The promise and confusion of USB Type-C

Bob O’Donnell, writing for Tech.pinions:

The crux of the problem is that not all USB Type-C connectors support all of these different capabilities and, with one important exception, it’s almost impossible for an average person to figure out what a given USB Type-C equipped device supports without doing a good deal of research.

The key exception is for Thunderbolt 3.0, a technology originally developed by Intel. It’s a different interface standard than USB 3.1, but uses the same USB Type-C connectors. Thunderbolt 3.0 connectors (which, by the way, are different than previous versions of Thunderbolt—versions 1 and 2 used the same connectors as the mini-DisplayPort video standard) are marked by a lightning bolt next to the connector, making them easy for almost anyone to identify. To be clear however, they aren’t the same as the somewhat similarly shaped Lightning connectors used by Apple (which, ironically, don’t have a lightning bolt next to them). Confused? You’re not alone.

This is a bit of a mess. Critical that manufacturers/resellers publish compatibility specs with each new device so you know what you can plug in where.



  • Adrayven

    It’s not confusing at all if it’s a Thunderbolt 3 port; why? because all TB 3 ports will support USB 3.1, DisplayPort 1.4, and charge a device..

    Meaning, it doesn’t matter what USB C device you plug in.. it will work..

    Thus, no specs needed.

    • Moe Better 11

      “Meaning it doesn’t matter what USB-C device you plug into what port, [b]if it’s a Thunderbolt 3 port, it will work[/b]. IMHO [b]smart manufacturers[/b] will just put up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports in a laptop and call it a day.. No fuss, mo muss.”

      Lots of assumptions here … I know ports, yet they do try to make things confusion – like VGA, XGA, XYZPDQGA and all the other half meaningless “specs” that they fail to publish. Wiki can be your friend, yet it would seem the standards need a real lift – just look at IPv6 and all that nonsense. While limited IPv4 is way more elegant and NAT is great – its almost human how IPv4 works …. anyway the ports are a mess, though I guess time will tell.

  • Once you understand all the major issues, it’s not confusing at all. Which USB 3.1 is it? Does the cable support power and data? Can Thunderbolt 3 replace them all?

    Those are the key questions. I buy my USB-C cables from Griffin now. They do both data and power on my Macbook. And I’m getting the OWC USB-C dock for that laptop to give it all sorts of ports.

    The minute Apple releases an iMac with Thunderbolt 3, I’m dropping my Mac Pro and going 100 percent Thunderbolt 3. That port will do everything.

    • Moe Better 11

      Once you understand all the major issues, it’s not confusing at all. Which USB 3.1 is it? Does the cable support power and data? Can Thunderbolt 3 replace them all?

      Oye! Once you are a rocket scientist, launching conventional rockets is easy! Getting safely back from space is another matter…

      • Ha. And once you understand astrophysics, you can understand what Hawking is saying about information not being lost in a black hole, because it’s like crumbs on its mouth. 😛

  • Mo

    I miss Firewire.

    • Moe Better 11

      I thought USB3x/TBx was “firewire” … and what about 4pin iLink? Sony never liked the fire.