usb-c cable

USB-C upgrade allows 240W output for more energy-hungry devices

Image credit: Dreamstime

USB-C chargers have had their maximum power output upgraded to 240W from 100W, which should allow more powerful gaming laptops and 4K screens to be powered through USB ports in future.

The USB Promoter Group, which counts Apple, Microsoft and Intel within its ranks, said the new USB Power Delivery specification includes a “more stringent power negotiation protocol” that helps to ensure the higher capability can still be delivered safely.

Apple’s MacBook Pro, for example, is already using a 96W USB-C charger that butts up against the maximum possible power output under the current specification.

“With the new capabilities of USB Power Delivery 3.1, we now enable higher power products such as larger notebook PCs to shift from traditional power connectors to USB Type-C,” said Brad Saunders, group chairman of the USB Promoter.

“We also anticipate a wider range of product application developers outside of the traditional USB ecosystem to now consider standardising on USB Type-C with USB PD [for] their power needs.”

The higher output could enable the charging of devices like televisions or games consoles in the future. It should also allow laptop manufacturers to standardise charging ports across their entire range – currently, more power-hungry devices, like gaming laptops, need a dedicated port to cope with the higher energy demand.

From a consumer’s perspective, the physical standard will remain the same and the reversible USB-C ports will be both forward and backward compatible with older generations, with the caveat that older ports will not be able to utilise the higher power output.

The USB-C specification was originally finalised in 2014 and was developed alongside the USB 3.1 specification which enabled higher data bandwidth than previous versions.

It has replaced micro USB in most smartphones for both charging and data transfer with the exception of Apple’s iPhone which has stuck to the firm’s proprietary Lightning port.

“The 3.1 revision to the USB Power Delivery specification, which includes the capability to provide up to 48V and 240W of power, will help enable additional design opportunities for current and new users of USB Type-C technology,” said Deric Waters, senior member of technical staff at Texas Instruments.

In 2019, USB 4.0 was announced, which brought Intel’s Thunderbolt specification into the broader standard for super-fast data transfer as well as the ability to daisy-chain display across one cable.

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