Unless you have been living under a rock the past few years, you have undoubtedly notice that laptops continue to get thinner and thinner. Manufacturers are finding new ways to shrink the thickness of their laptop devices to what would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Consider Apple’s latest MacBook Pro that comes in at a mind-blowing thickness of just 14.9mm. The Asus ZenBook comes in even thinner at 11.9mm. As the thickness of these machines decrease, manufacturers are rethinking the inclusion of the traditional USB socket (75mm tall). This is the main reason that the USB-C connector is going mainstream, included more and more on all types of devices.
So exactly what is USB-C connections and why should you care?
The main reason is that the USB-C connectivity is fast become the norm for transmitting both power and data. Just as the USB replaced connections of old, the USB-C connection is poised to replace its predecessor USB. Virtually all manufacturers are embracing the new standard in electronic connectivity, including Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Samsung, Intel, and hundreds of others. The acceptance of USB-C by the majority of PC manufacturers is important, especially if you remember the days of the Lightning and MagSafe connectors promoted, and used, by only Apple back in the day.
In reality, USB-C looks much like a micro USB connector but at closer glance, the USB-C connector has no “up-down” orientation. Plug it in either way and you are in business – no flipping needed!. The connector is identical on both ends of the cable so they really are a no brainer to use compared to other cable options in use over the last couple decades.
USB-C is capable of sending video and power streams simultaneously. So if you have the proper adapter and cable, you can connect to virtually anything. In addition, the USB-C spec will soon be audio-capable, foreshadowing a day when the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack will become a thing of the past on all devices. And because some phones now are able to charge and transfer data (i.e. Google Pixel), phones from all manufacturers may soon eliminate the micro USB port altogether.
Another terrific (and useful) protocol that is supported by USB-C is Thunderbolt 3. This adds not only the ability to accommodate 40Gbps of bandwidth, but also adds reduced power consumption to the picture. Couple a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 and you will be able to use a single cable to power and transfer large amounts of data. The MacBook Pro contains 4 USB-C connections, giving users huge potential from an expandability perspective than earlier USB connections.
Fortunately there are USB-C adapters available that can support using hardware of yesterday with today’s new machines.
Within a few years, USB-C will be the standard replacing traditional USB connections as well as micro USB connections. It will be nice to see a day when a single cable is needed to charge your phone, connect your laptop, and/or power up your tablet.
When shopping for a new laptop, you may want to consider purchasing a machine that supports USB-C connections. Thinner laptops will most likely have it, but if you are considering purchasing a desktop, do your homework to insure you don’t regret not having USB-C ports included on the machine.
Just as USB replaced serial ports on Macs and PCs (remember those?!), USB-C will be the connection of electronic devices for many years to come.