USB-C has been making headlines for a few years now, thanks to its reversible design and widespread capabilities. The result? You can use a single USB-C cable for all different devices, without having to worry about plugging it in the right way. But what devices use USB-C?
Before diving into the devices that have USB-C, it’s important to note that USB-C isn’t always what it seems. USB-C is a connector – not a standard, like other versions of USB, might be. The USB-C port usually uses the USB 3.1 standard but can use older USB standards or another popular and powerful standard – Thunderbolt 3.
Both standard USB-C ports and Thunderbolt 3 ports are widely used today – and that’s only set to continue as time goes on. Thunderbolt 3 ports are a little more versatile than standard USB-C ports. Thunderbolt 3 ports work with all USB devices – but USB ports don’t work with all Thunderbolt 3 devices. Now that you’re aware of the different forms that USB-C can take, you might be wondering: What devices use USB-C?
What devices use USB-C?
There are a ton of different kinds of devices that use USB-C ports, whether those ports use the USB 3.1 standard or the Thunderbolt 3 standard. Here’s a rundown of what devices use USB-C.
Perhaps the most obvious kind of device is a computer. Modern desktop and laptop computers all make use of USB-C ports, meaning that they can work with different kinds of peripherals. Remember not all USB-C ports are created equal. Some laptops use USB-C just for charging while some laptops use USB-C for charging and data. Data transfer over USB-C also includes connecting to a wired Ethernet network via an adapter, since most USB-C computers are thin and don’t have a standard Ethernet port. Many thin laptops also use USB-C ports for connecting to external displays in addition to charging and data because it is slimmer than older video interfaces such as VGA and HDMI. High-end computers usually have Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of straight USB ports. Considering the fact that Thunderbolt 3 ports work with USB devices, it makes them a lot more versatile. With the right docking station or multiport adapters, all of these functions can occur on one USB-C port. The picture below shows a USB-C port and a Thunderbolt 3 port on a laptop.
While these are perhaps the main devices that use USB-C ports, there are all kinds of other devices that will make use of USB-C. Often, that’s solely for the purpose of charging. For example, many recent external battery packs and power adapters have USB-C ports, but only to charge smartphones and laptops – and not for any kind of data transfer. USB-C is also cropping up in the automotive industry and will begin to be a commonly used charging standard in vehicles. The picture below shows a USB-C charging-only port and a full-function USB-C port with data and video capability.
Another major category with USB-C ports is mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Almost all modern smartphones offer a USB-C port for data transfer and charging, except, of course, the iPhone. Many tablets offer a USB-C port too – including the iPad Pro. Other iPad models have yet to adopt USB-C, however, some expect Apple to move to USB-C on all its mobile devices over the next few years. Be careful with USB-C ports on phones, however, as not all of them support video out. You’ll want to check your mobile device’s specs to see if it supports “DisplayPort Alternate Mode”, which allows it to be connected to a display via USB-C.
Really, anything that has a Micro USB or USB-A could ultimately get a USB-C port. Devices like wireless mice, keyboards, speakers, and smart home devices, all either currently do, or could in the future, offer USB-C ports, both for power delivery and data transfer. USB-C is rapidly appearing on storage devices from flash drives to external hard drives, thanks to USB-C’s 10 Gbps transfer rate.
Even some displays have a USB-C port, allowing you to simply connect a USB-C cable from your laptop to your monitor – while simultaneously charging your laptop through that same monitor. In the future, the question “What devices use USB-C” should have a simple answer: everything!
There’s a reason so many devices use USB-C for power delivery. USB-C can transfer much more power than the previous version of USB, meaning that larger devices like laptops can be powered through USB-C. USB-C supports up to 100 watts of power, which is easily enough to power larger devices like laptops. Older USB standards only supported 5V charging, which was perhaps enough to charge a pair of headphones or your phone, but not much more than that.
Other devices make use of USB-C to add ports and functionality to your computer. On a laptop with only USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports, sometimes you might want to add extra ports for older peripherals or other connectivity. That’s where USB-C hubs and docking stations come in. With a hub, you can add ports like HDMI ports, Ethernet ports, older USB ports, and more, all through a single USB-C connection. There are also adapters, which essentially convert a USB-C port into another port. This might come in handy for people like photographers or videographers who need an SD card slot but don’t have one built into their computer.