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USB Type-C: Do You Need it Now?

USB Type-C is a new port connector, designed as a replacement for the existing USB Type-A – you know, the standard rectangular port we’ve been used to for almost 20 years. This new standard is considerably smaller, and can be inserted in either direction – there’s no such thing as upside-down.

Only recently has USB Type-C started to appear in the mainstream, though it’s still hard to find in mid-2016 except on the highest-end notebooks and tablets. As we’ll discuss in this article, USB Type-C accessories are rarer still.

USB Type-C

USB Type-C

One of USB Type-C’s advantages relative to USB Type-A is its size. Unlike USB Type-A, USB Type-C ports can fit along the edge of a smartphone. This is why in the mobile space, micro-USB ports have become popular – because USB Type-A was simply too large. It’s possible that USB Type-C may one day replace micro-USB.

There are a number of underlying technologies behind USB ports. Different standards have emerged over the years – USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.1. Most notebooks today include at least one USB 3.0 port. On the other hand, the recently-announced USB 3.1 is much less common. It boats improved transfer speed over USB 3.0.However, USB 3.0 is already well fast enough for most practical usages, so the advantages USB 3.1 offers will go unrealized by most of us.

It’s important to note that USB Type-C is largely referring to the connector itself, and doesn’t necessarily mean the actual performance using this port is better than that offered by a USB Type-A port. If both a USB Type-A and a USB Type-C port are backed by USB 3.1 transfer speeds, they’ll have identical performance. Again, it’s just the connector that’s different.

The bigger news in the market was the mid-2015 introduction of the Thunderbolt 3 standard. It exclusively uses the USB Type-C connector, and is compatible with standard USB devices. It offers a number of advantages over traditional USB standards, including increased data transfer speeds and greater power delivery. It also supports video streaming, meaning Thunderbolt 3-supporting USB Type-C ports have the potential to replace traditional HDMI and DisplayPort connections.

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