3 Common USB-C Issues You Should Be Aware Of

Tomorrow doesn't always come without some bumps.

3 Common USB-C Issues You Should Be Aware Of

The era we were promised with USB-C has arrived, but it's not without its challenges. Despite what you might have heard, USB Type-C has its flaws. Here are three important facts for anyone using USB-C for the first time.

Most Android phones have been using USB-C for quite some time now. Apple's MacBooks, iPads, and the iPhone (beginning with the iPhone 15 series) also rely on USB-C. You'll also come across USB-C in numerous Windows laptops and an increasing range of accessories.

Here's the catch: not all USB-C ports are identical, and the USB-C cables available vary in functionality. If you're just getting acquainted with the USB-C port, we'll highlight a few important considerations.

Using the Incorrect Cable Could Damage Your Devices

This is the most important thing new USB-C users should know. In older versions of USB, a cable was just a cable. Yes, if you connected a USB 1 cable to a USB 2 port, it might not work, or at least not very efficiently, but that was about it. People generally didn't have to consider which cables to purchase.

That's different with USB-C, and overlooking this could lead to significant consequences.

This issue applies to cables with the older USB-A plug on one end and the new USB-C plug on the other. (USB-A is the regular USB connector we've used for a long time.) However, USB-C devices and cables allow for quicker charging compared to USB-A. So, if you connect a USB-A device, like a cellphone, into a USB-C port using one of these cables, it could pull too much power, potentially damaging your phone, USB-C port, or even your computer.

To be honest, cables that are well-made might include safeguards to stop this. The problem is, it's often tricky to know which cables are trustworthy, unless you're purchasing from a reliable seller that gives clear technical details.

You can make safe choices when buying a USB-C cable to protect your devices. Remember, not all USB-C cables work the same way, so it's your responsibility as a buyer to ensure what you choose matches your device. Simply assuming a cable is okay because it fits is no longer sufficient. Use resources like USBcCompliant.com to verify that your cable won't lead to any issues.

USB-C Ports Vary in Functionality

Using USB-A was pretty straightforward: almost anything you plugged in would function. But with USB-C, it's not quite as simple. Adapters and cables might or might not work, depending on the capabilities of your device. Plus, a lot of the cables available mainly support USB 2.0 instead of USB 3.0 or 3.1.

Things get a bit more complicated due to "alternative modes," where the USB-C shape provides extra capabilities. Take Thunderbolt 3, for instance, a partnership between Intel and Apple that allows speeds of 40 gbps—four times quicker than the USB 3.1 norm—and the ability to connect two 4K displays to one port. However, only gadgets designed to work with Thunderbolt 3 can achieve these speeds, and even then, you need a Thunderbolt 3 compatible cable.

Other alternative modes exist as well. HDMI and MHL, for instance, enable specific types of displays to be linked. Then there's DisplayPort, which comes with ThunderBolt 3 but is also available separately on certain devices. You'll know your laptop has DisplayPort if there's a D-Shaped symbol near your USB-C port. However, it might also have it without displaying that icon.

If you want to hook up extra screens to your laptop, make sure you're aware of which alternative mode your device works with. Then, when you're getting a display or an adapter, make sure it supports that mode.

A USB-C port can provide various features beyond just USB functionality, and it's your responsibility to determine which devices and adapters are compatible. While some might argue this flexibility is a positive aspect, for many users, it can be quite perplexing.Cables and devices that physically fit into the port may not necessarily work. Determining compatibility often involves searching terms like "MHL" and "Thunderbolt 3" on Google.

That's what I find enjoyable, but it might not be your cup of tea.

Dealing with Dongles Can Be a Hassle

Moving to a device with only USB-C ports can be a bit of a bother. I understand this personally as I use a MacBook Pro.

Here's the issue. Over time, most folks accumulate USB cables for devices like phones, hard drives, e-readers, printers, and such. Transitioning to USB-C means these cables won't fit directly into your laptop anymore.

You have two choices. One, you can swap out all your cables for USB-C ones. This is organized, but it might mean replacing many cables. The second option is to buy a few basic adapters, like these, and continue using your existing cables. This way, you only need to keep track of a couple of small accessories, but it gets the job done swiftly.

Dealing with Dongles Can Be a Hassle

But it's not just about USB. There are additional potential accessories for things like Ethernet connections and displays. As mentioned earlier, not all USB-C ports support the same display formats, so you need to buy one that is compatible with your device. This can make finding a suitable dongle a bit of a hassle, and investing in all these accessories can become costly quite swiftly.Plus, if you travel with your laptop and connect it to various types of displays or projectors, you'll need even more dongles.

However, there's a positive aspect in the USB-C realm: USB-C docking stations. These devices are fantastic if you occasionally link your laptop to various peripherals like a desktop—such as displays, mouse, keyboard, and more. With just one USB-C port, you gain a wide range of connectivity options, allowing you to dock your laptop with a single cable.

Amazon Basics Cables are a Reliable Choice

Amazon Basics Cables are a Reliable Choice

By now, we've likely made you cautious about using random USB-C cables with your devices, and that's a positive step. However, we won't leave you without a solution, and we're here to help.

For most types of cables, including USB-C cables, your safest choice is to go for Amazon Basics cables. They're not only budget-friendly but also reliable. What's crucial is that the listings on Amazon provide clear information about the cable's speed. As shown in the image above, the cable is marked "SS" for SuperSpeed, and the listing specifies the connectors on each end, along with "3.1" indicating USB 3.1 speeds.

When it comes to cables from various lesser-known manufacturers, you often have to search for important details, and they might use confusing jargon. This can make it uncertain what kind of quality you're getting. That's why, from what we've seen, we suggest going for Amazon Basics.

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