The introduction of USB-C has changed many electronic devices. You can use the connection to charge devices and transfer media, and it's easily reversible. Modern laptops no longer need a large power brick – you can simply use USB-C.
However, there are some precautions you should take when charging via USB-C. Here you will find everything you need to know.
USB charging and laptops
You have probably already used USB connections to charge smaller devices either from your computer or from an electrical outlet. This works well because previous USB connections had enough power to successfully turn on these smaller batteries. However, earlier versions of USB were only able to process a limited amount of power, which is why laptop chargers have usually kept their larger, bulky cables.
USB-C changed that. This type of connection now offers enough power to juice most laptops (especially the Type C 3.0 version). For this reason, charging laptops is a new topic of conversation for USB connections, especially now that more and more laptops with USB-C charging compatibility are coming onto the market. Ultimately, you can expect most laptop chargers to use the USB-C option, although some, like Microsoft, take their time.
So how do you know if your current laptop has a USB-C port that is also suitable for charging? You can look it up at any time, but the easiest way is to simply examine your charger. You can identify a Type C charger based on its unique features. The USB-C port is small and rounded and differs significantly from the old USB version. It also works regardless of how you connect it to the correct port. So you don't have to turn it right. If your charger uses this connection and connects to your USB-C port, you have a winner!
USB-C chargers appear on many different devices, so they are not necessarily limited to laptops. Newer phones use USB-C chargers, car chargers may have USB-C ports, and portable chargers (described below) may have USB-C options. But at least for the time being, laptops have USB-C more often than other devices.
Does a connection with a charger work?
USB-C is a universal charging standard. That means technically it doesn't matter which USB-C charger you use, it should be able to turn on a laptop with a USB-C charging port and a power bank. In the real world, it takes a while for this to come true. Most USB-C chargers for laptops are interchangeable these days, but this is not guaranteed.
Some laptops have USB-C ports that don't charge. This is most often the case with laptops that come with their own proprietary charger. Although a number of laptops can be charged in both directions, only the right charger turns a laptop on faster. The Samsung Notebook 9 is an example of this, as is the 2019 HP Envy 13. If you are not sure how to charge your laptop, visit the manufacturer's website or read a review of the system here at Digital Trends.
Laptops based solely on USB-C may not be able to be charged with every charger. In testing, PCWorld found that the HP Specter x2 cannot be charged with a USB-C charger other than its own. HP said this was intentional because a poor charger could damage the device or cause it to malfunction. Other devices, such as the Apple MacBook Pro, are not so strictly restricted. A new USB-C authentication system could help with this problem in the near future.
Although we personally haven't heard of any damage from using a USB-C charger other than the one that came with your laptop, there is always little risk of connecting a laptop to an unknown power source. Faulty cables can also be a problem. Microsoft recognizes this by saying that you can charge a Surface with a USB-C port. However, it is strongly recommended that you use the Surface charger that came with the laptop, as a USB-C charger will measure very slowly in the device due to the power supply. In short, it's a good idea to buy cables and chargers from reputable sources and think twice about using the cable you laid on the floor in a conference room.
You can buy additional USB-C cables for your own safety.
Your settings are important
You should also take a look at your USB-C power mode, which you can find in your laptop's settings, usually in the Power / Battery section. Here you may find that you can switch the Type C output to decide whether you want to receive or send power. If your USB-C laptop charger isn't working, check your settings to make sure it's set to power.
Complex charging arrangements
Since USB-C can be used universally and can carry out several tasks at the same time, some unique charging conditions are possible. Two are worth mentioning:
Pass-through: Today's charging centers also offer so-called pass-through charging. This refers to a hub that can connect multiple USB peripherals to a laptop while charging the laptop's battery. Basically, it is a combination of a hub and a USB-C charging cable, so you do not need two different USB-C ports for every task. HooToo is popularis a good example of this technology. There are also other innovative options, e.g. For example, sending videos to an external monitor and ensuring that your laptop is charging in a presentation.
Portable chargers: You may have a portable charger with an old USB connection, but a phone that only has a USB-C connection (which is not compatible with older USB connections). You can connect the charger to a laptop that has both types of ports and use it to turn your phone on indirectly. Don't try to charge your phone directly with your laptop's Type C charger, yet. The voltage requirements are too different for most devices currently available, and multi-device chargers are still an emerging part of the market.
USB-C and Thunderbolt 3
There is a variant of USB-C that is much more powerful – Flash 3. Choose a laptop with at least one Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C port. You can connect multiple 4K monitors at 60 Hz and significantly increase the gaming performance of your laptop via an external GPU case.
Thunderbolt 3 enables a number of charging arrangements: It can daisy chain up to six different devices and charge them easily during data transfer – at speeds higher than USB-C alone and up to 100 W.
Because Thunderbolt 3 uses the same connection as USB-C, manufacturers can quickly label laptop ports if they also have Thunderbolt 3 technology: you can usually only tell by looking at their descriptions. However, Thunderbolt 3 connections only work if you use the correct cables. So make sure you have Thunderbolt 3 cables if you want to take advantage of the full functionality and bandwidth of these ports.
For Apple users
Nomad Lightning cable
Apple users should know that they are not immune to the USB-C transition that we see. Apple currently uses Lightning cables to charge iOS, a proprietary design that seals off all of Apple's mobile charging accessories. The company has already switched to USB-C charging for MacBooks, and today's iPad professionals also use USB-C charging. iPhones and iPads are currently unique in their dependence on Lightning cables.
All rumors point to this change. The EU has already voted to put pressure on Apple by demanding binding rules for a common charging standard – a standard that is generally expected to be USB-C and what comes after. To sell iPhones in Europe, Apple may have to make the USB-C jump. Add this to the growing rumors that Apple will switch to a portable charging design for its mobile devices (probably with a magnet on the back of the iPhone instead), and we may see the end of the Lightning cable in the next few years .
The future of USB-C charging
There is a brand new USB version on the way that will be even faster and offer even more standardization. Known as USB4, we can assume that laptops with the new connections will arrive in the last months of 2020. USB4 adds another level of complexity to the overall problem of the USB protocol, but important points to note here:
- USB4 will be available on USB-C ports.
- USB4 increases the speed and charging power according to Thunderbolt 3 up to 100 W.
- USB4 requires cables formatted for USB4 to activate the new features.
- USB4 is backward compatible with USB 2.0.
Ultimately, the day will likely come when USB-C is the primary USB port and others are hard to find, with standards like USB4 and Thunderbolt dominating.