Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
USB-C was supposed to simplify our lives, but instead it’s a total mess (debugger.medium.com)
590 points by gozzoo 56 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 605 comments

Really? I find it to be a game changer for me.

The fact that my laptop, Switch, iPad, and several other devices can all share a charge has made my life much easier. I can just sprinkle a few of them throughout the house and never be without power. Before it was always a hunt to find a cable, or I had to be in [x] room to charge [y] device because that's where the charger lived.

Plus, I can charge my MacBook on either side, so that's basically life changing on its own. :)

Aha - you may find that your Switch CANNOT in fact share a charge - Nintendo's port is not necessarily safe to use with anything but its supplied charger. And I've just learned this lesson with a $60 bill from Nintendo repair after the port went pop and couldn't charge the device. I only have reputable chargers in the house from Apple and one from Anker aside from the Nintendo's own.

All my apple kit works fine off the Apple chargers, but I do have an external hard drive that has mixed Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 ports, which are absolutely not the same.

I love the port, but the standard just hasn't caught up and when a company like Nintendo flouts it anyway, you have a big problem.

I charge my Switch with various USB PD chargers (mostly Anker but also Apple, Google and others) and haven't had a problem so far.

I was trying to find some information about what would cause PD-compliant chargers to fry the Switch. It appears that while the switch is PD-compliant itself, they used a slightly non-standard connector that reduces tolerances and could, in some situations (most likely worn cables) cause some pins to electrically bridge and fry the port.

To be honest, this doesn't seem like an issue with USB C, just Nintendo intentionally implementing it wrong. They should have either used a proprietary port for the docking mechanism rather than modifying USB C in an unsafe way then saying only to use their proprietary charger.

I don't actually own a Switch, but my partner and I both charge our laptops (mine a Dell XPS, hers a MacBook) from the same after-market USB-C charging bricks. I don't love that it's like this, but basically the product page just lists every known-to-work device, including Nintendo Switch:


Now, I'm a cheapskate, so most of my electronics are older devices, and as a consequence we still also have various other cables kicking around— Lightning for both our iPhones and wireless earbuds, Micro USB for Kindle and PS4 controllers, even Mini USB for a few random devices.

But as far as USB-C, I would attribute the current mess to growing pains. For a few more years, charger pages will explicit list the products they work with, and eventually it will settle down to a list of must-work-with products for all chargers, and any new products with be tested to ensure that they work in the same ways as one or more of the items on that list of known-working products. Didn't HDMI have pretty much this exact issue with EDID and other chaos, until everyone basically agreed that whatever Sony was doing was the right thing and they'd copy them?

The main losers here are people trying to do new ground-up implementations, since they can't just work from the standard; they also need expensive consultants to tell them the precise subset of the standard is the actual part they can depend on. But for end users, the trend is toward an overall state of reasonable compatibility, with non-working devices quickly acquiring a reputation as such and being shunned out of the marketplace.

Word of warning, for those reading this far:

The Switch and Switch Dock are not USB-C devices. That you’re able to plug in a USB-C charger or USB-C device and see it supposedly work just means that you haven’t yet encountered the scenario(s) that can electronically damage the Switch. Nintendo’s warranty does not cover this damage when it occurs, requiring a full-cost repair or replacement as you connected unlicensed and unauthorized hardware to it.

The Brick-Gate issue, where many switches where bricked, was not an issue with generic chargers, but specifically 3rd party docks. And, as it turns out, the issue in that case wasn't on the switch side, but the manufacturers of the 3rd party docks, that used 9v on a normal signal pin (cc) [very much not spec compliant], which destroyed the pd chip inside the switch: https://hackaday.com/2019/08/04/the-not-quite-usb-c-of-ninte.... There have been few -if any- reports of switches being destroyed otherwise.

This is really good to hear. I hadn't heard this follow up and besides joysticks (going back to the n64 era) Nintendo's traditionally had an insanely good hardware QA so I was surprised to hear about the issues initially.

That is excellent news!

How are there multiple people here in the thread that say that the port on the Switch is not a USB-C port, when it says so in the official specs _right on their website_? https://www.nintendo.com/switch/tech-specs

Probably a corruption of the fact that the protocol to get HDMI out of the Switch is a proprietary alt-mode, which is why standard docks and USB-C to HDMI adapters don't work. But USB-PD chargers are very much intended to work.

The docks that do work generally reversed-engineered the proprietary protocol, and some have damaged Switches because they got details wrong.

The protocol to get video-out isn’t proprietary, just rare —they’re using Mobility DisplayPort from the Switch, and converting DP to HDMI in the dock.

Of course, had they used the native HDMI side-channel (which I’m not sure had been finalized at the time), they would have been able to skip this step.

I think I'm wrong, honestly, given the two replies to my two comments on the matter. It's too late to edit them but I am upvoting those replies anyways!

I do think there's still the matter of "Not all USB-PD adapters provide the specific electrical demands of a Switch or Switch Dock" to contend with — and that does tie back to the original article's point about USB-C being kind of a nightmare.

EDIT: There are still reports of someone frying a Switch with an Apple USB-C power adapter (which is USB-C compliant), no dock or anything involved. Whatever else does or doesn't work, Nintendo won't cover damage under warranty if you used a third-party charger.

The port is USB-C but the power and data follow a custom protocol.

I would assume that you are not allowed to call it USB-C if you don't pass the USB compliance process, which I would hope ensures that the protocol is implemented according to standard.

They're not but the tech specs have the words USB-C right there. https://www.nintendo.com/switch/tech-specs/

It is very annoying.

I wish there were legal protections around this. Using a standard plug means it should accept the standard for that plug.


USB-PD is in a twilight zone where it can deliver enough power to cause safety risks but, due to its low voltage, is not subject to the level of regulatory scrutiny that other electrical products receive.

To date, the USB-IF's approach to safety and interoperability does not adequately protect consumers. USB-PD devices should not be incompatible to the point of damage but USB-IF has been unable to ensure this by keeping non-compliant products off the market.

USB-PD needs to be pulled under the IEC, NRTL (US) and CE (EU) regulatory systems and compliance overseen by entities with the legal authority to deter legitimate manufacturers/importers from selling non-compliant products.

"You can plug it in, but it might catch fire" just isn't good enough for a power delivery system that can provide 100W.

Yeah anything that can drop 100W into a device absolutely needs to be under regulatory compliance.

100W really isn’t that much power comparatively speaking to things that are currently regulated. The issue is the specific circumstances (tiny copper traces feeding into SMT components), not the fact that it’s 100W of power alone.

It depends, though. In all likelihood it would end up thrown back on the consumer— "Did you use a licensed/approved/certified charger? Sounds like you need to take this up with whoever made the charger that fried our product."

It might help resolve certain really common cases like compatibility between the chargers and devices of the mainstream entities. I guess I'd argue that that should be happening on its own, but Nintendo definitely dropped the ball with releasing a USB-C product in 2017 that was interoperable with Apple and other name-brand chargers which had been in existence for two years previously at that point.

The chargers that use standard plugs should also be made to support the standard or they should be held legally responsible.

In this particular case I think even well-known name brand chargers which follow standards (Apple, Anker) are breaking the Nintendo, and that's unacceptable.

Nintendo’s Switch plug happens to physically and electrically seem to accept USB-C charger connectors, but it’s not a USB-C plug, and the Switch should not be considered compatible just because it uses a similar plug.

Nintendo should have taken more steps with their charger to restrict the Switch to authorized chargers only, rather than permitting unsupported chargers (such as standard USB-C ones) from being able to power it. Or even just outright used a proprietary connector!

