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5 Cons of USB

Jun 01, 2023

USB-C connectors are great, but they're not without flaws.

USB Type-C is the latest in a long line of USB connectors, and it is the first to feature a symmetrical design that allows it to be plugged into devices in any direction. It includes several other improvements over its predecessors and, for all intents and purposes, may very well turn out to be the universal connector we've all been waiting for.

However, USB-C is not without its faults.

Although it has been around since 2014, users and industries still haven't completely adopted USB-C. Given the vast improvements it brings over older USB generations, one would expect it to have taken over and replaced other USB connectors by now. However, as of right now, that is not the case.

There are several reasons for this less-than-expected adoption rate, such as the increased price of USB-C devices, its lack of appeal to users who don't require its new features, and the confusion surrounding these types of connectors, which we will discuss later. But by far, the biggest reason is that people (and organizations) actively resist change and prefer to stick to what is tried and trusted.

Apple famously refused to include a USB-C charging port on their iPhone models for a long time, and some midrange phones still come with Micro-USB ports. And although USB-C connectors are easier to find these days, the technology still seems to have a long way to go in terms of affordability and clarity about its features.

Since USB-C merely defines the connector type and not the actual protocol (for example, USB-C and USB4, where USB-C is the connector and USB4 is the protocol), it is hard to tell what you are getting without carefully looking at the spec sheet. Some cables can only charge devices, while others can also transfer data.

This lack of a standard on what USB-C can do makes it all a bit confusing, and it's further complicated by the fact that USB-C is capable of so much. This includes data transfer rates as high as 80Gbps, power delivery of up to 240W, not to mention several alternate modes. Check out our list of USB-C unique features to learn more about what the interface offers.

It is important to read the specifications carefully before buying to ensure that a USB-C cable can take advantage of all the features your device offers.

This is not a problem with the USB-C standard itself but an issue that pops up when manufacturers are careless or cut corners to make more profit.

It is easy to find reports of users with damaged or fried devices damaged after plugging in a USB-C cable. One example is that of Google engineer Benson Leung, whose Chromebook Pixel stopped working after he connected a USB-C cable purchased from Amazon.

This issue specifically occurs with USB-A-to-USB-C cables, that is, cables with a USB-A connector (the older, larger connector most computers used before USB-C came along) and a USB-C connector on opposite ends.

USB-A-to-C cables are meant to have an internal 56k ohm resistor that regulates the amount of power they can draw. When this resistor is absent, the cable will pull too much power from the device it is plugged into and may damage internal components.

Similarly, it is possible to find USB-C devices that will only charge via USB C-to-A cables and refuse to be powered by C-to-C cables. This problem commonly affects low-end USB-C products and is caused by manufacturers implementing the USB-C spec poorly, leaving out certain resistors necessary for C-to-C charging. In this case, the USB-C cable cannot tell if it is meant to supply power to the device due to the absence of the CC1 and CC2 5.1k ohm resistors.

It is worth noting that USB-C itself is designed to be safe, and any problems that pop up during usage are likely to be a manufacturer's fault. It is, therefore, a good idea to stick to buying your cables, USB-C or otherwise, from reputable manufacturers. USB-C Compliant is a great place to check USB-C compliant cables.

As mentioned earlier, USB-C cables and devices tend to cost more money than those from older generations. A fully featured USB-C cable can be sold for as much as three times the price of a typical USB-A cable. For example, this fully-featured USB-C to USB-C cable from HUION costs about $30, while this Amazon Basics Micro USB to USB-A 3.0 Charger Cable is only $7.

USB-C is also more expensive than the technologies it seeks to replace, such as DisplayPort and HDMI. You can expect to spend more money on a USB-C display than a comparative HDMI monitor. A good example is the Dell USB-C UltraHD 27-inch monitor priced at $382, about $100 more expensive than a DisplayPort/HDMI display with similar features, such as this 4K Spectre 27-inch monitor.

The reason for this is twofold. USB-C is still in relative infancy, and its adoption is still increasing. Also, due to the advances in technology it offers, USB-C is more expensive to implement than its predecessors—just a USB-C port alone is more expensive than a USB-A or MicroUSB.

USB-C connectors are more difficult to clean than older USB generations. Due to their smaller size and more complex shape, getting dirt and debris out of a USB-C port safely without damaging the connector's pins can be tricky.

Follow the steps described below to clean your USB-C ports.

If you are dealing with a wet USB-C port instead, read our six tips for quickly drying it out.

Just like any other technology, USB-C has its own demerits. Some of these flaws are due to its relative newness, while others are necessary compromises to make the interface possible. Regardless, the benefits USB-C offers overshadow these demerits and make it clear to see that this is one connector that isn't going away anything soon.

Tomisin is a staff writer at MUO with a penchant for breaking down complex topics into easily digestible bits. He first started writing reviews of phones and gadgets in 2016 and loves reading spec sheets and tinkering with new technology.Currently, he writes about DIY tech for MakeUseOf and looks forward to expanding his horizons.