Choosing the right USB-C Cable could be a headache if you do not understand the different standards set by the USB-IF (USB-Implementation Forum). Every device uses USB-C these days from Macbook pro to a smartphone.
Therefore, at this time and age, it is crucial to know the basics of a USB and specifically USB-C.
All the USB-C standards are given in the table below.
|USB OLD NAME||USB NEW NAME||MAX SPEED|
USB 3.1 GEN 1
|USB 3.2 GEN 1 / SuperSpeed||5Gbps|
USB 3.1 GEN 1
|USB 3.2 GEN 1×2||10Gbps|
|USB 3.1 GEN 2||USB 3.2 GEN 2/ SuperSpeed+ 10Gbps||10Gbps|
|USB 3.2GEN 2×2/SuperSpeed+ 20Gbps||20Gbps|
|40Gbps for <0.5m , 20Gbps for >0.5m Length||20-40Gbps|
It is really hard to digest all of these terminologies. It took me a while too. But just focus on the new names and forget the old names.
You might have noticed, We still can not tell if the USB C port has Power Delivery(PD) or not. Power Delivery (PD) is specifically written in the port specifications if it is available.
Simply put, if you want to buy a 5Gbps USB-C cable or port, look for USB 3.0/3.1 gen1/3.2 gen1/SuperSpeed.
If you want to buy a 10Gbps port or cable, look for USB 3.1 gen2/3.1 gen2/Superspeed+ 10Gbps.
If you want to buy a 10Gbps port or cable, look for USB 3.2gen 2×2/SuperSpeed+ 20Gbps
USB-C Power Delivery (PD):
Power delivery or PD is a new protocol deployed in USB-C. Power delivery can only be used if both ends of a cable are type c.
There are several advantages to using Power Delivery. For example:
- It offers a massive power output of up to 100 Watts.
- Both devices connected with c to c cable are capable of delivering and receiving power means Power direction is no longer fixed.
- Power Delivery enables devices to draw as much power as they need. So if you have an adapter of 65Watts and you are charging Google Pixel 1(Supports 18W). Your smartphone would not be harmed but rather only draw the power it needs.
- It allows low power devices such as earphones to be operated.
Almost every mobile in the future will support power delivery. So if you invest in an adapter and a cable-ready for PD. You can be sure you will be using it on your future devices.
USB-C Data Transfer Rates:
While USB-C data transfer rates are supposed to start from 5Gbps(Gigabit per sec) or 625 MBps(MegaByte per sec) but the reality is entirely different. Most of the cables on the market provide 60 Watt cable but with data transfer rates of 480Mbps or 60MBps which is data transfer rate for USB 2.0.
This is just to inform you that do not expect that 5Gbps or 10 Gbps transfer rates from these cables unless it says so in the specifications of the cable. So make sure you read the specifications of the cable first before buying because if it is not written then transfer rates will be of a USB 2.0 (480Mbps).
Let’s look at the Theoretical speeds and Practical of the USB-C:
For USB-C 2.0: Theoretical 480Mbps, Practical 330-340 Mbps.
Thunderbolt 3 is Different?
Thunderbolt 3 is basically a USB-C with enhanced features. Thunderbolt has so many features over the already loaded features of USB-C.
Some of the main functions of a Thunderbolt 3 are:
- Two 4K Displays at a time or one 5K display.
- Data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps or 5GBps.
- External Graphics for notebooks
- 8 times faster than USB 3.0
Look for a Thunder sign on the USB-C port or cable to make sure it is a thunderbolt 3.
But all thunderbolt cables are not the same. Thunderbolt cables come in two categories
|Passive||40Gbps (<=0.5m length) , 20Gbps(>0.5m length)||No boosters|
|Active||40Gbps||Boosters are installed for length >0.5m|
When the length of a wire increases, the signal is lost as it depreciates over distance. So for this reason, boosters are installed in a thunderbolt cable to ensure the 100% transfer of a signal to the other end.
Picking the USB-C for your needs:
Choosing a USB-C cable comes down to your needs. It will be different for a smartphone, PC, Display, etc. Although you can pick a really expensive cable for Thunderbolt 3 and use it with pretty much anything and these cables are designed specifically for Thunderbolt 3 ports and are pretty expensive with a minimum price of 20$.
While normal USB C cables only cost up to 5$. So let’s enlist USB-C cables for different purposes.
USB-C for Smartphones:
For smartphones, we need a cable capable of fast charging which is mostly 18Watts and goes up to 40 Watts. So, We just need to pick a cable for more than 40 Watts. If we go to any shop like Amazon, Any C to C cable would have 60 Watts support. Just buy a branded USB C to C cable and you are good to go.