None of this is any fault of the chargers. They’re the ones adhering to the standards correctly. The Switch is at fault.

All (or most) of the reports of switches being bricked stem for 3rd party docks, where the dock is at fault and using 9v for signal pins, see https://hackaday.com/2019/08/04/the-not-quite-usb-c-of-ninte...

Whether or not this is the case, Nintendo makes it very clear in their warranty that using an unauthorized charger is not covered. They definitely did not intend for it to be a universal port.

And in a year or two I expect that clause will be found to be unreasonable by the ACCC (Australian consumer protection body) and Nintendo will end up getting fined for it.

Their website says that it uses USB-C for charging and the charging port accepts stock USB-C cables, it's not even remotely reasonable to bury within the warranty a statement which says "oh, by the way the device cannot accept USB-C cables -- if you use a made-to-spec cable that fits in the port, no warranty for you!".

The problem is that most consumers don’t read those warnings. And the “reasonable person” would assume that any USB-C cable would work if the USB-C-like receptacle mates with their USB-C cable.

Why would nintendo warranty try to cover scenarios entirely out of their hands? Just because the other guy claims they've produced a usb-c charger doesnt mean they actually did it correctly (which is apparently the case with these docks)

If you shove 9V into a 5V device, bad things will happen, regardless of Nintendo is anti-standard or not

Nintendo say that for all their devices, even the ones that use Nintendo-specific connectors.

I bricked a switch using my macbook charger. It's poor design in the switch to accept a USB cable that can potentially zap the device.

You should look for a lawyer who would take it on contingency and sue. Sounds like a great class action. You often get more money as a class representative rather than just a class member.

They put USB-C on the box. They screwed up the design. They should be forced to have a recall, or extend the warranty.

> the Switch should not be considered compatible just because it uses a similar plug

Imagine you go to a hotel and see an USB A port on the wall and you try to charge your phone, then your phone starts to smoke or simply ignites. You find later that port was not a standard USB A port, but a 220 volt plug for something custom. Should the hotel be responsible for that? I think it should. If it looks like a duck ...

All of this just underscores what a terrible standard USB-C is. You have no idea what's what anymore by looking at it. Everything seems to fit together, but if you do it, you damage your devices.

It would have been better if they'd launched another dozen different plug standards. In situations when there's only one thing you should be connecting to your device, that's the way to go. Universal sockets only make sense if they're actually universal.

All of this just underscores what a terrible standard USB-C is.

Nothing above seems related to the standard. At the end of the day, its still comes down to the manufacturers to follow the standard in order for everything to to work. But the standard itself can't stop any particular manufacturer from making a non-compliant product.

It's a bad standard if shorting adjacent pins fries equipment. That the people created a standard like that means they aren't competent to create these sort of standards.

There are trademarks on the USB logos, so the USB consortium not enforcing their trademark on standards violators (using their logo) is something they could do, but don’t.

That is not the case. The current reports, as far as I've seen, have all (or at least mostly) been from 3rd party docks where pins on the dock side were bridged and shorted the charger, frying the Switch's port.

Edit: A poster below this question said they fried their Switch by using their Macbook charger so I may have been naively optimistic in my original statement.

I would rather like it if USB standards had better names and a definition of a "safety score" then device manufacturers have to advertise a minimum supported score (for devices) and a minimum guaranteed score (for chargers).

Nintendo is following the protocol. They’re using an officially supported alternate mode.

I wish the same about people who sell adapters for plugging 15A electrical devices into 25A electrical outlets.

Sadly, the legal burden is placed exclusively on the buyer (via electrical code).

Why does it matter if you plug 15amp device into a 25amp oulet? Surely It will only use 15amps unless it short circuits?

It matters if it short circuits, yes. (Electricians, I hope I got this right enough to convey the 'why'; I know it won't be perfect.)

The outlet plugs specify the circuit breaker limit. Most consumer electronics in the US use a 15amp plug, which can be plugged into a 15amp outlet or a 20amp outlet — but no higher, due to physical incompatibilities in the outlet design.

The electronics that use the 15amp or 20amp plugs are therefore built not only to draw no more than the amps rated by their plugs, but also to self-destruct relatively safely if they draw the maximum amps available from the circuit breaker backing that plug.

So if a cheap device correctly assumes as part of its "don't explode" protections that it will never receive more than 20amps due to using a 15-or-20 amp plug, and then it short circuits while plugged into a 25 amp circuit using an adapter, it could very well explode, because the basic guarantees of electrical safety were violated. The plug used guaranteed it would never receive more than 20amp, and now it's receiving 25!

This is especially relevant when you're considering how to make use of an idle 30A dryer outlet in a garage. If you just plug an adapter into it, and your device short circuits, it will explode even more violently. Risk of harm increases with outlet power.

There exist fancy "breaker box" adapters that have a 30A plug on one side, a fuse box with a 15A or 20A fuse in the middle, and a 15A outlet on the other side for you to use. It's not really an adapter at that point, but the presence of that 15A/20A fuse provides the missing piece of protection for your 15A/20A device that a plain adapter wouldn't have.

So in summary, the only way to safely use a 15amp device on an outlet that delivers power higher than 15-20A is to somehow inline a 15-20A breaker between the device and the outlet (or, to rewire the outlet and its power feed to 15-20A).

TL;DR: Hire a licensed electrician to tell you what your options are and decide how much you care to spend and whether you want to make permanent modifications to get the job done.

This isn't really correct though and gives a false sense of security. The house breakers are sized for the wires in the wall, not the device plugged in. Those should have their own internal fuses to protect themselves.

Most lamp cords are only sized 100ish Watts or ~ 1A with the bulb being the only fuse. If these somehow pulled 15A for any amount of time the wire would quickly get smoking hot but you still plug them into a 15A plug.

Devices are supposed to protect themselves. Most 15A devices will cause fires if they actually pull 15A for any amount of time. If you try to use a a small extension cord on your space heater, you will soon be smelling burnt plastic while never getting over 15A draw. That is part of why these are such a fire hazard.

Alos in the US a 20A socket is designed to allow a 15A plug to work in it, But not the opposite way as that would cause issues in the wall.

Right, it's even more complicated. Such breakers also don't trigger at specified current exactly. They have two breakers inside of them, one for overload protection triggering once it heats up, could be an hour for 2x current if starts cold, and one for short circuit protection triggering in less than a second, but on 3x+, 5x+ currents, etc. So a 15A breaker, a 15A outlet and a cable for 15A all could easily see 30A of current for some periods of time and heat up.

I actually used to calibrate and QC high end breakers for a well know company who's name is a letter and a shape. To pass QC the breakers would need to heat trip when run at 135% Amps between roughly 20-45 minutes. Both too fast and too slow were a failure.

The actual range was a bit different by Ampage which I never quite understood.

Any device that becomes significantly more dangerous when the breaker trips at 25 instead of 20 amps is relying on way too thin of a safety margin and I would consider it a lurking hazard on any circuit.

That is not how safety margins work. Safety margins are meant to give a buffer for unforeseen circumstances, they are not a ticket to just cheat. With this logic... why stop at a 25A breaker (30 in the US)? Why not just plug a 20A device into a 100A breaker, or no breaker at all?

No safety margin can account for purposeful circumvention, which is what connecting a 15/20A outlet to a 30A circuit is.

You see no difference between 20 vs. 25 amps and 20 vs. 100?

I didn't say any difference was unacceptable, but a significant difference for 20/25 should not be accepted.

If the danger gets gradually worse for every 5 amps on the fuse, that's fine. Then the excess danger at 25 or 30 amps is only a tiny fraction of the excess danger at 100 amps. Good work.

