Is USB-C Already the Breakthrough?

Is USB-C Already the Breakthrough?

The goal of single connector world is a good one.  The industry is awash with multiple video and data cables and unifying them into a single type of cable is an excellent idea.  However, the extent to which the potential of USB-C has already been technically implemented requires a differentiated approach.

The Universal Connector

USB C is hailed as the “Universal Connector”. In its different configurations it can provide USB2.0, USB3.0(USB3.1 Gen1), USB3.1 Gen2, Ethernet, Audio input and Output, HDMI, DP, Thunderbolt and up to 100W of power OR a combination of these things when a multi signal dongle is used.  

Danger of Confusion

However, the important question is how the USB-C categories can be distinguished from each other.

It is entirely possible to buy a very cheap USB2.0 cable with no high speed data, ALT mode or PD that looks EXACTLY the same as an expensive USB3.1Gen2 cable with all of these things. Or it is possible to buy 2 high end USB3.1 cables one of which can power your laptop and one that cannot because of the difference in Power delivery capability. Explaining this to the customer is obviously challenging – if it fits, why doesn’t it just work?

In the past the new technology looked different. In fact, even USB changed the colour of the USB3.0 connector to blue, so that it was clear that it was the high speed 3.0 capable rather than the low speed 2.0.

The upshot of this is, that the "USB-C connector" is by no means an indication of its function. Unfortunately it has become common to refer to the new connector rather than the standard being used.

USB-C und HDMI

USB3.1Gen2 is the current top standard for USB. It has in its protocol, a mode called ALT mode which enables the intelligent interaction with peripherals. It can sense what it is attached to and modify its behaviour accordingly.  For instance, it is possible to alter the purpose of the data lines to accommodate other protocols such as Display port or HDMI or even Ethernet.  It treats each protocol as simply another high speed data connection which is a simple and elegant solution.

The Quality of the Cable Construction

The higher data speeds of up to 10Gbps and 100W power rating involves stringent testing, high quality materials and complex winding techniques to achieve the standard.  Because of these features the length of cable that meets the specification is limited in most cases to only two metres.  The majority of cables use high end twisted pairs but in some cases manufactures use micro coaxial cables for improved signal integrity.

The lack of a locking connector is a problem for the professional market but there are solutions coming out to solve this. Neutrik have developed a locking product for professional USB3.1Gen2 called mediaCON which is promising but only works with their cable, and there are some variation of a screw lock being developed by various manufactures but there is currently no standard. A fully compliant cable is currently not possible due to the power delivery requirements.

USB-C Products from PureLink

Currently the iSeries from PureLink offers a certified complete range of USB-C adapters. The PureLink products PanConnect Interconnection Box, as well as the PureTools Presentation Switchers and Matrix Switchers already have USB-C connectors.

The fact that there is no complete line up including PureLink cables on the market so far is due to the quality standards of the PureLink brands, function and reliability.

The material research for a high end cable structure took its time, as did the fact that until recently no adequate test equipment was available for product development. Now everything fits. PureLink is developing a series of AOC cables for video transmission up to 100m to be launched in early 2020.

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