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Will USB Type-C make power adapters obsolete?

Since the specification for USB Type-C was published by the USB Implementers Forum (USB IF) in 2014, the new bi-directional standard with flippable connectors has been appearing on more and more devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. While still in the early phase of its rollout, market research firm IHS predicts that around 500 million devices will be shipped with USB Type-C this year. And this figure is expected to quadruple to 2 billion devices in 2019.

The new USB Type-C standard supports the same 10Gbps high data speeds that were first introduced as part of USB 3.1. However, a more significant change is compliance with the USB Power Delivery (PD) specification. The PD specification will standardise chargers for mobile devices. This eliminates the need for manufacturers to ship each device with its own dedicated charger, thereby reducing waste when the user upgrades.

USB PD raises the maximum power that can be distributed via a USB connection, and specifies profiles at 10W, 18W, 36W, 60W and 100W (limited by safety legislation on power distribution). The ability to transmit more power to devices supports faster charging as well as allowing more devices to be powered via USB - reducing the need to manufacture and dispose of large numbers of low-power, external AC/DC power adapters.

The six power profiles operate at voltages between 5V and 20V and at currents up to 5A. Power consuming devices must negotiate for the power they need after the connection has started up in the default 5V/2A mode, thereby ensuring the safety of (and compatibility with) older USB 2.0 devices.

The PD specification allows devices to act as either a source or a consumer of power via the USB connection. A mains-powered monitor, for example, can power a laptop through its USB Type-C port, and simultaneously act as a power and data hub for several other devices such as external disk drives. This eliminates the need to plug the laptop into a mains power socket. Data exchanges between the two devices are unaffected by the exchange of power.

Implementing the PD specification involves choosing either a discrete or integrated approach from Toshiba’s comprehensive range of available products. To help with this, Toshiba has written a detailed white paper covering the different approaches and their relative benefits. To download your free copy, please click here:

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