Solving Buyer’s Remorse With A Rotary Tool And Soldering Iron

At this point, it’s pretty clear that USB-C has become the new standard connector for an increasing amount of applications, but predominantly charging. Even Apple is on board this time, and thanks to backwards compatibility, you don’t have to abandon devices using the older standards you may prefer for their simplicity or superior lint-resilience either. For [Mat] on the other hand, it’s USB-C all the way nowadays. Yet back in the day when he bought his laptop, he had the price tag convince him otherwise, and has come to regret it, as all the convenience of a slim design is cancelled out by dragging a bulky charger for the laptop’s proprietary charging port along.

Well, as the saying goes for situations like this: love it, leave it, or get out the tools and rework that sucker. Lucky enough, the original charger provides 20 V, which matches nicely the USB power delivery (PD) specification, and after opening up the laptop, [Mat] was happy to see that the interior provided enough room to fit the USB-C module he was planning to use. Even better, the charging port itself was a standalone component attached to a cable, so no modifications to the mainboard were necessary. Once the USB-C module was soldered to that same cable, the only thing left to do was carving a bigger hole on the laptop case, and saying good bye to the obsoleted charger.

The downside is of course the lack of actual USB functionality with that shiny new charging port, but that was never the goal here anyway. With more and more USB-C devices popping up, it’s also no surprise that we’ve seen modifications like this before, and not only with laptops. In case you’re thinking of upgrading one of your own devices to USB-C, and do wish for actual USB functionality, don’t worry, we got you covered as well.

19 thoughts on “Solving Buyer’s Remorse With A Rotary Tool And Soldering Iron

  1. My laptop with a barrel jack charger is still under warranty so rather than cut it up I’ve bought a small USB C to barrel jack adapter. “USB PD Trigger” was the keyword to search for, plus your barrel jack dimensions. They cost £5-10 or so.

    Now my laptop’s powered by my standard multi USB + 1 port PD brick on my desk and a 30cm cable rather than needing a whole extra mains socket and brick and thicker cables.

  2. Those little “PD decoy” boards are dangerous, because they can’t avoid supplying the wrong voltage when the right voltage for your laptop is unavailable from the charger. Also, only very low current may be drawn during VBUS voltage transitions according to spec, but these boards can’t enforce that.

  3. The more I curse and swear plugging in USB devices that only go in one way and are never marked clearly, the more I think that Apple was right for eschewing USB up until USB-C came along. So many times I have wished for the opportunity to beat whoever designed USB with a stick.

    1. Which way to plug in was never a problem for me. I use a red felt tip marker and draw a line on the “top” of the plug. The jacks usually don’t need to be marked since they are orientated in a standard way but you can mark them if they are not. Red model paint works even better but you have to wait for it to dry.

      1. The USB spec actually requires the “top” of the USB connector to be marked with the USB icon. I consider it a half-baked litmus test; if a vendor doesn’t even do that, it means 1) they don’t care, and 2) and probably aren’t a member of the USB-IF (I think that’s what it is, it’s been a long time) and isn’t really looking at the specs either.

    2. The vast majority of connectors on the market can only be connected in one orientation by design.

      Notable exceptions being:
      Barrel jacks
      Phone connectors (TRS, TRRS, 3.5mm, etc)
      And Apple’s Lightning connector.

      Other than that, practically all connectors on the market needs to be connected the right way.
      This being things like:
      USB (Type, A, B, mini, micro)
      DB9 (Serial, RS232)
      Display Port
      The old printer port. (DB25 in a lot of cases)
      Ethernet (8P8C, “RJ45”.)
      Fire Wire
      Thunderbolt too… (Though, recently switched to use USB-C)
      The many variations of DIN connectors. (Most notable one being MIDI.)

      And the list continues, but I don’t feel like typing out nearly all the world’s different connectors…

      So if anything, USB-C and Apple’s Lightning connector are the odd ones on the block.

      Hopefully you don’t have equal problem with all the other connectors that can also be subtly/incorrectly marked at times. (Some cheaper connector makers don’t pay too much attention to where the orientation marker should be placed, and some skimp it entirely since it costs money to put there…)

      Though, personally I have never had an issue with thumb drives.
      I plug them in correctly by using the same trick one can use on spray paint cans. (Just tilt the connector so you can see if the plastic part in it is on your side, or if you can see the pins. After a while, this is second nature and you will never plug a USB connector of thumb drive in the wrong way around ever. Even in the dark. (One can feel the plastic part with one’s finger, unless its of poor quality and recessed…))

      1. Let’s not forget all the memory cards and batteries! They are usually changed/removed/replugged a lot more than most interface cables on home and office appliances, but they are still designed to only fit in one direction!

  4. I guess I am missing something here. I see normal black clunking cable with barrel jack connected to the wall … Being replaced by a white cable with an even bigger white power box connected to the wall. When you travel you still have to carry something to use power the laptop in your hotel room…. I don’t see what you are gaining here.

    1. The white one also charges and powers every other device he brings along, so he’s anyway carrying it with him. It’s less replacing one with with other but rather integrating one into the other.

  5. What about the poor design of USB C ports and connectors? I have seen a few recent laptops rendered useless because the flaky little circuit board connector got damaged from lint and other detritus. You have to be very careful to keep the male part (ie device side) clean and lint free and also ensure that the USB C plugs are removed without “wobbling” the plug as it is inserted and removed. Once these ports are full of lint, users tend to wobble them and use excessive force with the plugs.

    FWITW I also think lightning connector sucks. Over time the power carrying connector pins get damaged by arcing during the insertion and removal process. God only knows how much damage the internal lightning port inside Apple devices suffer from this…

  6. For the “you need another wall socket” are plugs with sockets on the back. I used them on college with great success. Indefinitely stackable!

    And i would never buy a laptop with USB-C charging and would make C-to-barrel internal conversion if i get something like that in my possesion. I like massive connectors that have great margin to carry big current, which USB-C is barely capable without improper connection, oxidation or dirt making some toasty Chernobyl situation on your lap or table.

    I also hate power negotiation and charger identification and would beat DELL, HP, LENOVO and APPLE designers with a rebar, because i like to supply 19V from 12V upconverters, solar panels and other contraptions with a standart power jack.

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