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What is USB Type-C or USB-C?

USB Type-C or USB-C is a reversible and symmetrical connector for the latest computer and electronic devices. It is the industry-standard connector for transmitting both data and power on a single cable. The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). 

Different Types of USB-C

All previous iterations of USB connectors will be replaced by USB-C. Even so, within USB-C there are different specifications and capabilities for different purposes. A USB-C port that can support Thunderbolt 3 and 4 means just a single cable is sufficient to power and transfer data to and from one device (e.g. computer) to up to two 4K displays at 60Hz.

Users that regularly transfer gigantic data, audio or video files will benefit from the huge bandwidth supported by USB4 and Thunderbolt 3 & 4. However, the equipment should be able to support this.

USB Ports

Why You Need It?

Better Performance
It's a big improvement over all previous USB connectors, faster data transfer, more power to charge your devices, transmits even audio and UHD video.


Future Ready
The USB-C connector will soon replace older USB connectors. It is so slim and can even fit on mobile phones and tablets. As the same cable can be used to connect other devices and you don't need to throw away cables whenever you get a new device.


Multimedia Support
As USB-C also supports video and audio, you can connect to an HDMI or DisplayPort display via a USB-C adapter from a docking station or your laptop if the USB-C port’s video-out capability is supported.


Easier to Use
Simple design with a reversible connector so that you can always plug it in any way, no need to check it it's upside down.


Universal
The USB-IF has more than 700 companies in its membership, including major tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and Samsung, etc. This means wide acceptance and many products will feature the USB-C connector.

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Ports on PC
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How to Identify the USB Ports on Your Computer

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is probably the most common plug-and-play interface in computers and laptops but not everyone is familiar with how each port looks like or what the different colors mean.

Identify the USB Ports

There are 2 types of USB Ports used in computers and laptops.

  • USB-A. This is the most common type of port, commonly known as USB-A. They are rectangular shaped and commonly found in computers and larger sized laptops.

  • USB Type-C. This is an oval-shaped port, typically found in newer Smart Phones, tablets and slim  laptops due to its small size.

USB-A ports can only be connected in one direction, however, Type-C ports are symmetrical, which means you can connect a USB Type-C cable or device without worrying if the connector should be facing up or down.

*There are other types of USB ports but they are mostly found in small devices such as smartphones, tablets and other smaller devices.

What do the different port colours mean?

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Specifications of USB Ports

USB-A specifications have changed many times since its first iteration in 1995. USB 2.0 ports are unidirectional, i.e. can only send or receive data but not both simultaneously and can only deliver up to 500mA of power. It is ideal for peripherals such as keyboards, mice, webcams, etc. USB 3.0 allows data to be sent and received at the same time and is capable of delivering up to 900mA of power. It is ideal for devices such as external hard drives.

USB Type-C on the other hand is capable of sending and receiving data simultaneously and can support up to 100W of power, enabling it to charge not only phones and tablets but laptops as well. They also support audio and video input and output.

Some manufacturers label their devices with a logo, e.g. “SS” or “SS 5”, it is a USB 3.0 port. The chart below summarizes the different types, standards, and speeds.

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Remarks:
* USB-C is more accurately known as Type C or USB Type C
** Maximum cable length is the length for maximum data transfer speeds under the USB specifications. Data speeds over longer cables can be maintained using active cables and, in some cases, longer passive cables.

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What is HDMI?

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. It is a HD signal that is most frequently used to transfer audio and video content from a device (e.g. computer, smartphone, tablet, cable box etc) to a TV, projector or monitor. There are different sized HDMI ports, including mini-HDMI and micro-HDMI. However, most of the time, the port will be the standard full size.

What are the different versions of HDMI?

There are different versions of HDMI ports and which version you have generally depends on how old your device is. As they are not colour coded as USB, it is difficult to tell which version it is. The only way is to consult the product manual or the manufacturer’s website. Here are the different versions of HDMI and their main specs.

 

  • HDMI 1.0 - 1.1: Up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 60Hz

  • HDMI 1.2 - 1.2a: Up to 1080p at 60Hz

  • HDMI 1.3 - 1.4b: Up to 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30Hz

  • HDMI 2.0 - 2.0b: Up to 4K at 60Hz

  • HDMI 2.1: Up to 4K at 120Hz and 8K (7680 x 4320) at 120Hz

 

To get the highest resolution possible from your display screen, you need to get the right cable. There are different types of HDMI cables, up to 8K Ultra High Speed HDMI. The 3 most important specs you need to note are Resolution, Hz (refresh rate) and Speed.

 

For example, if you want 4K resolution at 120Hz, the product listing for the cable must list this. You'll also need a minimum speed of 18Gbs to keep up with 4K.

 

Therefore, you need to buy the right cable for your equipment. However, HDMI cables are usually backwards compatible, so if you buy a HDMI 2.0 cable and your TV or monitor only supports HDMI 1.4, you would still be able to use it.

HDMI
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Figure 1. A comparison of screen resolutions. By Libron, via Wikimedia Commons.

Why You Need HDMI?

HDMI is the preferred choice for home theatre equipment and game consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. If you are using a computer without a graphics card or GPU and an inexpensive monitor, HDMI will fit the bill perfectly. 

What is DisplayPort (DP)?

DisplayPort is a digital display interface developed by VESA, designed to deliver video and audio signals from a source device (e.g. computer) and output to a display screen (monitor), similar to HDMI.

As with HDMI, there are also different versions of DisplayPort versions.

  • DisplayPort 1.2: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz, some 1.2a ports may also support AMD's FreeSync

  • DisplayPort 1.3: Supports up to 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 30Hz

  • DisplayPort 1.4: Supports up to 8K at 60Hz and HDR

  • DisplayPort 2.0: Supports 16K with HDR at 60Hz and 10K without HDR at 80Hz

DisplayPort Capabilities

Laptops can send DisplayPort signals from their USB-C port. 

It supports AMD's FreeSync and Nvidia's G-Sync, so you can have a tear-free gaming experience no matter which brand of card you use (as long as your monitor supports the technology, of course).

You can also drive multiple monitors from one DisplayPort connection, rather than having to use multiple ports.

DP

Why you need DisplayPort?

High-end gaming-oriented PCs and monitors have long preferred DisplayPort for its better resolution and frame rate support, especially as technologies like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync have become more popular. Professionals that need accurate colors for photo and video editing also preferred DisplayPort for its higher technical standards. When visuals matter, pros, and enthusiasts prefer DisplayPort.

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