The confusing state of USB-C

Universal Serial Bus or USB was introduced 25 years ago as an industry standard that established specifications for cables and connectors and protocols for the connection, communication, and power supply between computers and peripherals. 

Over time there have been 11 different types of connectors. Most will be familiar with USB-A. The most recent connector introduced is the extremely powerful USB-C. 

USB-C handles a wide gamut of specifications, including USB 4.0. So it may be confusing to know what the USB-C port on your computer is capable of running. The industry standards can help sift through the different types to help you, but usually, these are buried in the specification pages of the manual of your computer or motherboard.

On your device manager, you will have controller information that should let you know what USB specification each controller is responsible for but this information does not shed light on what connectors the controllers are responsible for.

Usually, USB-C is connected to the highest controller type your system has and it is a simple matter of connecting the same type of cable and peripheral specification as the controller to get the features of that controller.

An example is USB 3.0 vs 3.1. The speed rate of 3.0 is 5 Gbit/s. 3.1 has a speed rate of 10Gbit/s however it also has DisplayPort Alternate Mode. This enables, as long as a user has this controller connected to USB-C and a compatible hub that has an HDMI output, the user is able to stream an additional display at 1080p if their GPU has not exceeded the number of displays it can run simultaneously.

Unfortunately, this has led to confusion with computer owners who have seen a USB-C Port and incorrectly identified it as a USB 3.1 or better controller. They then have purchased hubs some up to $800 and found it does not give them the functionality they are after. 

The best practice is to do your research when looking at a motherboard or system you are purchasing. The specifications page will give the type of controller the USB-C port is connected to. This is vitally more important to look out for on a laptop as upgrading is not possible.

Once you are able to understand what each specification is capable of, you are able to better match the functions you are after and the system capable of providing them. If there is no clear information provided and you know you need a certain feature, continue your search.

If you are looking at laptops and trying to find what USB-C port you need, we can help. 

Back To Top