USB Type-C Explained – Everything You Need To Know

USB Type-C is the latest USB connector that's slim, reversible, and backward compatible with the previous versions. Here's why you need it.


USB Type-C, or USB-C, is a USB connector shape that both older and newer USB standards can adopt. This means that the USB 2.0 and USB 3.2 standards can all use the USB Type-C connector shape.

The new shape allows you to connect from either side, unlike other USB types such as USB-A and USB-B. USB-C can also support USB Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode.

USB Standards

What Is Usb C
Original NameOld NameNew NameMarketing Name
USB 3.2N/AUSB 3.2 Gen 2×2SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
USB 3.1USB 3.1 Gen 2USB 3.2 Gen 2SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps
USB 3.0USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.2 Gen 1SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps
USB 2.0 N/AN/AHighSpeed 480 Mbps

Initially, when USB 3.1 was introduced, USB-IF (USB Implementers Forum) changed the name of USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1 while the new ‘USB 3.1’ was dubbed USB 3.1 Gen 2.

In March 2019, USB-IF announced USB 3.2 and again changed the naming structure. USB 3.0 is now USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB 3.1 is USB 3.2 Gen 2, and USB 3.2 is USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.

Note that only the USB-C connector can use the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 standard.

USB-IF updated the logos, making it easier to determine the maximum supported speed of the port.

USB Marketing Names
Click to enlarge

USB-C: DisplayPort Alternate Mode & Power Delivery

type c usb

USB-C can transfer audio/video signals if your device supports DisplayPort Alternate Mode.

Additionally, it can charge a device if it supports USB PD (Power Delivery) with up to 100W (depending on the device).

We have a dedicated USB-C monitor list consisting of displays that support DP Alt Mode and Power Delivery of at least 45W up to 100W.

Thunderbolt & USB4

Thunderbolt 3 controller shares the same connector type as USB-C but offers up to 40Gbps of data transfer (with short active cables) or 20Gbps (with long passive cables). It also supports DisplayPort Alternate Mode and Power Delivery up to 100W.

USB-IF also announced the USB4 specification, which is based on the Thunderbolt protocol. Just like Thunderbolt 3, it uses the USB-C connector, has a data transfer speed of up to 40Gbps, and it will support display interface and power delivery. Further, it is backward-compatible with USB 2.0, USB 3.2, and Thunderbolt 3.

However, unlike Thunderbolt 3, USB4 will be royalty-free, so it will be more widespread and affordable than Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Thunderbolt 4 improves upon the previous version by increasing the minimum PCIe data to 32Gbps from 16Gbps, adding improved security and the ability to wake a PC from sleep via peripherals connected to a dock.

USB4 Version 2.0 bumps up the speed to 80Gbps when using proper active cables. It also brings support for the latest versions of DisplayPort and PCIe, as well as USB 3.2 data tunneling over 20 Gbps.

Next, there is Thunderbolt 5 with up to 120Gbps bandwidth for cables 2 meters or shorter. This also brings support for dual 4K 144Hz monitors, dual 8K 60Hz displays and refresh rates up to 540Hz. Other supported features include PCIe 4.0 connection, up to 240W Power Delivery, up to three DisplayPort 2.0 streams and backward compatibility with TB4, TB3, USB4 and USB3.

Thunderbolt 5

USB-C 2.1 with Extended Power Range

The new USB-C 2.1 revision brings support for USB Power Delivery 3.1 (48V and 5A), resulting in a maximum of 240W power charging when using EPR (Extended Power Range) cables.

USB C 2.1 Power Delivery Logo

Micro USB vs. USB-C

Both USB-A and USB-B connectors are quite big, which was an issue for devices such as slim smartphones, console controllers, digital cameras and so on.

This led to the creation of other shapes of the USB connector, such as micro-USB and mini-USB.

As you can see in the picture below, a USB-C connector looks like a micro-USB, though it is more round, and more importantly, it can plug in the device facing either way.

Since USB-C is backward compatible, you can still connect your micro-USB and other USB devices to a USB-C port by using a proper adapter.

usb c backwards compatible

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Joseph Moore

Joseph has probably spent thousands of hours learning about displays in his free time and prior work experience at HP. He now writes and manages DisplayNinja to ensure it stays as the people's favorite resource.