What Is USB-C?
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.
USB-C and USB 3.1
The default protocol with the new USB-C connector is USB 3.1, which, at 10Gbps, is theoretically twice as fast as USB 3.0. The minor wrinkle is that USB 3.1 ports can also exist in the original, larger shape; these ports are called USB 3.1 Type-A. But aside from on desktops, it’s much more common to see USB 3.1 ports with USB-C connectors.
The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has defined the USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard as meeting the same interface and data signaling rates as USB 3.0. So when you seen USB 3.1 Gen 1, it basically works at the same 5Gbps speeds as USB 3.0. USB 3.1 Gen 2 refers to data signaling rates at 10Gbps, double that of USB 3.0, and matching the speeds of single-channel Thunderbolt.