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USB Type-C: Everything to everyone?

USB Type-C has fundamentally changed the way that devices, especially computers and peripherals, will connect in the future. Although it is part of the USB 3.1 specification, USB Type-C is truly a game-changer in that it incorporates the USB Power Delivery (USB PD) specification that allows up to 100W of power to be delivered alongside data at up to 10Gbps.

The new standard provides for a universal connector and cable that is fully reversible. There is only one type of connector, which is ‘flippable’. This means that a USB Type-C cable and its connectors can be inserted in either direction, and either orientation.

USB Type-C will deliver data, audio, video and power. Also, via Alternate modes, standards such as DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL, Audio and Thunderbolt can all be delivered through Type-C connectors. The greatest advantage to consumers will be the incredible convenience that USB Type-C delivers, allowing a single cable type to be used for multiple purposes.

Waste will also be eliminated as the higher power available via USB PD means that manufacturers will no longer be obligated to ship devices such as smartphones with a dedicated charger. Even dedicated laptop chargers may be eliminated. This is because using USB Type-C to connect a laptop to a mains-powered external monitor means that the monitor can power and charge the laptop, while displaying the screen content from the laptop.

Consumer convenience often brings challenges for system designers and that is true with USB Type-C. To meet the USB PD specification, semiconductor switches need to be able to both withstand higher voltages and transfer more power efficiently. The high-speed transceivers needed are generally more susceptible to ESD, so Transient Voltage Suppression (TVS) diodes are required to protect these transceivers, while ensuring the high-speed data is not distorted.

Giving the consumer the ability to plug either end of the cable into any device means that devices have to be able to recognise cable orientation and map the data-bus pins according to how connectors are inserted - while maintaining 10Gbps data transmission via two different paths.

Toshiba has a comprehensive product suite for all the challenges that USB Type-C brings to designers – and an informative white paper that discusses the challenges and solutions. To download our USB Type-C white paper, please click here:

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