All Things USB 3.1 And USB Type-C: An Explainer

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Three comments

First, I wonder when the first USB C Displayport video cards and monitors will come out - if ever.

Second, while a universal connector is a great idea in theory, there's an advantage in having a DVI cable that will only connect video to video. People will inevitably try to connect incompatible things and be puzzled when they do not work.

Third, I absolutely love the idea of USB Power Delivery, where the host, the device, and the cable negotiate the amount of power desired / possible. But I foresee many cheap cables that don't implement this properly, and possibly more non-standard standards like the one Apple created.

There will be problems.
 

scolaner

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Three comments

First, I wonder when the first USB C Displayport video cards and monitors will come out - if ever.

Second, while a universal connector is a great idea in theory, there's an advantage in having a DVI cable that will only connect video to video. People will inevitably try to connect incompatible things and be puzzled when they do not work.

Third, I absolutely love the idea of USB Power Delivery, where the host, the device, and the cable negotiate the amount of power desired / possible. But I foresee many cheap cables that don't implement this properly, and possibly more non-standard standards like the one Apple created.

There will be problems.
First -- I don't know about video cards, but monitor support is a must, particularly for power delivery. Fortunately, there should be some Type-C hubs landing on the market sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Second -- Confusion is going to be rampant, yes. That's in large part why we wanted to write this piece. Just getting some clarifying information out there so consumers will be more informed.

Third -- Totally agree, PD is a huge deal. Cables will need be USB-IF-certified. So, look for that branding. That should help weed out the pretenders.
 

3ogdy

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Great article!

WHAT A language redacted MESS! What a language redacted mess! Then there's the optional branding...like....What thelanguage redacted?!?! OK, we're fitting this board with 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-C that also has Power Delivery of up to 100W, but we ain't gon' mention it...'cuz...why would we, right? RIGHT? Who cares about all those details? Nobody, right?

Dumb language redactedshould be banned from creating standards, from causing the entire planet headaches and some need to pay with their lives for it. This is unacceptable. Yet, somebody gets paid to come up with this. There's definitely a special place in hell for these people. Hopefully in front of a camera so we can see them "enjoying themselves", them pieces of language redacted.
 

atheus

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Thanks for this article, although I must say I'm heavily displeased that I need an article like this to really understand that the term "USB 3.1" has become basically meaningless. It's pretty much too late, but it sounds to me like they should just give up on the term USB 3.1 and call it USB 3.2 already. Everybody is used to calling these standards by their version numbers, so suddenly expecting everyone to start saying "It's Super Speed 10 GEE BEE PEE ESSS" or "USB 3.1 Gen 2" is a brush with insanity. The logos aren't all that helpful either, since much of the time these features will be listed in product descriptions on amazon and newegg with unsatisfactory detail.

At the end of the day I think what will actually happen is that nobody should use the term "USB 3.1" when they mean Gen 1. That's just confusing. It's fine if engineers use the term internally, but for marketing that's just asking for trouble. That seems to be the way the motherboard manufacturers are going anyway.
 

InvalidError

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It is ironic how USB started because Firewire's six wires cable (TX pair, RX pair and power pair) was considered "too complex and expensive" and now we have Type-C USB which has two high-speed pairs in each direction, the legacy pair for USB1/2, a few extra wires for miscellaneous signaling and yet another pair or two for options.

Type-C is going to be lots of fun when you end up needing a dozen different Type-C cables because each supports different options.
 

2Be_or_Not2Be

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I think the USB-IF should have required the logos on any device utilizing the Type-C connector, not just for product packaging. Usually people don't keep the package, but they obviously will have the device. That would be very helpful when later down the road, someone wants to help you troubleshoot why their USB port doesn't act the way they thought it would.
 

SteelCity1981

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this whole article just exposed how dysfunctional usb 3.x standard are. so usb 3.1 gen1 is the same 5gb speed as usb 3.0 with added features. and usb 3.1 gen2 is everything usb 3.1 gen1 has but with 10gb speed instead. so now you have to look carefully when you buy usb 3.1 to make sure it has the + next to the superspeed for usb 3.1 gen2 and not just superspeed for usb 3.1 gen1.
 

fedrik456

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Great article!

WHAT A FRUCKING MESS! What a f(r)ucking mess! Then there's the optional branding...like....What the fruck?!?! OK, we're fitting this board with 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-C that also has Power Delivery of up to 100W, but we ain't gon' mention it...'cuz...why would we, right? RIGHT? Who cares about all those details? Nobody, right?

