When it comes to different cables for charging or data transfer, in general, manufacturers take care of you by supplying at least one cable for charging or data transfer when needed. However, for the layperson, this can cause a problem when that cable gets lost or damaged. You still need something to charge the device or transfer data, but where do you look? The USB-C cable is poised to change all that.
Your average USB-C connector is set to become the new standard in connecting different devices, promising rates of data transfer up to 10 Gbps and 100 watts of power transference. Combine these with a user-friendly reversibility, and you have a perfect match for your connectivity needs. You can even combine these with protocols like Thunderbolt and HDMI. But what makes the best purchase for you? Here’s what to look out for.
The first thing you want to look at is making sure that your UBC-C cable actually delivers on what it promises. For example, the figures we gave you earlier aren’t a guarantee. Many of the cheap cables out there give you slower transfer and 10Wh of power. So, for example, your USB C adapter may not be the best fit for your device, even if it’s technically compatible. This becomes a bigger issue for charging and trying to get display output through HDMI or DisplayPort. Even the cheapest cables will transfer data if that’s all you need, though maybe not as fast as you may have hoped. This is especially important for MacBook users. Apple was one of the first companies to embrace USB-C, but that doesn’t mean every USB-C cable you buy will have the same functionality as the one that came with their computer.
This can even cause bigger problems. For example, earlier in USB-C’s lifespan, some cheap vendors were making cables without proper resistors. This meant potentially damaging your devices if you plugged a device not meant for a USB-C’s added power.
The issue was originally illustrated when a Google Engineer bought various USB Type-C cables on Amazon and started to test them. He found that some of the specs on the cheaper options were far off what was advertised. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon when it comes to some Amazon third-party sellers. The biggest issue with this was when the resistor values were off, potentially affecting the operation of connected devices.
Note that this took place in 2015, so the issue isn’t as pronounced now as it once was. However, the engineer was only able to provide a solution for testing each cable for the Chromebook Pixel 2015, meaning there are a lot of computer and device owners who may not know whether or not their machines are safe.
There are also practical concerns when it comes to being too cheap with your cables. Length is a good example. Many people may still want to use their smartphones while they are charging, and if you have a cable that’s long enough, sitting down and relaxing on the couch doesn’t really feel like you’re losing anything at all. However, the last thing that you want to do is have a short cable that essentially either tethers you in an awkward position or leaves you phoneless for however long you want to charge.
Making The Right Choice
So, with this in mind, what should you be looking for if you need a USB C to USB connection or just any type of generic use? This depends. For one thing, you may be tempted to try and get the cheapest option you can find, but in general, you want to be careful about this. On average, we charge our USB-based devices roughly once a day or so, which means plenty of wear and tear. The key is making sure that you don’t spend too much in pursuit of that wear and tear.
If you’re trying to find a brand to work with, the easiest way to go is following the reviews and impressions, rather than trying to search by price. If you look for the cheapest option out there, a lot of the options that are going to pop up may be knock-off brands that either don’t last as long as you would expect or can pose other problems.
Naturally, the easiest way to avoid this problem is just buying directly from brand names you recognize, but if this isn’t an option, you can take a look at how many bends the cable can take. 7,000 to 10,000 is a good starting point, maybe going higher if you know you’re going to be bringing the cable around a lot.
In some cases, you may need options to make your existing USB devices and cables compatible, like a USB-C to USB cable. The good news is that these are relatively easy to find and inexpensive if you’re concerned about function more than aesthetics. Some options out there can be less than $20 and be up to 10 feet long. If you’re willing to upgrade, you can buy options that are thinner and better suited to avoid breaking apart.
Two of the biggest drivers in terms of price for USB-C cables are nylon braided exteriors and lifetime warranties. These can be useful when it comes to durability and IT settings, where managing hundreds of connections isn’t uncommon. Otherwise, though, you don’t need to pay the extra money.
When it comes to your USB Type-C cable, you want to strike that balance between the durable and the budget-friendly. This may sound like a tough ask at first, but generally, it just means working with names that you recognize. Ultimately, if you’re running a computer worth thousands of dollars, you don’t want to risk it or hamstring your use of it by buying a $10 cable. A durable option and proper care mean your data transfer and charging needs will be futureproof.
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