If the danger has a sudden sharp increase at a certain amperage, then that amperage threshold needs to be further away than a mere 20/25 difference. Or even 20/30.

You can’t “oversupply” electrical current(Amps), only voltages(Volts). Current is drawn and determined by Ohm’s law.

It matters in the case of a malfunctioning device, as others have pointed out. If you're going to have an adapter than a allows a 15A device (which would normally only need to fail safely in the presence of 15A, or perhaps a very brief lighting surge) into a plug that can supply 25 or 30A, the adapter should almost certainly contain its own 15A fuse.

The reverse of this is plugging big loads like power tools or vacuum cleaners into extension cords intended for use with desk lamps, but I think most people understand that that's a bad idea.

I don't see how such a product would be useful for anyone. At least in USA, anywhere a 25A circuit is available, a 15A circuit is also available. The converse (using a 25A device on a 15A circuit) would be useful, but also wouldn't be dangerous in any way.

Looking at us (NEMA) plugs, there's plugs for 15A, 20A, 30A, and 50A. I'm going to assume everyone means 30A instead of 25A.

Generally, where there's a 30A circuit, a 15A circuit is also available, but there are exceptions. You may have wired a RV hookup with only a 30A receptacle, but you want to run some lights, or tools or ? with a 15A plug from that on a temporary basis. The circuit is (presumably) good for 30A, so adapting to a lower amp receptacle is reasonable --- it won't hurt anything to draw fewer amps through the circuit.

Adapting from a 15A socket to a 30A socket can be dangerous; the 15A or 20A[1] breaker or fuse on the circuit won't immediately open with a 30A draw, and the wiring will heat up during the time it takes for the circuit protection to open; possibly long enough to cause a fire. Of course, just because a load has a 30A plug doesn't mean it draws 30A all the time, there are conditions where using such an adapter is safe, but it requires knowledge of the load.

[1] US NEC code allows for a 20A breaker on circuits served by 15A receptacle, as long as there is more than one receptacle

If the 15A device fails short, it's going to get a much bigger load between failure and the breaker tripping on a 30A breaker than a 15A one.

> The Switch and Switch Dock are not USB-C devices.

Why? Why was it so hard for them to implement USB-C the proper way? Why were they allowed (and why did they want) to use patented USB-C plugs if they didn't want to actually implement USB-C? The only explanation I can come up with is they intended to earn money from repairing.

Simpler than that - they don't want others to produce Switch-compliant accessories which compete with their own.

Why use a standard connector then? Why not use a proprietary one? The USB-C connector itself is far from perfect and I can see no reason to use it if actual compatibility is not what you seek.

Because with a standard connector they could use existing cheap suppliers for that part? And apparently one that was too cheap to properly implement the standard.

Why choose the USB-C connector standard then? There are many alternatives which can be cheaper, better and less confusing this way.

I have been using Switch in both docked and handheld mode with my Thinkpad charger without any issues. Maybe I am the lucky one.

I thought it wasn't USB compliant, based on this google plus post[1] and hacker news discussion [2]

If it is true that third party charging devices is fine, then that is great news.

[1] https://plus.google.com/102612254593917101378/posts/2CUPZ5yV...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16706803

Archive link because Google Plus is dead: http://web.archive.org/web/20180330003039/https://plus.googl...

what about the switch pro controller? I'll sometimes charge it on whatever usb-c cable is nearby when I'm gaming and the controller starts to die. Is that OK?

The pro controller doesn't use PD, so there's very little risk to destroy anything with a somewhat compliant charger. (There are some out there that repurpose normal USB-A for higher voltages, but they're very rare)

I am also a cheapskate but afraid of using noname power supplies and have been very happy with the HP charger that works on all my devices including a Macbook: https://www.amazon.ca/HP-3PN48UT-USB-C-Slim-Elitebook/dp/B07... It even includes a handy USB-A port for non-USB-C cables.

I found that Switch cannot use Apple's charger with the dock. It literally complains about the cable being wrong.

The dock is a special case and requires some specific voltage/amperage support. But the switch itself abides by EU regulations.

Yeah, there's always a "special case" with USB-C, isn't there.

65W Apple charger.... My Lenovo 65W USB-C charger had no issues at all.

The Switch dock requires the 15V PD profile, which the (old) 61W adapter from 2016 did not support, but the newer 61W adapter from 2018 does.

A USB-C PD brink specifies which voltage and amp combos it supports charging, and the one that the dock & switch ask for as their 'optimal' power profiles most apple USB-C bricks do not deliver, despite having the wattage capability for them.

There's this third party portable dock that can help


Which of Apple’s chargers? Each of them has different power capabilities.

That's a slightly different problem. Charging the device vs the dock working. I almost never used the dock, but I charge my device all the time with other USB-C cables.

The Switch is absolutely not PD compliant.


> It appears that while the switch is PD-compliant itself, they used a slightly non-standard connector that reduces tolerances and could, in some situations (most likely worn cables) cause some pins to electrically bridge and fry the port.

I'm pretty sure that's the dock that has a slightly nonstandard plug, not the switch itself.

From my research a few years ago, this is caused by the Switch asking the charger for 20V, but it actually expects 15V. The Nintendo charger obeys this hidden rule, but any other charger will happily provide 20V. I think the difference between a 20V and 15V charge isn't significant enough to blow the Switch up the first time you use it, but, over time it will blow up.

If this is really the case Nintendo is vulnerable to a class action lawsuit. Any lawyers want to take the case?

You purchase the switch with a provided charger. If that charger caused issues, then there's potentially a suit. It's not obvious that you'd say the same thing if they used a proprietary port like what the 3DS uses.

No, I purchase a device with a Universal charger port and a universal charger. If the device doesn't work with any other universal charger that is their problem. Likewise if I use their charger on something else and it breaks my other device that is their problem.

The purpose of universal is everything works with everything. whoever breaks that is at fault and should pay the price. If Nintendo has used some other port I wouldn't have the expectation, but they used a universal port so they need to be compatible.

Nintendo clearly states on Switch specs page that the Switch dock has a "AC adapter port". Just because it uses a connector that physically looks like USB Type-C does not mean it's actually a USB type C port.

It should be considered the same, because for all practical purposes, that's how the end users treat it - and it's not unreasonable on their behalf. If Nintendo wants a proprietary charger, they're welcome to use a proprietary port. But standards exist for a reason, and diluting them like that should be heavily regulated.

While they don't explicitly claim USB-C compatibility, creating a USB-C shaped port seems like a pretty clear representation that the dock is USB-C compatible.

They claim it's USB-C on the website: https://www.nintendo.com/switch/tech-specs/

It says on the website USB-C for charging.


Is this a purposefully-engineered flaw to reduce confidence in 3rd party chargers?

More like Gen 1 Switch hardware was designed too early in USB-C era.

It’ll probably be fixed in future generations but Nintendo decided not to make design changes for Gen 1 and Gen 2 Switch to fully comply with USB-C PD specs.

The timeline here doesn’t jive. The Pixel C came out in 2015 with a USB-C port using the same SoC as the Switch (2017). Nintendo’s non-compliance is intentional.

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence. Nintendo has a long history of proprietary plugs, if they wanted to make something proprietary, they would have just done it and nobody would bat an eye, they wouldn't bother making a slightly buggy USB-C implementation.

