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Your Guide to USB-C: Benefits, Pinout, and Use Cases

As hardware and cable technology continues to scale with software, new and exciting cable types are being released rapidly into the market.

One of these cables — the USB-C — is certainly the child prodigy of the USB range of connectors. In fact, it’s incredible data transfer speeds, and power capabilities have poised it to take over as the new standard for a plethora of devices.

But, what is USB-C, what does it’s pinout look like, and why is it so valuable?

Let’s take a look.

What is USB-C?

USB type C (usually referred to as USB-C) is a new standard of USB cables that’s jam-packed with features. It can transfer data rapidly (up to 5GB/s) and supports some of the speedier tech out there like Thunderbolt (which has a mind-boggling 40GB/s data transfer speed).

USB-C Features

Let’s look at the four primary features that set USB-C apart from other USB tech.

  1. It’s flippable: We all know the pain of plugging a USB incorrectly the first time. You think you have it right; it doesn’t work, so you flip it only to realize you actually had it right the first time. It’s annoying. USB-C can plug in any-which-way.
  2. It’s incredibly fast: USB 3.1 gen 2 can theoretically deliver speeds of 10GB/s. 
  3. It has negotiable power levels: USB-C supports up to 20 V 5 amp (100w). That alone is fantastic. But, USB-C also lets the peripheral negotiate its own unique power supply needs, making it perfect for some of the more complex batteries out there (i.e., lithium ion).
  4. It supports tons of tech: Whether you’re looking for Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, HDMI, or even USB gen 2 support, USB-C has it. This makes it extremely versatile. To do this, USB-C takes advantage of CC configuration pins that let it use alternate modes (i.e., USB 2.0, 3.1, HDMI, AUX, and third-party modes like Thunderbolt).

USB-C Pinout

The USB-C connector has a total of 24 pins.

USB Type-C Receptacle Pinout

USB-C receptacle pinout end-on view

 

USB Type-C plug pinout

USB-C plug pinout end-on view

VBUS and GND

Both the VBUS and GND pins are power and ground pins. You may be wondering how it can reach 100w on a VBUS which carries a nominal 5V supply. Even though 5V is standard for VBUS, USB-C allows devices to negotiate and choose a non-default voltage up to 20W and 5A. This means that you can use USB-C to charge some power intensive devices like laptops.

RX and TX

USB-C has two sets of these standard digital I/O pins. The TX/RX pair is used to provide USB 3.1 mode, while one of the CC pins negotiates the USB mode. RX and TX carry USB SuperSpeed data, but they are also used for many of the USB-C alternate modes.

VCONN

VCONN is a 5 V 1 W power supply used to power the IC within an electronically marked Type-C cable.

SBU1 and SBU2

The SBU1 and SBU2 sideband use pins are also used for alternate modes like AUX and display port.

CC1 and CC2

These are the configuration channel pins. You can think of these as the master pins in this group. They do role detection, cable detection, orientation, modes, etc.

D- and D+

These are the USB 2.0 data lines used for 2.0 compatibility.

Note: It’s important to note that the plug-side pinout only has one D- and D+ connection and has a VCONN that replaces one of the CC pins. The VCONN, again, is used to actually power the IC.

Conclusion

A significant upgrade to USB 3.1, USB-C is capable of delivering data faster and in multiple modes. It also packs a punch with 100w power — making it a nearly universal cable solution.

Are you looking for best-in-class USB-C cables to power your equipment? Contact us to start your next project with the right solutions.