when Apple introduced the new
MacBook, something was missing, the absence of all but one solitary port. It’s
called USB Type-C, and it’s going to transform gadgets as we know them.
Looking at the future of laptops with just
one input—aside from the headphone jack—is something that will take a little
time to get used to. It is, however, unsettling. How do I charge it? Where does my
SD card go? Why can’t I hook my computer up to more than two things at once?
These are all fair questions, but they can
all find an answer in USB Type-C (or USB-C for short). Here’s a quick rundown
of what you need to know.
What does USB-C look like?
A USB-C plug is slender, about the same size
as a micro-USB (8.4mm by 2.6mm), but it’s reversible. Like Apple’s Lightning
connector, upside down and right-side up are one and the same. So if you’re
plugging in your device in the dark, there’s no need to guess to figure out
which way it needs to be plugged in.
Does it work like a normal USB?
It’s like a USB on steroids. First, charging:
USB-C can deliver bi-directional power. It can be used to charge a host device,
or it can allow the host device to charge a peripheral. It can handle large
loads too, delivering up to 20V at 5A (100W). That’s more than enough to charge
up a notebook, or multiple mobile devices simultaneously.
USB-C is also faster than our current USB-B
standard. Data transfers can run at rates up to 10 Gbps, but it’s backwards
compatible with older USB standards, as long as you have an adapter. Right now,
the fastest USB Type B devices transfer data at half that speed.
But it’s still only one port. What
about all the other things I want to plug into my computer?
For that, you’ll need an adapter, and Apple has a number of optionsalready available: USB-C to USB ($19), USB-C to HDMI, and USB to VGA (both
$79). DisplayPort, gigabit Ethernet, SD card adapters, and other connector
standards should arrive soon, both from Apple and from third parties.
Is USB-C another Apple-only thing? I
No. It’s a new, industry-wide standard, and
we should be seeing devices from all sorts of different manufacturers using
USB-C in the not-too-distant future. Apple’s new MacBook is just the first
consumer notebook to embrace USB-C.