Do you also think that the Raspberry Pi 4 USB-C incompatibility is intentional? That came out waaay later

This is assuming Nintendo is incompetent. They have been making toys for 100 years and have been consistent pioneers in consumer electronics. They are no stranger to proprietary connectors. They opted to not develop one this time because it was seen as an unnecessary cost. Instead they took the parts of a well developed standard they liked and cut the corners they wanted to cut. They would have had a harder time finding an OTS non-compliant solution than an OTS compliant one. Playing by the standard cost too much. The only narrative here is “Nintendo sees no one is watching the cookie jar and takes from it. They prefer to be the only one with cookies anyway and don’t see the benefit of a communal jar.”, not “Nintendo don’t know what they’re doing”.

Only useful if incompetence is punished equally, otherwise every malicious actor plays dumb.

If that would've been the goal, why would they have made the device with a USB-C port in the first place (rather than a proprietary port)?

I would love to read more about this, but are you sure that's right?

I know the switch gets the spec wrong in a few places, but there is only one thing I have heard about that causes damage, and that is knockoff chargers that grossly overvolt the data pin used for power negotiation.

A device designed for 15V has some headroom. Probably 20V. It will fail immediately or it won't. The only potential variable is that your power supply is suddenly spiking to 21V or even more after prolonged use and that's what's destroying the Switch. There aren't many electronics components with a rated lifespan. Electrolytic capacitors are the most prominent ones and are easy to replace.

This is really interesting, do you remember where you read this, or have a writeup somewhere? I'm curious as to whether the Mariko/Switch Lite variants have the same problem.

I think it's fine to point out the Thunderbolt mess, or the PD vs non-PD devices (although non-PD is becoming exceedingly rare as far as I can tell at least for "larger" devices), but using the Nintendo Switch seems like a bad example in my opinion, since it explicitly does not follow all USB standards, especially in fact on charging.

Why ? You have the same plug but it's not actually compatible - this to me is a good example of confusion - I would be the first to assume you can charge it with whatever USB-C power cable available and not bother checking the docs.

It seems like a deliberate effort on Nintendo's part to cause chaos. They could've done the same thing with any other standard, including micro USB. They made it just different enough that it's dangerous to use third-party peripherals.

No it looks honestly like a mistake and then not caring for standard compatibility.

Else we wouldn't be in a situation where most (all?) Laptop USB-C PD chargers work without problems with the switch.

Indeed, and then when you check the specs, it says USB-C!


I was not pleased with it being an outside warranty issue, but I paid up just to get the thing fixed and back.

File a small-claims court suit, they probably won't even bother showing up and will just pay it.

If there's any company that's going to take absolutely every opportunity to continue with legal proceedings against the general populace even when they're clearly in the wrong... well, it's Disney, but Nintendo's probably a close second.

Fair point, lot of hassle for fifty quid, though.

Because it could have happened just as well with any other plug. It could have been a non-conforming micro-USB charging port.

Either way, it would have nothing to do with “the mess that is USB-C” (i.e. the inability to identify which of the various wire protocols that work over USB-C cables that a USB-C port follows/supports), because such a port isn’t following any of the USB-C-cable compatible standards.

It’d be like saying Nintendo hurt the mini-DVD format when they used non-compatible mini-DVDs in the GameCube. Those discs have nothing to do with the mini-DVD standard; they just happen to share a physical substrate and so a physical appearance. They’re not claiming to be mini-DVDs.

And nor does Nintendo claim the Switch’s charging port to be a USB-C port. In all the docs, it specifically says that it’s just a port for the Dock or the Switch AC charger to plug into. It just happens to share a form-factor.

Do you remember the days when every connector looked like a DB9 connector with only some of the pins populated? (E.g. the various game-controller ports on the Atari, Commodore, Amiga, etc.) Or later, when every connector looked like a PS/2 port, with only some of the pins populated (e.g. Apple Desktop Bus)? None of these were claiming to be the same type of cable or jack or socket. None of them were claiming cross-compatibility. They all just happened to share the same physical connector—because it was a cheap and plentiful, easy-to-source part to build your own proprietary cables and jacks and sockets in terms of.

Heck, do you know how many random different types of cables are terminated with TRS or RCA connectors? Would you blame your hairdryer for “destroying the audio ecosystem” because its wall-charger is terminated in an RCA jack, and you could theoretically plug said RCA jack into an iPod (probably frying it in the process)?

The outlier in all this isn’t USB-C, but rather the previous USB physical-connector standards. Pretty much nobody used those for anything other than USB devices. Probably because the connectors were 1. expensive as parts, and therefore not really worth using in your own project unless you specifically were trying to be a part of the USB ecosystem; and 2. weren’t designed to be physically capable of meeting the current-draw requirements that proprietary cabling standards would want to place on them.

In being both cheap and capable of high current delivery, USB-C connectors are just bringing us back from the temporary reprieve of USB-A/B, to the world of the 100 years before that, where a physical connector tells you nothing about what type of cable you’ve got, because every fly-by-night company uses any random connector for whatever they like.

You know how USB jacks and sockets had the USB icon on them? That was because the USB Consortium assumed people would do random things with the USB connector standard; and so the icon was meant to distinguish the USB connector as applied to a USB use-case. It never really became relevant in USB-A/B, but it’s actually relevant now in USB-C. That icon is what tells; not the shape of the socket.

Back in the 80s, I had a device that was powered by a 3.5 connector. This same device had another two 3.5 connectors for the headphones and microphones.

Somehow, I got through that time without ever having plugged the power into the microphone socket. I am not that careful.

We have a Lenovo Yoga laptop, the power and headphone sockets are about the same diameter and next to one another. Thankfully mis-plugging hasn't caused any negative hardware issues, just occasional bewilderment.

>Because it could have happened just as well with any other plug. It could have been a non-conforming micro-USB charging port.

But if you have a standard aren't you supposed to enforce stuff like this ? Precisely to avoid the confusion and protect your standard.

The USB Consortium’s licensing strategy is to restrict what people can label with the USB logo, by holding trademark over that logo. You then have to work out an arrangement with them, in order for your hardware to proclaim itself as USB-compatible by using the logo. This is their “in” to ensure you’re doing USB correctly.

The Nintendo charging port is not labelled with a USB logo. It’s fundamentally not a USB-C port. It doesn’t make any claim to obey any standard. The USB Consortium was not involved; nor do they have a legal right to get involved, if Nintendo has no interest in putting that USB logo on their product.

Interestingly (to me), this seems to be a central point in Nintendo’s business model: they don’t do licensing fees, if they can at-all help it. They’re willing to break compatibility with some standard, if that’s what it takes to avoid having to pay someone a fee for every unit sold. That’s not exactly why the GameCube’s discs aren’t mini-DVDs (that’s more a DRM thing); but it is why none of their peripherals so far have had a Bluetooth logo on them, despite being in essence Bluetooth peripherals (but ones that sit in a separate Bluetooth “namespace” such that you need a customized Bluetooth driver to talk to them; presumably because putting those devices into the regular Bluetooth namespace would involve doing something that infringes on the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s IP.) It’s also, way back when, why Nintendo dropped the deal with Sony to make the Nintendo PlayStation — they didn’t want to have to pay the licensing fees for printing CD-ROMs!

Interestingly in the UK, Nintendo _explicitly_ label it as a USB-C port. I'm not sure if they do or not elsewhere, but they definitely claim it's a USB-C port 'for AC charging' over here.


Alright, I guess I was wrong above; it certain is a "USB-C connector port." In fact, I would even say that it is a "USB port" (although they can't say that for licensing reasons.) Nintendo seem to expect and encourage you to plug USB-C peripherals into said port (e.g. any random USB game controller.) Nintendo will support such configurations just fine. You're not voiding your warranty by doing that.

What the port isn't, is a USB certified port. USB certification guarantees that it'll be safe to plug any USB-certified thing into any other USB-certified thing. Without that certification, the device isn't guaranteeing its ability to handle weird things that other USB devices might do—like sending it lots of current without doing a specific proprietary negotiation first.

