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USB Type-C, or USB-C, is a new USB connector shape that both older and newer USB standards can adopt. This means that a USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and the new USB 3.1 standard 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. The connector also supports USB power delivery (USB PD).
USB-C is the latest USB connector type that was developed at the same time as the new USB 3.1 standard which can cause some confusion; basically, USB-C is a different shape than USB-A and USB-B while USB 3.1 defines the connector bandwidth.
Keep in mind that a USB type C connector doesn’t necessarily have to be USB 3.1. It can also use USB 2.0 bandwidth, for instance. So, if you are interested in a device with a USB-C port, be sure to check the USB-related specifications.
Ideally, you’ll want a device with a USB-C port that’s based on the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard which is also referred to as SuperSpeed+, USB 3.1 Rev 2, and SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps.
Devices with Thunderbolt 3 technology can further utilize the USB-C port to simultaneously transfer data, audio/video signal, and charge a device up to 100W.
Micro USB vs USB-C
Both USB-A and USB-B connectors are quite large which was a problem 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 mini-USB and micro-USB.
As you can see in the picture below, a USB-C connector resembles a micro-USB though it is more rounded 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 the USB-C port using a fitting adapter.
USB Type-C port supports many different protocols such as HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort by using alternate modes. This means that an increasing amount of monitors have adopted the USB-C connector as well.
USB Power Delivery, or USB PD for short, is a USB specification that is closely related to the USB Type-C connector.
USB 2.0 can deliver 2.5 watts and USB 3.0 can output 4.5 watts of power, but the new USB PD specification will allow output power up to 100 watts. This means that the USB Type-C cables can charge laptops and other devices that require bigger power input.
The power can go both ways, so a cable with the USB Type-C connector on both sides will become a common sight in the future.