Dumb mothercrackers should be banned from creating standards, from causing the entire planet headaches and some need to pay with their lives for it. This is unacceptable. Yet, somebody gets paid to come up with this. There's definitely a special place in hell for these people. Hopefully in front of a camera so we can see them "enjoying themselves", them pieces of sheet.
Are you ok, man?
 

Eggz

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Very useful information!

I have four questions that I hope you can answer.

First, will there exist a Type-C cable that supports ALL the top features? For instance, the max data rate for cables under the spec is 40 Gbps, but that's only by using active optical cables. Does using light (viz. optical) preclude full 100 w power delivery? It would be great to know which features have compatibility issues.

Second, what exactly does "alt mode" do to the other functionality? That is, would a monitor running a DisplayPort signal through a Type-C cable still be able to provide 10 Gbps of data throughput, or does the DisplayPort signal cut into that bandwidth? Would the answer change using a higher bandwidth cable?

How does the throughput get channeled internally? People will need to know, for instance, whether connecting new USB devices could cause their graphics cards to switch down from a PCI-e x 16 link to an x 8 link. I'm assuming these throughput levels will require PCI-e because they exceed SATA, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Last, will there be an easy empirical way see which type of USB connection you are actually obtaining despite lack of labeling or technical specifications? For instance, Task Manager will tell you the link speed of your network connection if you don't know it (e.g. 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, etc.). Even though you have a 1 Gbps NIC, you might run at 100 Mbps because the router or sever is using 100 Mbpg rather than 1 Gbps. In the same way, the weakest link theory for USB link speed negotiation will yield various actually connections, despite specs of individual components. Are consumers going to be able to just check like this for new USB standards using something like Device Manager or Task Manager?
 

targetdrone

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A single connector sounds awesome on theory until the reality that is Apple or it's wannabe cousin Samsung take it upon themselves to mess things up with a new proprietary connector or out of spec Type C connectors with the wrong number of pins.
 

f-14

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Great article!

WHAT A FRUCKING MESS! What a f(r)ucking mess! Then there's the optional branding...like....What the fruck?!?! OK, we're fitting this board with 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-C that also has Power Delivery of up to 100W, but we ain't gon' mention it...'cuz...why would we, right? RIGHT? Who cares about all those details? Nobody, right?

Dumb mothercrackers should be banned from creating standards, from causing the entire planet headaches and some need to pay with their lives for it. This is unacceptable. Yet, somebody gets paid to come up with this. There's definitely a special place in hell for these people. Hopefully in front of a camera so we can see them "enjoying themselves", them pieces of sheet.
Are you ok, man?
he's fine, and he's 100% right, altho i don't think it's worth killing any one over, just cattle branding them as idiots in every language on their foreheads as warning for the rest of us.
seriously people like that should have a sign on them.

the whole thing is a mess and 3ogdy and i should be hired to fix it, there won't be all this cable and labeling mess, it will be clear and concise with the specifics on both ends of every cable signifying what speed and power capacity, anything less that that is the slow terminal death of a product and all this USB mess is going to cripple adoption of USB 3 and beyond if not come damn right close to ending the use of this technology.

this is so disgraceful apple will be able to bring back firewire even. this will assure lightning/thunderbolts future replacement of USB.
 

rayden54

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I think Type-C's the real problem. With the rest of it, if you mismatch something, your device just works with the lowest common denominator. You lose out on some features, but unless you really need them, you're fine. With Type-C, you've got something that calls itself USB, but won't plug in to a freaking USB port (and vice versa). It's really the sort of thing that'll screw up someone like my grandma.

Honestly, unless you're one of those people who have to make do with only a single Type-C port (ie certain Apple fans), I'd put off adopting Type-C for a few years. Maybe I'm wrong, but I really think compatibility's gonna be a bitch. I mean what good's a flash drive if the person you're transferring files to can't plug the dang thing in? It's one thing for people like us to adopt USB Type C (we are after all enthusiasts, right?), but schools, libraries, grandparents... Hell, even the enthusiast motherboards only seem to come with one or two USB Type-C connectors while the rest are the 'standard' type. It just seems like it would suck having to worry about form factor in addition to all this other crap. Worse, even if you are savvy to tote around a bunch of adapters, you lost the only real advantage of the new form factor by using them-the reversibility.

I dunno, maybe there's some maybe there's some features that'll only show up with the new form factor (despite them not actually being related) that'll make it worth it. The article didn't really say.
 

scolaner

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A single connector sounds awesome on theory until the reality that is Apple or it's wannabe cousin Samsung take it upon themselves to mess things up with a new proprietary connector or out of spec Type C connectors with the wrong number of pins.
I...don't think that's possible.
 