It's a bit like FCC certification for "accepting radio interference." Devices that have it, are guaranteed to not melt down/throw sparks if you bring them close to e.g. HV power lines, or a radio tower. Devices that don't have it, aren't guaranteed to not do that. They might or they might not; but they weren't required to be tested to find out if they would.

But unlike FCC certification, where it's illegal to sell something in the US containing an antenna if it's not FCC certified, it's entirely legal to produce and market a device that has USB connectors, but isn't USB certified. There's nothing stopping companies from doing it—other than the expectation that consumers might care about the USB logo being on the product. If a company thinks consumers won't care about that in their case, they have no reason to bother.

(That's not to say Nintendo shouldn't have made their product fail safe under out-of-tolerance conditions from other USB devices anyway. It would just be good engineering to do that, even if you don't want to pay the licensing fee. But they didn't think to test for those conditions—likely because the USB Consortium wasn't invited to come breathe down their necks reminding them about things like that.)

I think there's very good justification for pulling USB-PD under the NRTLs and CE, so that non-compliant products are illegal to sell.

Compliance enforcement didn't matter much when USB was just data and low-wattage electricity, but USB-PD provides enough power to be hazardous. That risk is not currently being effectively managed.

"Buyer beware" isn't an adequate solution to avoiding device damage or cables catching fire.

That to me, is the key boundary being crossed, like enough to merit a large-class action award for any damages sustained anywhere by anyone who plugged a USB-C device into the port.

I do think there's something to be said for liability for creating a port that is so similar to USB-C, but also causing damage, akin to copyright laws, based on consumer confusion. I.e., if a reasonable person might think it is a variant of USB-C, and USB devices seem to work for long periods of time without apparent damage, then Nintendo is liable by virtue of resulting damage to the consumer's property (not to the USB organization). There's a certain liability for negligence in that case. But I could also see reasonable arguments that if Nintendo were explicitly saying it is not a USB port, that they shouldn't be liable (I don't agree but see it as a reasonable argument).

But if Nintendo is advertising it in anyway like that, they should be held liable. I just don't see a reasonable argument for why that wouldn't be the case. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

We don't really have class-actions in UK but under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA replaced the well known Sale of Goods Act) there's no time limit on when you can get manufacturing defects fixed so warranty repairs should be free (although you might also accept a brand new replacement and pay a little to cover the wear on your original).

In the EU there's an automatic 2 year replacement warranty on electronics too.

That seems like a bit of a grey area. I'm sure most people would assume that means it's a USB compatible port, but I'm also sure they would argue that they didn't explicitly state it to be a USB port, just a USB Type-C connector for use with the AC adapter or Switch dock.

Don't they have IP rights over port design ?

If they do, they don’t enforce them.

Which makes sense to me, because “licensing the port design” would involve trying to extract money from the wrong people — it would target the bulk parts manufacturers producing the USB-C connectors. Those parts manufacturers would have to pay per connector-part produced in such a scheme. Those businesses 1. operate on razor-thin margins such that there’s no margin to extract there, and 2. don’t have nearly the tight logistics pipelines that consumer-electronics companies do, so there’d likely be huge bins of USB-C connectors laying around awaiting an order, where they’d have to eat the licensing fees in advance of receiving payment for the parts (which puts a big hole in their cashflow.)

Much better to go after the high-margin device manufacturers and OEM integrators. But you can’t really pursue them for infringing on the part; they didn’t make it, they just bought it. They’d tell you to go chase the people they bought it from. (And, as said above, you don’t want to do that.) Instead, you have to pursue them for something they’re doing. Such as adding the USB logo to their product.

“Enforce” how?

I can’t imagine the headlines if the USB consortium tried to enforce a restriction on the shapes of products people are allowed to create.

Remember when people were mad about Apple patenting rounded corners? This would be as bad.

There's a middle ground between Apple's rounded corner land grab and allowing non-compliant electrical devices that can cause property damage.

Consider the situation with standard NEMA 5-15R receptacles. As far as I'm aware, the design is not legally protected, but any manufacturer who made a '5-15R' receptacle that couldn't carry 15A--or any device manufacturer who decided to re-purpose the pins such that the ground conductor carried 240V--would have legal problems if they brought their product to market.

This is where USB-PD should be: in a situation where physical connector compatibility brings with it enough design assurances that any pairing of legally-available devices won't blow up, catch fire, or burn out. Ideally, any USB-PD device pairing should work, but at the moment the bare minimum needs to be that any device pairing is safe.

Round corners happen by coincidence, and Apple wouldn't let you use round corners even if you met their spec.

Someone making a port the exact size and shape of a USB-C port (within tolerances) is doing it for the purpose of being compatible, and telling them to meet the (non-onerous) spec to be allowed would not get nasty headlines.

> Someone making a port the exact size and shape of a USB-C port (within tolerances) is doing it for the purpose of being compatible

People put TRS (3.5mm audio) jacks on random proprietary wall-chargers. They don't do it so that the charger can "be compatible with" the analog-audio ecosystem (what do you want to do; plug your charger into an amplifier?)

No, these manufacturers use TRS jacks, because TRS jacks (and sockets) are cheap parts. (Remember, they're not making these parts; they're just ordering them, in bulk, from some supplier that has a warehouse full of them. And that supplier doesn't care what they're used for; they just want to get them sold.)

USB-C connectors are now also seemingly beginning to be cheap parts.

I keep hearing about USB-C ports being significantly more expensive to use than previous versions, so I guess let me know when you see someone do that. I'll be surprised to see anything mass-produced that uses a USB-C port for something entirely different.

But even if they want to, it would be better if someone stops them.

Same way they enforce licensing fees presumably.

Haphazardly, and with more concern towards adoption of the standard than profit?

Their public tech specs for switch claim it is USB-C. https://www.nintendo.com/switch/tech-specs/

Seems to me like that claim is false advertising at the minimum, and specifically exempting other charges on top of that is very consumer unfriendly.

> And nor does Nintendo claim the Switch’s charging port to be a USB-C port

this is not correct. Ctrl-f "USB Type-C", it's right there.


Back then sockets were known to be dumb connectors and hardware wasn’t designed to be compatible with one another (in fact it was often designed specifically to be incompatible). However these days there is an expectation, particularly with USB, that anything which looks like a USB port is in fact a USB port. They’re sold as smart ports for that reason. And the fact that the Switch does work with some USB-C chargers is evidence that it is at its heart a USB port. So it’s not unreasonable for people to expect these sockets that look like universal smart ports to behave like a universal smart port.

ADB and PS/2 didn't look the same. Yes, small circles but IIRC ADB is 4 pins, PS/2 is 6 - and neither could be plugged to the other.

IIRC the rectangular peg in the ADB vs PS2 cable were slightly different and hence incompatible.

And ADB predates PS/2 by about six months, so...

It's like saying that because one concrete house collapsed because the architect didn't properly so it's job concrete house are bad in general.

Also most charger are fully compatible with the switch off I remember correctly the only way to fry your switch with a charger is by using a charger with high voltage/amper support with a cable which doesn't support any form of fast charging and even then it might not happen. But most chargers which support faster charging do have the cable fixed to the charger to prevent any user confusion.

As an effect of this most (all?) USB-C PD laptop chargers work with the switch. Only with chargers for phones and small tablets do you have to be careful but again most higher quality chargers from that area work just fine, too.

It's like saying that because one concrete house collapsed because the architect didn't properly so it's job concrete house are bad in general.

