What Is USB-C? An Explainer
In case you didn’t think laptops could get even thinner than they already were, manufacturers are finding new ways to make it happen. Apple’s MacBook Pro measures just 14.9mm at its thickest point—and I’ve seen some computers that are even thinner, such as the 11.9mm Asus Zen Book 3. This leaves little space for I/O ports like the 7.5mm-tall traditional USB socket. Any connector still needs some vertical clearance internally to connect to the motherboard and the rest of the system, as well as clearance for the physical plug itself. That’s why the USB-C connector, which started appearing regularly in mainstream systems in early 2015, is so important.
USB-C is the emerging industry-standard connector for transmitting both data and power. The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum, the group of companies that has developed, certified, and shepherded the USB standard. It counts more than 700 companies in its membership, including Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. This is important, because it’s part of why USB-C has been so readily accepted by PC manufacturers. Contrast this with the earlier Apple-promoted (and developed) Lightning and MagSafe connectors, which had limited acceptance beyond Apple products, and, because of USB-C, are soon to be completely obsolete.
Is It Like Micro USB?
The USB-C connector looks similar to a micro USB connector at first glance, though it’s more oval-shaped and slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: Like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no up or down orientation. Line up the connector properly, and you don’t have to flip it to plug it in. The cables also have the same connector on both ends, so you don’t have to figure out which end goes where, which has not been the case with all the USB cables we’ve been using for the past 20 years.
Do You Need USB-C?
The presence (or absence) of a USB-C port is increasingly becoming to consider when buying a PC. If you buy an ultrathin system, like the new MacBook Pro, the ZenBook 3, or the HP Spectre , it will almost certainly have a USB-C port, which will catapult you into the ecosystem automatically. If you’re more of a lover of desktops, you’re almost certain to find the ports there, too, particularly on high-end and gaming desktops.. The USB-IF also announced in 2016 that it’s updating the USB-C spec to include audio, which means the 3.5mm headphone jack could soon vanish from computers just as it already has on the Apple iPhone 7. Other phones, such as the Google Pixel XL, use the USB-C interface for charging and data transfer, so it’s not inconceivable that future phones will switch to it from micro USB.