RedJaron

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I think the analogy might be more accurate to say that USB protocol is the pipe ( that allows data to flow through it ), and that Type-C is the pipe fittings, determining what can be connected to the pipe.

So you're saying in theory you could have a monitor with a USB hub on it that uses a single cable for the USB data, video data, and to power the monitor itself? That's kind of cool.
 

mavikt

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Great article!

WHAT A FRUCKING MESS! What a f(r)ucking mess! Then there's the optional branding...like....What the fruck?!?! OK, we're fitting this board with 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-C that also has Power Delivery of up to 100W, but we ain't gon' mention it...'cuz...why would we, right? RIGHT? Who cares about all those details? Nobody, right?

Dumb mothercrackers should be banned from creating standards, from causing the entire planet headaches and some need to pay with their lives for it. This is unacceptable. Yet, somebody gets paid to come up with this. There's definitely a special place in hell for these people. Hopefully in front of a camera so we can see them "enjoying themselves", them pieces of sheet.
Are you ok, man?
I was facepalming myself after reading this article.
We're in the 21st century, we didn't get the hover-boards, okay, but this...
When should mankind learn? NEVER?! WTF!
 

AnimeMania

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So much for a black port/cable being USB 2.0 and a blue port being USB 3.0. Maybe they should have made USB 3.1 Gen 2 a special color, like red. This still wouldn't differentiate whether power and Displayport are available. Something tells me this is going to be a mess, with people plugging their monitors into their computer USB ports, instead of their graphic card USB port and people buying cables that don't (support/have the right connectors for) the hardware they are connecting.
 

trifler

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Using all these words like "SuperSpeed" and what-not for USB and HDMI is vastly more confusing to consumers. They think they're making it simpler for people to understand, but it would be far better to use the version number for marketing.
 

kalmquist

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I just looked at the USB-C cables offered by Monoprice, and there is no branding or labelling at all. You can buy a cable that supports superspeed, or for half price you can buy a cable that only supports high speed (presumably the twisted pairs used for superspeed are omitted from the cable). As far as I can see the two variants are visually indistinguishable, which looks like a recipe for confusion.
 

palladin9479

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This is the same situation we were in back in the days of Serial, PS/2, Parallel, AT and Firewire, where we had so many different cable types and interfaces for communication with peripherals. USB was created to replace them all with a single simple serial interface that would do all of that. USB 2.0 was created because the original USB didn't enough bandwidth for transferring high amounts of data. USB 3.0 was then created because our need for bandwidth went up again and the lack of DMA was hurting USB too much.

All this time we were mostly using a single set of compatible connectors, a few weird types here and there but ultimately a USB slot was a USB slot. Not everyone and their mother wanting to add some new "feature" into the next revision of USB, but not wanting to wait for a single big standard update, has resulted in a big mess of "optional" features and cable types. This renders the standard pretty much worthless as anything outside of the super enthusiast.

I predict we'll be seeing a USB 4 standard in a few more years that combines all this nonsense into a single port / cable type with a single set of "required" standards.
 

ozicom

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This already become confusing. I think same thing happened to HDMI happens here too. There are different ports and there's a signing but i don't think manufacturers will tell if their product have better (or desired) port or hardware. I know designers want to make a port that rule all other ports but they do something totally different than they want.
 

joex444

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Since it's still 5V, I'm assuming, that means 100W PD would imply a current of 20A. Given the wiring in most houses is rated for 15A and is much thicker than a USB cable, these cables that do support 100W are probably going to be fairly thick. It's sort of impressive what 20A could do (I mean, that's way more than enough to be lethal) and how those circuits don't just heat up and fry themselves trying to push 20A over such a small connector.
 

scolaner

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I think the analogy might be more accurate to say that USB protocol is the pipe ( that allows data to flow through it ), and that Type-C is the pipe fittings, determining what can be connected to the pipe.

So you're saying in theory you could have a monitor with a USB hub on it that uses a single cable for the USB data, video data, and to power the monitor itself? That's kind of cool.
Er, maybe--or the Type-C port is the fittings, the cable is the pipe, and the...we're in the weeds already, lol.

But yes, that's exactly the idea: one cable connecting your laptop to your monitor, and that one cable handles USB data, video, and power.

Monitor OEMs will support all that at some point, presumably...in the meantime, look for standalone hubs that will effectively make all of that happen.
 
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