I'd actually say its more like building a failed structure out of something that looks like, but actually isn't, concrete, and then saying that concrete is a terrible material to use for buildings.

I'm quite sure someone, somewhere, made a charger and port in the USB-A format, which delivered 12 volts of power without asking.

This is a violation of the USB spec, not a flaw in it. Anyone could deliver mains AC voltage over a USB-C cable, and it would fry just about everything on the market.

And yet it's a USB-C plug that, on the surface, appears to charge from USB-C chargers just fine. Nintendo is to blame, but it hurts the USB-C landscape.

Plus, Nintendo is far from the only offender in the USB-C space.

> it explicitly does not follow all USB standards

I think that is very non-obvious though, especially for the typical consumer

Agreed, explicit is almost exactly opposite from the truth for owners. I guess if you're a hardware implementer and poke around you'll find people saying it's not USB-C, but that's not in any way Nintendo being explicit. Why they might have been explicit about would be to never use anything that wasn't Nintendo branded at a major markeup. After the last few decades of profiteering a lot of users have been trained to assume that the only reason is money.

Side Note: Make sure you buy your Apple chargers from Apple. If you bought it from Amazon or similar, there's a good chance it's fake.

Additional side note: non-Apple chargers are often scary inside. They rarely contain the safeties of Apple chargers. That is outside this whole hackers setting chargers on fire issue.

Additional sitenote: And even if they are not a scary mess some Apple laptops are prone to dath by third-party charger.

I haven’t found this to be true. I’ve used 4 or more different chargers. A couple off-brand USB-C chargers, USB-C dock/charger, Apple USB-C chargers, USB-C to USB 2.0/3.0 cables with 1A, 2.4A, 2.5A chargers. All worked without issue. In fact, I left the Nintendo wall wart at home (I usually travel for work) and just bring along a USB-C to USB cable with me.

Yes only with either of following you might be in danger:

- A dock, the alternate mode used isn't fully standard conform and prone to fry your switch.

- A unlucky combination of cheap but fully standard conform charger with bad cable with switch.

The issue with docks were very non-compliant 3rd party docks which used 9 V for signal lines, which is way to high: https://hackaday.com/2019/08/04/the-not-quite-usb-c-of-ninte...

Yes in practice it's very unlikely to accidentally fry your Switch.

Through wrt. docks there is some non standard compilant parts about switching to the "dock" alternate mode, maybe I misremeber and that can't damage your switch.

Anyway if you by anything but super cheap potentially broken chargers in 2020 I would be very surprised if it damages yours Switch. Especially laptop chargers tend to work very well with it. Actually I observed (but maybe wrongly) that somehow my Lenovo think pad laptop charger does a better job when charging and at the same time playing in handheld mode .

It's possible to buy USB-C 2.0 cables and USB-B 3.0 cables, for when your printer needs the extra transfer I guess.

I use it with my Apple charger without issue, and I've done that since I got it quite a while ago. While I don't doubt your experience, it sounds like perhaps your situation isn't quite universal. Defective Switch hardware maybe? Not sure, but it works well for me.

I have also had no issue.

Charging is fine, the issue is using under wattage 3rd party docks or using a bad charger for the dock while playing, as it pull more power when it is in dock mode.

Charging it has never been an issue for anyone and this is the first I heard being a charging issue

This explains why there are so many "no charge" Nintendo Switch in TronicsFix videos.


"I love the port, but the standard just hasn't caught up and when a company like Nintendo flouts it anyway, you have a big problem."

Can't this hazard be eliminated with some kind of "USB Condom" that would, at least, universalize your cables and ports ?

I have a USB condom that I use for standard USB ports for disabling data lines (turning them into power only cords) - I assume you could build a smarter, more sophisticated USB condom that would allow you to safeguard against these edge cases and incompatibilities ?

Also if your switch battery ever gets really really low, you can’t charge it with anything other than the OEM charger.

As a side note that's common for undercharged batteries.

Charging undercharged lithium batteries must be done exactly right or it can get dangerous because of this is often only supported by OEM chargers or some workaround like keep your device plugged in for 12h even through it in no way indicates that is charging and it will then magically work again (my last phone )

I was livid with Nintendo when the Switch launched. It took decades of hard work to get the interconnect industry to play nice with common standards. It’s a fragile, prosperous peace. It doesn’t take much to destroy it. Nintendo’s careless actions threaten a lot more than a few toys.

>$60 bill from Nintendo

A $60 bill to fix their fuckup? I'd have returned that under the (legal) warranty.

I use my Lenovo USB-C charger - charges everything perfectly well. No issues for over 3 years now.

It's Apple's stuff(the irony of it, right?) that has all kinds of problems. I don't even charge my MacBook with Apple's chargers anymore.

That is Nintendo’s fault.

Aha - you may find that this is not true at all.

Not only has the Switch always charged safely, later revisions are also more compliant. The issue has always been with the charger and dock. Never PD compliant chargers straight in the switch.

The thunderbolt 3 + usb C thing is true though. My Thunderbolt 3 dock won't charge a non-TB3 device. I'd consider that a minor issue though, especially as USB4 fixes it entirely.

> Aha - you may find that your Switch CANNOT in fact share a charge - Nintendo's port is not necessarily safe to use with anything but its supplied charger. And I've just learned this lesson with a $60 bill from Nintendo repair after the port went pop and couldn't charge the device. I only have reputable chargers in the house from Apple and one from Anker aside from the Nintendo's own.

It has worked reliably with pretty much every charger I threw at it so this sounds like one of those urban myths.

It's not an urban myth, Nintendo acknowledged it and told people to not use 3rd party chargers.


The article says the issue was with a third-party dock made by Nyko that supplies 9v on the CC pin when it should be 5v. How is that Nintendo's fault?

> And I've just learned this lesson with a $60 bill from Nintendo repair after the port went pop and couldn't charge the device.

GP is giving you their first-hand experience with this issue. It’s a little disrespectful to call it an urban myth replying to a first-hand account.

FWIW, the Switch charger outputs a higher voltage, IIRC.

Don’t think it’s necessarily « disrespectful « to doubt another’s account. This reminds me of the « bend gate » problem with iPhones. There were some here who reported the problem... but somehow it was not a problem in the grand scheme of things. We have a lot of skeptical folks here (a good thing!) so we should be respectfully skeptical of the skeptics at times, without an exchange of ill feelings. :)

While the whole "bend your phone in half" thing was overblown, it definitely is a major issue. The whole class of touch disease issues (where the screen has grey bars flickering and touch stops working) were caused by the same underlying problem -- the phones are less rigid and small flexing (such as in your pocket) causes the Touch IC chip to become unseated. An incredibly large number of iPhones have succumbed to this issue, and Apple had a "repair program" for it[1] (which is their terminology to get around calling it a "recall" because their product was faulty) -- and as usual their description of the problem is incredibly skewed (you don't need to drop your phone to trigger it and it affected a very large number of devices because it was a design flaw of the phone).

[1]: https://support.apple.com/iphone6plus-multitouch

Honestly it’s mostly about the tone. Skepticism is welcome.

What was bend-gate?

iPhones would get the frame bent


Another vote for the switch being evil here - just because it works for you doesn't mean it's an urban myth. The OnePlus adapters have historically had issues with the switch - https://www.reddit.com/r/oneplus/comments/5xexiz/fyi_the_one... and the iPhone usb adapters have also had issues.

The fact that there's a wiki on "what usb c charger to buy" for your switch suggest many others are having issues too - https://www.reddit.com/r/NintendoSwitch/comments/6jnkl4/list...

With OnePlus adapters, I would only ever use it for Dash / Warp charging of their phones. It's unique enough that I wouldn't even consider attempting to charge a laptop or a switch with it.