However, If you want a USB A to C cable. You will find cables with 15 Watt (5V, 3A) support which is not enough for fast charging but good enough for normal use.
One use of USB-C for smartphones is to connect the phone to ethernet for smooth pings in online gaming. For this, you will have to buy a hub that will connect to the USB-C port of your port.
If you are looking for a cable to just charge to phone, then this is a cheap option from Aliexpress.
Baseus USB C to USB Type C Cable (Aliexpress Link)
If you are looking for a basic cable but want a cable from a reputable brand that is also USB-IF certified then this Anker wire would help you. Both of these cables are USB 2.0 with 480Mbps speed.
Anker Powerline II USB C to USB C 2.0 Cable (6ft) (Amazon Link)
If you are looking for a cable with fast charging as well as fast transfer rates of 10Gbps. We have two more options for you.
Baseus USB 3.1 10Gbps (Aliexpress Link)
Anker Powerline II USB-C to USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 Cable (Amazon Link)
USB-C for Computer:
You can use USB C for multiple purposes on a computer like data transfer like:
- Connecting a display via USB C
- Data transfer to and from another device (PC, Smartphone)
- Charging the laptops like Macbook
- Using MHL to get the display of a phone
- For external HDD and SSD’s
- For External GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) like Razer Core X Chroma Aluminum External GPU Enclosure (eGPU)
You can avoid all the hassle by just buying a USB Thunderbolt 3 cable that will do all the things a USB-C is capable of.
USB 3.1 USB-C Male to male Thunderbolt 3 20Gbps (Aliexpress Link)
Baseus USB 3.1 Type C to USB C Cable PD 100W Quick Charge 4.0 (Aliexpress Link)
The last Cable is with an E-marker.
e-marker USB-C Cables:
Some USB-C cables have e-Marker chips embedded. They are essentially marked for power and data transmission speeds for USB-C cables. It has a unique ID provided by USB-IF. Most noteworthy, e-Marker stores a database of all the power specification of the devices in compliant to USB-IF standards. This makes up for better compatibility of USB-C cables with USB-C devices. According to USB-IF, the e-Marker chip is not required for cables up to 3A and USB 2.0. However, it is required for cables that support more than 3A and data transmission of 5Gbps or more. The transfer speeds are not as fast as Thunderbolt 3. In contrast, their pricing and availability are better than Thunderbolt 3 and can be a good alternative cutting edge solution to Thunderbolt 3 maxing out at USB 3.2(20Gbps) and 100W of power.
You can learn more about this here:
USB-C for Display:
Not all USB-C ports are compatible with display output. You need to check specifications for your device to check if the port has an ‘alternate mode‘ or check for this thunder 3 sign on one of the USB-C ports.
If the USB does have an alternate mode, then it can be used for display output. Now that you know USB-C port of your device support ‘alternate mode‘.
Now let’s find a cable that would display output too. Just search ‘Thunderbolt 3 cable’ on Amazon or Aliexpress or any other major website. You can just search USB C for display and look at the specifications for the 4K 60HZ display. The same Thunderbolt 3 sign on the cable too.
Anker Thunderbolt 3.0 Cable (USB-C to USB-C) (Amazon Link)
Thunderbolt 3 Cable 2M/6.5f 40Gbps 100W 5A/20V Support 5K UHD (AliExpress Link)
USB-C for Audio:
If you do not have 3.5mm jack in your phone and you need a good audio adapter for good quality music.
The biggest issue with this is most of the adapters are not compatible with every phone. Google Pixel used to have USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box and it used to work with most of the phones.
Make sure the adapter you are buying has your phone name in the supported Phone region and if it is not. Make sure to ask the seller to know the compatibility of your phone
Some precautions before buying:
- Buy from a recognized brand as the adapters from cheap brands do not work with most of the phones
- Buy a high res audio adapter
- Try to look at specifications to find at least a 24-bit supported adapter. Flac songs have mostly 24-32bit and are also called High Res audio sometimes. Normal Mp3’s have 16 bit.
The first one is just a universal adapter which was released for Google Pixel.
Google USB Type C to 3.5mm Headphone Adapter (Amazon Link)
This one is from UGREEN brand. They are known for their inexpensive but good quality products.
Ugreen Type c to 3.5mm Headphone jack 3.5 AUX
This one has two 3.5mm jacks and a USB-C for charging. It also has a 24-bit/96KHZ DAC for good sound quality output.
Baseus 3 in 1 USB Type C OTG Adapter USB-C to 18W (Aliexpress Link)
The last one has a good DAC (Digital to Analog Converter).
USB C DAC – Portable 32 Bit Headphone Amplifier (Amazon Link)
Want to learn more about DAC, sound quality and how to pick your audio equipment. Read this