The promising tangle of USB c – One cable that virtually everything




We have given a number of statements during the course of the Computex trade show last month developments in the field of hardware, such as housings, cooling and especially RGB-LEDs. What we have beaten, its motherboards. This has a number of reasons. The most important is the absence of the introduction of a new platform by AMD and Intel.

Although the latter has on the eve of the Computex released its new Broadwell-E processors, but which fit in existing motherboards with X99 chipset. AMD has in turn a moment a new platform, but different manufacturers confirmed that will be introduced during the third quarter AM4 generation. Sadly June it was still a bit too early to show those signs.

Although Broadwell no new socket entails, many manufacturers still refreshed its range of motherboards with the arrival of the new processors. Many of these signs have a USB type C connector on board, but that is not always intended only for USB data connections. And replete with peripherals that have the same plug, it’s time to create some clarity. We made, like last year , a meeting with chairman Jeff Ravencraft of the USB Implementers Forum to get a picture of the current state of affairs.

USB type c versus USB 3.1 gene 1 and gene 2

Last year, when the organization behind the introduction of the USB standard type C connector and USB 3.1 introduced, there was some confusion. First, the idea seemed to be that only USB 3.1 could have a reversible type C connector, on the other hand it was not clear what that plug could well.

When the USB 3.1 standard in the course of the year, once swallowed the USB 3.0 standard and the former distinction between USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 was much less clear, the confusion was almost complete. The old 3.0 standard USB 3.1 was first gene and the former 3.1 standard was known as USB 3.1 2 gene.

That gives us the following USB standards:

USB version Speed encoding connectors
USB 2.0 (including USB 1.0 and 1.1) to 480Mbit / s 8 / 10bit Type a, b, mini, micro, c
USB 3.1 1 gene to 5Gbit / s 8 / 10bit Type a, b, mini, micro, c
USB 3.1 2 gene up to 10Gbit / s 128 / 130bit Type a, b, mini, micro, c
The big difference between ‘gene 1 3.1 “and” 3.1 gene 2’, which was to make it easier by many manufacturers stiff 3.0 and 3.1 are mentioned, so is not the plug. It’s the speed, encryption, security, and the way two devices ‘negotiate’ with the speed, that make the difference. The Type C connector can be used just as easily for 3.1 gene 1, or USB 2.0 ports.

Power delivery

Have we? No, because there’s also implement an optional Power Delivery Protocol, abbreviated PD. If this is implemented can load capacity, or supply power, are regulated and need to be varied. As icing on the cake was in fact almost simultaneously with USB 3.1 and the introduction of the Type C connector introduced a new standard for charging: the power delivery standard with five levels. Writing various currents and for different voltages, with a maximum of 100W. The faculties are “negotiated” between two devices, including the chip in the cable must support the profile. There are five sections, with outputs from 0.5 to 100W and five voltages that can be negotiated. A sixth, 0-profile is reserved and is not used.

PD profile 5V C 5V P 9V C 9V P 12V C 12V P 15V C 15V P 20V C 20V P
1 0.1A – 3A 0.5W – 5W nn nn nn nn
2 3A 15W 1,7A – 3A 15,3W – 27W 1.5A 18W
3 3A 27A 3A 36W 1,8A – 3A 27W – 45W
4 3A 45W 2,25A – 3A 45W – 60W
5 5A 60W 3A – 5A 60W – 100W
Revision 2 and 3 of the USB Power Delivery specification, with voltages above 5V, require a type C connector. An ordinary USB cable with a- or b-connectors is the current at 5V basically limited to 2A and 9V and 15V levels are not supported. Via a cable type c-negotiate and client host via a data channel. Just as a Type C connector to USB 3.1 2 gene has been reserved, including PD is not for USB 3.1 gene exclusively 2. Also, USB 2.0 and 3.0 (or 3.1 gene 1) cables will benefit from PD. However, the cables must PD are aware and support a micro-connector can till 60W. Incidentally, an ordinary cable can also 25W, at 5V supply via Battery Charging 1.2 profiles, but then again falls outside the PD-spec.

To prevent damage to client and host, or if the cable is not PD-Aware, will revert to a safe voltage and current. The devices remain stabbing at 5V and 1.5A, accounting for 7.5 W. Incidentally, the connection is initiated at 5V and 2A.

In the meantime, has also been published a revision 3 of the PD-protocol, which is identical to revision 2, with the main difference being that now also authentication is implemented. This should avoid include cables or chargers false advertising capabilities and cause damage. Think of cables that can not handle produce with 5A and fire or a charger that is trying to send too much power to a device and that device damage.

Enter thunderbolt

Was it complicated, it will not surprise you that it is one step worse. Last year some businesses were, for example, Gigabyte, advertising their USB ports that were twice as fast as those of competitors: 20Gbit / s so. However, there is no USB standard that supports it. The trick? Those companies were sold thunderbolt two chips on their boards, a standard that used the C-type connector, but thunderbolt, and also can handle USB. A thunderbolt connection can not be transmitted data, such as via USB, but also streaming video through DisplayPort, PCI Express and network data.

