USB-C Setup


by

USB Terminology

Thunderbolt

Look, it’s complicated.

When you’re thinking about Thunderbolt in relation to USB-C, you’re probably thinking about Thunderbolt 3 specifically.

One quick thing about Thunderbolt 3 is that its speed is a function of the cable length. To hear StarTech.com tell it:

Is there a maximum cable length for Thunderbolt 3 technology?

Thunderbolt 3 passive cables have maximum lengths. We currently have the following passive Thunderbolt 3 copper cables:

  • 0.5m (1.65ft) TB 3 (40Gbps) USB-C Cable – Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Compatible
  • 1m (3.3ft) TB 3 (20Gbps) USB-C Cable – Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Compatible
  • 2m (6.6ft) TB 3 (20Gbps) USB-C Cable – Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Compatible

The maximum length of the cable refers to the maximum length at which the cables perform optimal speeds while also delivering other enabled features (power or video data). In the future we will offer active cables which will provide 40Gbps of bandwidth at longer lengths.

“Thunderbolt 3: The Basics”

Requirements

  • USB-C ×2
    1. computer
    2. (power)
  • USB-A ×3
    1. mouse
      • Could be replaced with wireless G900
    2. keyboard
    3. audio interface
  • HDMI/DisplayPort ×1
    • monitor1 (1080p60)

And of course, a USB-C port on your computer. If you don’t have a desktop computer with USB-C, you can get a PCI card on the cheap.

All these are plugged from their device into the hub. The computer (desktop or laptop) are then interchangeably connected to the hub via USB-C.

If connecting a computer to several devices with one cable sounds preposterous to you, check out Linus’s personal rig that uses Thunderbolt at the 10:47 mark in this video:

Plusses

  • USB 3.1 gen 2
  • Support for
    • Power delivery
    • Alternate Mode
    • Target disk mode
      • The USB-C Charge Cable (2m) supplied with your MacBook doesn’t support target disk mode.

  • Aesthetics—especially the front

Hubs

Arc Hub ($105)

  • USB-C ×2
  • USB-A ×2, not 3
  • HDMI 2.0 ×1
  • Mini DisplayPort 1.4 ×1
  • SD card slot ×1

Microsoft Display Dock ($99)

  • USB-C ×2
  • USB-A ×3
  • HDMI ×1
  • DisplayPort ×1

Microsoft is incredibly vague about the exact specs for its dumb hub. It’s possible it even only works with Lumia phones.

Plugable UD-CA1 ($129)

  • USB-C ×2
  • Power
  • USB-A ×4
  • HDMI ×1
  • Ethernet ×1
  • Line in ×1
  • Line out ×1

Shame about the look. Another caveat is that two of the USB-A ports are in the front, which means one of these three will be plugged into the front:

  • mouse
  • keyboard
  • audio interface

Not ideal, but maybe some aesthetic trick can be pulled.

Cables

TBD. But make sure to read this Google engineer’s review of the one you decide to get, before you pull the trigger. People sometimes make a website or spreadsheet for his reviews, but the problem is that updating stuff for free gets really boring eventually, and they stop doing it.

You may want to spring for a MagSafe-like cable, if you’re hooking up a laptop to your hub. Thinking about getting Griffin’s “BreakSafe” cable? Might not be a great idea.

Wirecutter article

The Wirecutter have written an article, “The Best USB-C Adapters, Cables, and Hubs to Connect Old Accessories to Your New Laptop”, with some info on USB-C accessories. It’s only good for people who need few ports, though—mainly USB to USB-C.

The state of USB-C by the end of 2017

I really like this [ExtremeTech article][et]:

Especially the compatibility chart from Wikipedia.

tl;dr: USB-C is a bit of a failure for reasons of cable price and irregular support and adoption.

  1. I have two monitors, but I only don’t plan on doing dual-monitor work on the laptop, so Monitor 2 is directly connected to the PC. ↩︎