All About USB-C: Cable Types

USB-C cables and connectors: these are controversial topics, and rightfully so – I don’t want to pull any punches. I will also show you that things don’t have to be that bad for you, as long as you’re willing to apply a few tricks and adjust your expectations.

Wild West of Wiring

You might have a bunch of USB-C cables, and they all might look exactly the same, but you’ve likely experienced that they’re not the same internally, and often there’s not a label in sight. Yes, it’s pretty bad, and one could argue it’s getting worse.

I’d like to clarify that I’m only talking about USB C male – USB C male cables here. While cables like USB-A to USB-C are popular, they are quite simple; you get USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 data and 2 A of current at most, and the USB-C plug is usually hardwired as “host, will supply five volts”, which is defined by a pullup resistor. Also, while cables like “Type-C to DisplayPort” might look like cables at a glance, they are adapters with a meaningful amount of active circuitry in them.

Purely following the specification, there used to be six types of USB-C to USB-C cables out there. Then, it became eight. Now, I’m afraid, there’s twelve of them, purely following the spec, and there’s way more when counting all the out-of-spec cables. Good news is – for most of the time, majority of these cables will be suitable for simple tasks like charging and data transfer, and situations where you need a very specific cable are going to be rare enough. Still, let’s go through it, and you’ll see that they’re easier to tell apart than it might look. Continue reading “All About USB-C: Cable Types”