Thunderbolt logo This year we see a repetition of moves. Many motherboards come with a USB 3.1 type c ‘connector that is not powered by a USB controller, but by an Alpine Ridge controller, known as Thunderbolt 3. In addition to the advantage of multiple interfaces on the same connector as display port , USB data and network, you can also use the different power profiles. One connector that replaces all other so.

We see the thunderbolt implementation of the Type C connector among other motherboards marked 40Gbit / s; as soon as the thunderbolt 3 version become. Also, external enclosures for video cards, for example for laptops, using PCI Express over thunderbolt connected via a type C connector. Many docks for laptops, with outputs for an additional monitor, a network port, a pair of USB ports and a Type C connector for charging, use thunderbolt to be connected to type C connectors.

Alternate Modes

Thunderbolt is not the only multidisciplinary trick that has the type C plug. Besides thunderbolt The three components USB 3.1, PD and c-type connector type C standard includes several “Alternate Modes’, which not only USB traffic, but also video data and other protocols can be transported over the cable. Thunderbolt is one of the Alternate Modes of the Type C connector. Two other alternatives are DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI that can, and mhl over the cable, especially useful for phones. However, PCI-Express lanes, useful for external graphics cards for laptops, and Ethernet signals are possible. The big advantage is that you have as a plug and cable that can deliver all data plus power for peripherals. For many peripheral devices is the cheaper and slightly slower USB 3.1-transfer, in combination with sufficient power delivery, but the same cable can thus be used to send or create a laptop docking station to an external video card.

In fact, there are three major, collaborative standards, which together form a universal cable: USB 3.1 for data transfer, the power delivery specification, so that may be devices powered, and of course the type C connector, whose two previous use and which is also suitable for video, and other interfaces.

New developments on USB 3.1-region

Where Intel Thunderbolt 2 has gone to version 3 and finally gets significant traction in the market, is the USB-IF also not silent. More and more devices are being equipped with a USB 3.1 port, sometimes with the well-known type a-plugs, sometimes with type C, as well as gene 1 and gene 2 will be used interchangeably. For example, the new Asus Zenfones have also announced at Computex, a type C connector, but with a USB 3.1 controller 1 gene behind. To provide a little clarity, producers after certification can carry the following logos:
USB logo & # 039; s
There must be a problem that the downside is all the possibilities offered by a type C connector. Because there are up to 100W can run on connections and because there must be negotiated lot about those power delivery and speed for data, its controller chips needed. Not every cable supplied so far, has such a chip if he has one that advertises incorrect options. The possible result is a cable or charger that promises to high currents, which can not handle the cable. This can lead to equipment damage or fire. A USB port with type C connector does not guarantee implementation of the PD-profile and it is not automatically guaranteed 10 Gbps SuperSpeed ​​USB, or USB 3.1 2 gene, utilizing.
Encryption and complicated cabling

The solution is in accordance with the USB-IF in a system of authentication with a public and private key, which keys can only be issued by a certified company. It must build a security layer to lead not only to safely load, but also to secure devices. For example, USB drives without a valid set of keys not access the file system of the host computer or to a secure, low charging current for an adapter to be chosen. Depending on the implementation, in firmware or via an additional driver layer, the user may or may not get a warning that something is amiss.
All this means that USB cables in the future will be more complicated and also the quality is due to the higher currents play a greater role. Always go for the cheapest cable, as the USB 2.0 era was still very common in the future may not be the smartest choice anymore. We must also note that the PD profile is no requirement for manufacturers: the state they are free to choose their own implementation for the supply of electricity. But when a device wants to have a USB logo with PD logo must meet the strict safety requirements, with higher costs as a result.
Type C ports replace audio jack
One cable for all scenarios

The consortium is working on a new implementation of audio over USB 3, which requires no additional hardware to connect a headset to USB. An important aspect is the re-negotiation of the capabilities of the two devices operating together. It makes little sense to connect a USB audio device to a phone that drain the battery in an hour.
Finally, to be able to respond to the increasing demand for bandwidth, USB 3.x can quite easily be upgraded in the future. By simply increasing the number of channels, the bandwidth can be increased. The new USB standard from the outset built for scalability. In the future, the USB connector might type c variety of devices, from laptops to phones, from printers to monitors and routers can support up to perhaps PCs. As long as the energy of the 100W but not exceeding, because then you end up in a very different world of energy with tricky to navigate regulation.
Anyway, we are now well on the way to a truly universal connector, for all equipment belonging to and from a computer, laptop, phone or tablet. USB IF is committed to the type C connector is the only connector on laptops, phones and computer peripherals. Since it has good papers for: after all, now all phones have a micro USB connector and there is proliferation of proprietary standards no longer. The implementation of USB with type C connectors has a much larger area, but slowly but surely significant steps are put into a truly universal connector.


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