airing in 1996, it has much improved in speed and data rate. To keep up with the times, it also introduced mini and micro versions of the connectors for more convenient compatibility with mobile and small devices. Let’s be honest, the results weren’t ideal.
USB-C comes to the rescue and simplifies these variants into a single transmission standard of interchangeable connectors. As a result, it can now connect anything from mobiles to laptops and, icing on the cake, an array of high-res monitors.
USB-C: The Basics
USB-C is the most recent iteration of the USB standard. USB, or universal serial bus, was initially intended to replace the multitude of cables connecting desktop machines to their peripherals. For over two and a half decades, USB has seen off rivals like FireWire, but the dream of universality has yet to be fully realized. Especially with the expanding list of devices and their various data and power demands. However, USB-C comes the closest to being the one cable to rule them all.
What’s So Great About USB-C?
USB-C is fully reversible in physical terms and bi-directional in terms of power. It removes the distinction between the host ends of the cable (typically laptops or desktop computers) and the receptor (mobile, external drive, display, etc.). That means there’s no longer ambiguity like with Type-A and Type-B ends, which were particularly tricky with their mini and micro versions.
USB-C connectors also have complete rotational symmetry. In other words, you can easily plug them in without worrying if they’re the right way up. In the past, if you forced a connection with a wrong end at any point thinking you got the right one, you could easily end up damaging your hardware. Now, you can get it right even with your eyes closed.
In terms of data transfer, USB-C supports much higher rates than older USB standards. These can go right up to 40 gigabits per second with the emergent USB4 technology. Let’s keep in mind, though currently most USB-C devices are still only offering the 10 or 20-gigabit speeds of USB 3.1 and 3.2.
USB-C is also much more powerful, offering up to 20 volts and 100 watts, which is more than enough to power monitors and other larger peripherals directly from a computer, without extra power adapters. Additionally, it means that USB-C connectors can be used to power laptops directly from various sources.
Another great benefit of USB Type-C is its support for video devices. It features an Alternate Mode, which enables output to a range of video connectors, like DVI, HDMI, and even VGA, so USB-C can sometimes be used on devices that are not yet deemed compatible.
How to Get the Most out of USB-C
It’s easy to get dizzy-headed with all the cable’s superpowers mentioned above. Here we explain what exactly they mean for you and how to get the most out of USB-C’s potential.
Charge Anything Portably
USB-C now brings much greater flexibility to powering and recharging laptops. Because it’s fully reversible, USB-C can deliver a charge to the same USB-C port that would usually be the source. USB-C offers up to 100 watts and 20 volts of power, far more than the older USB standards.
These power capacities mean you can now extend the usage time of your portable devices by carrying a portable charger with you. Of course, these extra devices may not be light, but it means you can remain productive for much longer when away from home. It’s a boon for long-haul flights or camping trips. What’s more, if you drive a car, you can also charge your laptop from your vehicle, just as you would your phone.
Many new laptops are now featuring USB-C ports as their main power socket, and the power capacities of the new connector mean that AC adapters can easily wire up to USB-C plugs.
Connect Legacy Devices
USB-C is a relatively new technology, but it has quite a high degree of backwards compatibility. Indeed, it will work with older USB specifications, right back to USB 2.0 from 2001. However, if you need to connect devices that only support older USB-A or USB-B connections, you’ll need some adapters. The cable connectors themselves are virtually always the male form (that is, the plug that gets inserted), so look at getting male to female and male to male adapters for full flexibility.
It’s also possible to connect wired networks through USB-C, so an ethernet to USB adapter is another valuable addition to your toolkit for when you can’t get wireless. And for video and audio, consider a USB-C to HDMI and headphone jack adapters.
Get Extra Storage
USB Type-C is excellent for connecting flash drives because of its speed. Unfortunately, many flash drives have not yet implemented the highest speeds available to USB-C, but at least with your cabling, you’ll be future-proof. In addition, the power capacities of USB-C mean that you can connect several different devices to the same hub. What’s more, you can also plug in larger-capacity HDDs and be confident that USB-C will have no difficulty powering them.
One of the most exciting innovations of USB Type-C is Alternative Mode for video connections, which is specifically designed to work immediately with compatible external displays without any additional configuration. It also works for interactive displays, making it a perfect solution for connecting educational or business presentation devices.
Of course, these video capacities are only possible because of USB-C’s expanded data rate and power capacities. These allow adequate data transmission for 8k resolution displays with 10-bit color depth. In addition, the power is sufficient for an array of displays if necessary, with no need for additional power devices, which marks a significant simplification for display setups, especially when working remotely.
For greater compatibility, USB-C offers operational modes for many major display connection solutions. So it will work directly with HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, VirtualLink, and VGA. However, not all manufacturers yet support the power standard even if they support USB-C, so it is wise to make sure your chosen device has the right specs.
That said, it won’t necessarily speak to all devices yet. Several different but still compliant USB-C implementations are possible, which means that third-party devices may not yet be guaranteed to work. However, The USB Implementers Forum, the body that settles the specification for the connector, includes many notable international names like Microsoft and Intel, which gives confidence that reputable manufacturers will implement the standard cleanly. In any case, most initial hiccups that we can expect with any new technology have already been worked through, so for those wondering how to get the most out of USB C, the future certainly looks bright.
It’s beginning to look like USB-C is the answer to all our physical connection needs. Indeed, it’s a significant improvement on earlier USB standards, and it has been designed with future capacities in mind. Crazy to think that many of its capabilities are for technologies that don’t even exist yet. This cable connects not only our devices together, but the past, present, and future of tech.
If you liked our insights on how to get the most out of USB-C, you’ll be also interested in knowing The Future of USB-C Monitors or the best ViewSonic USB-C monitors.