Given the topic of the post, it's worth pointing that out. Even though both are usb c devices (switch and oneplus), they do a really good job of proving the article correct.

I think you'll find that if you do even a small amount of research you will find that this is not the case. There are many sources which confirm this, many of them official. Your comment amounts to: "Well since it hasn't happened to me then it can't possibly be true." Really?

How about you read the Nintendo docs & warranty before throwing one of your myths around. It’s a well known thing combined with their controller.

I have a 2018 Switch and it works well with all chargers I've tested so far (mostly Apple and Lenovo besides the one that came with the Swift). My guess is that the problems that existed in the original hardware were fixed in a subsequent hardware revision.

Maybe the problems were fixed, but not by the time mine was ordered from Amazon on 8 December 2018. It charged fine with an Anker and Apple charger for, well, until it went pop this July. I'm glad yours is working fine, and it does come with a two-year warranty, but this was considered damage. From Nintendo's repair service:

> Our engineers have inspected your Switch Console and found damage due to USB-C Connector Damage. Under our warranty policy we do not cover the cost of the repair for damaged items. A payment of £53.50 is required for us to complete the repair.

So does mine, 3 years and counting.

Actually it isn’t but I’m not finding the article I’d previously read on the topic.

Personally I think it comes down to both the charging profiles the switch will accept are limited, such that some chargers don’t work with the switch - each USB PD charger supports a different set of charging specs (volts/amps/watts). https://www.reddit.com/r/UsbCHardware/comments/ch99aj/apple_...

I’d also suggest that some PD bricks/chargers might not be as reliable at sending power, if so, or if a cable’s wiring sends it down the wrong path, it could be disastrous for many devices that don’t take this into account. I am reminded of reviews of USB-C cables from a few years ago from Benson Leung.

Like someone said upthread, the issue isn't with how it does not accept all profiles, but with how it says it accepts 20V while expecting 15V.

Did you not read the article? Because your response doesn’t address any of the issues brought up in the article. Mainly that all the usb-c cables you sprinkle across your house might not have the same functionality. And if you plug your switch in to one it might charge it, while another will not.

Those problems are hardly unique to USB-C.

With Micro-USB I had charging cables that didn't have data lines in them, Kindle power adaptors that didn't offer enough output for my phone to charge off, and non-standard devices that didn't follow the spec and only worked with certain stuff.

In my experience, it works well enough I've actively only been buying USB-C stuff where it is at all possible to do so for a while now.

It feels like these complaints are inevitable to me: a spec with no flexibility would become redundant too quickly or cost far too much to implement in most devices to ever see widespread adoption.

This is not much harder the the issue of 8P8C connectors, which some (incorrectly) call RJ45.

Depending on cable configuration, pinout, wall plate and structured wiring system, that 8P8C might be usable (or not) for multiple different types of data networking, from the assorted ethernet speeds (some of which may successfully autonegotiate, but not all) to E1 to token ring, or for a serial console, or delivering power and audio to a remote speaker, or hdmi-over-utp, or even -48V telephony, and let's not even get started on the only-subtly-different but actually incompatible RJ45S connector, or people sticking RJ11 plugs in 8P8C ports.

And yet the world has coped with this proliferation.

I have experienced none of the issues described in the article despite possessing 30+ USB Type-C devices. The article above simply comes across as an overwhelming refusal to take any personal responsibility for technical purchasing choices.

My UPS uses 8P8C for it's USB port! I can't imagine how many cents they saved over using a USB B port (but I do know that I sure as hell don't want to lose that weird RJ45 to USB cable, who knows if the pinout matches whatever cable I can find on amazon)

I did read it, and for my use cases, I don't have issues. I understand others' use cases may not match mine, but this situation seems basically like any other connectivity standard in the history of technology. Except this time, the universality for what most people use it for has actually managed to catch on. :)

"Universality" that involves many people finding that cables that look identical don't actually work the same way.

Interesting definition there.

Universality of physical plug, I guess?

I'm not sure I see how this is an interesting definition. How is it different from HDMI or LAN cables? There the cables also define capability so "cables that look identical don't actually work the same way".

> How is it different from HDMI or LAN cables? There the cables also define capability so "cables that look identical don't actually work the same way".

In theory yes. In practice most of the cables are good enough for most users - e.g. in a home LAN cables are probably 10m at most, so even a cat5 cable can probably give people a connection that's as fast as their internet uplink. If the problems with USB-C are common enough to impact normal users (and I think lack of thunderbolt falls into that category) then that's a major difference in practice.

Buy shitty products, get shitty outcomes. This is not the fault of the connector standard.

Quick check: how many of your USB-C cables can actually carry the 5Gbps (3.1) or 10GBps (3.2) bandwidth? Because I've had to try multiple products, all claiming USB-3 speeds, before I finally found one that delivered more than 480MBps (USB 2.0 speed).

It sounds like you've experienced either just pure luck or that you've carefully selected your components (which degrades the "universality" claim), at least for the Switch, since it doesn't fully implement PD and can short out.

Exactly! This has been my experience. I bought 3 different USB-C cables for my keyboard until I found one that let the keyboard work as the original did. I have a few usb-c cables that will charge my gopro and a few that won't. I like the form factor, but the standard itself is a mess.

> Mainly that all the usb-c cables you sprinkle across your house might not have the same functionality.

this is a problem if you expect things to be like USB2 where you can collect all these random cables and power blocks and use them interchangeably. this wasn't always true with USB2 anyway, with all the out of spec "fast charge" implementations.

there are a lot of optional features and speed tiers for USB3, which is certainly annoying. but you have the option of buying a bunch of cables that support everything you need/use and scatter those around your house. they will work with any standards compliant equipment, which is really the best you can hope for with any standard.

> this is a problem if you expect things to be like USB2 where you can collect all these random cables and power blocks and use them interchangeably. this wasn't always true with USB2 anyway, with all the out of spec "fast charge" implementations.

Silly question time, why would we not expect that?

I mean you can expect whatever you want. what I'm saying is the beautiful past where all USB cables were perfectly interchangeable never existed. in the last generation we had power-only cables, data-only (although this is out of spec, I believe), and various out of spec fast charging implementations. if you pick up a random usb charging block and micro-usb cable, there was never any guarantee that it would transfer data to your phone, fast charge it, or even charge it at all.

It is still correct for the end user to expect that. If you make something that breaks the expectation it should be your fault. A connector is a connector, a cable it a cable. If they all physically fit it should just work, and whoever broke that should be legally at fault. Now I will admit that cables break, and connectors wear out, both of which are not the fault of the manufacture. However it should just work.

Note that if you connect two usb-6 devices with a usb-5 cable (Intentionally using standards that don't exist yet) is may drop back to working like usb-5. If you connect a usb-5 device to a usb-6 device it should all just work - to the limits of usb-5 of course.

In other words, one kind of cable plus out of spec trash (but mostly benign micro-USB chargers with no chance of people attempting data transfers). The worst I've encountered with "old" USB is a vintage Nokia phone that refuses to charge from its data-only micro USB port.

With USB-C there are multiple official cable types, all with the same connectors, plus high voltages that can fry devices, plus complex protocols that are apparently too much for some manufacturers to implement safely.

> plus high voltages that can fry devices

Any examples of this other than the Switch?

I've only seen one charging-only cable, and it was a very weird shape. I've never seen a data-only cable. And while proprietary fast-charging exists does that affect the cables?

The cable situation before was pretty good, honestly. And if we could just mark the speed rating on USB-C cables it would solve almost all the problems. Maybe another symbol for the ones that can do >60 watts but even that is quite niche in comparison.

Those cables were distinct upon physical inspection (missing pins), which USB C cables are not.

sure, if you're familiar with the pinout, you can tell whether the data or power lines are completely missing. there was still no guarantee that any arbitrary cable would work with whatever fast charge implementation you were using. you would likely get 0.5A trickle charging at least, but the device could also just refuse to charge at all.

from my perspective, USB-IF has taken a bunch of random shit that manufacturers were going to do anyway and made them proper (though optional) parts of the spec. I understand it didn't work out perfectly, but I don't really understand why they are getting so much flak for it. I'd much rather have a bunch of cables and devices that at least try to meet an official spec than to have a bunch of proprietary implementations that make no effort at being compatible.

>sure, if you're familiar with the pinout

Literally half the pins are missing on charge-only cables.

>but I don't really understand why they are getting so much flak for it.

From me, because my partner bought an USB-C to 3.5mm jack converter that refused to work with "this device only supports official huawei converters". That, and two completely different cables with almost disjoint functionality look _the same_. If they mandated color coding or anything else to be able to physically determine what cable is what, I wouldn't complain.

That all said, the _charging_ story is decent enough, everything else is garbage.

> Literally half the pins are missing on charge-only cables.

okay, but unless you know which pins are missing, how do you know you're not looking at a data-only cable?

> From me, because my partner bought an USB-C to 3.5mm jack converter that refused to work with "this device only supports official huawei converters". That, and two completely different cables with almost disjoint functionality look _the same_. If they mandated color coding or anything else to be able to physically determine what cable is what, I wouldn't complain.

this sounds like more of a huawei issue than a USB-C issue. if a manufacturer is just going to refuse to support a standards-compliant cable, you're out of luck either way. color coding would be nice though, they could have made that mandatory rather than recommended. I'm sure companies like apple wouldn't give a fuck either way and would just go with whatever looked aesthetically pleasing, USB-IF cert be damned.

> That all said, the _charging_ story is decent enough, everything else is garbage.

what "everything else" is garbage? there are higher speed variants, but you seem to already consider it reasonable to look at pins, so that shouldn't be a problem for you. thunderbolt support doesn't need any special pins; it just needs a high quality cable, which is analogous to the charging situation for this and the previous generation.

>okay, but unless you know which pins are missing, how do you know you're not looking at a data-only cable?

You know it's a different cable and that's enough.

>this sounds like more of a huawei issue than a USB-C issue. if a manufacturer is just going to refuse to support a standards-compliant cable, you're out of luck either way. color coding would be nice though, they could have made that mandatory rather than recommended. I'm sure companies like apple wouldn't give a fuck either way and would just go with whatever looked aesthetically pleasing, USB-IF cert be damned.

That is made possible by USB-C standard. USB-A and USB-B cables were too dumb to support that.

>you seem to already consider it reasonable to look at pins

The pinouts are the same for all different types of cables. It is literally impossible to differentiate cables based on visual inspection. The USB-C standard is a unified charger and a bunch of different cables in with the same connector.

No they're not.

I just grabbed a power-only microUSB cable out of my cable box (it came with a microUSB-powered soap dispenser!), and it has all the pins, but only the power pins are actually wired.

Let me counter with another question: Do you also expect random HDMI and LAN cables to have the same capabilities?

And how exactly are you going to keep track of which cable is which?

It might not be so terrible if they came labeled with symbols or letters or colors or something. But there is absolutely no way to know which cable does what once you've taken it out of its packaging that (hopefully) lists its specifications correctly.

Good luck remembering which white cable was which.

> And how exactly are you going to keep track of which cable is which?

it's really not that hard. for travel, I have three identical cables that work with all my portable devices. for devices that spend their whole lives in one place, I use the cable it came with.

FWIW I've never had an issue with the cables. The only time USB-C has bitten me is when trying to charge a device using a charger meant for a lower tier of hardware. I've never had any issues with USB-PD chargers. For example my MBP charger works on everything. My phone chargers don't work at all on my cheap Chinese laptop, but they'll trickle charge my MBP (which has honestly been a lifesaver). Even my $20 battery pack will get me a few hours of laptop life

Exactly, and honestly it's pretty intuitive: big devices need big chargers. For me, my laptop is the only device I own that needs a big 100w adapter, everything else can share smaller adapters.

And one big benefit of the current USB-C era is that 15-18W power adapters are more ubiquitous than ever, and compact enough that there's almost never any reason to use a smaller one anymore. And more and more devices are not coming with their own power adapter these days, which is better for the environment and simplifies my life, every usb-c device I own can be charged by the same chargers and will charge quickly.

It's way better than each device coming with its own adapter of arbitrary shape that may or may not be able to be plugged in without blocking the adjacent socket on the wall or power strip, with seemingly arbitrary max power output, with an arbitrary choice of using usb A/mini/micro connector.

> Because your response doesn’t address any of the issues brought up in the article.

Not the issues, but it addresses the gist of it.

For that person (and me) it has simplified things. If simplifying your life is part of the measurement, it has for some folks.

This is a problem with essentially any cable. The only difference between old and new is that the new problem is with a single plug instead of a handful of plugs.

> Mainly that all the usb-c cables you sprinkle across your house might not have the same functionality.

If you buy decent cables they all do. The reality is that whatever devices you're plugging the cables into might not support every feature you're looking for. Instead of blaming poorly built devices or ignorant consumers it must be the shape of the cable that's the problem surely.

This is a simple problem, and there's a simple solution.

Problem: Physical connectors previous encoded information about data/power transfer mode support. When USB C unified the physical connector, that information was lost.

Solution: Mandate visually encoded supported standards on the USB cable in colored ring form, a la resistors.

Make them plastic, so you can snip them off if the aesthetic bothers. But I should be able to reach into a bin of different USB C cables, and determine what each cable can and can't do.

The law here for specifications teams should be: assume the consumer is never going to read your spec. Their ability to use the technology shouldn't be contingent on their doing so.

> Solution: Mandate visually encoded supported standards on the USB cable in colored ring form, a la resistors.

I agree in principal, but please don't do it with colored rings. Many of us have much more limited color perception due to colorblindness. I recently purchased some 8 cable 1/4" TRS snakes, and the only thing identifying which connector on one side of the snake was connected to a connector on the other side were colored bands--many of which I couldn't tell apart. I ended up pulling out a multimeter to test continuity, and then labeled then with unique glyphs on each end that weren't dependent on color (i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc.).

>please don't do it with colored rings.

You say that but, and I realise it's pedantic, your comment only supports not limiting the identification to only coloured rings.

Coloured rings would be a very good solution for a large percentage of the users. Glyphs will also fail with the blind, maybe with dyslexics.

Or of interest, would you pay more for glyph coded versions? Just pondering if The Market would ever create a solution.

About 10% of the male population has some form of colour blindness, which is a fairly large percentage. Letting the market make decisions only leads to discriminatory practices. Worse, these practices can have an impact upon a person's life. For example: it can, and already does, affect employability.

Also keep in mind features that address a disability can be of benefit to everyone. For example: being able to identify something by shape can be useful to the colour blind, blind, and sighted people.

Consider how much life in the US improved for disabled after the ADA passed. That suggests that market forces weren’t strong enough.

> Physical connectors previous encoded information about data/power transfer mode support. When USB C unified the physical connector, that information was lost.

this is not strictly true, at least for USB. you can use a USB 1.x to connect USB2/3 endpoints, but you will only get 1.x speeds. there were power-only cables that didn't transfer data at all. they are all physically compatible. unless you're familiar with the pin layout, there's no way to distinguish the different flavors of A ports.

USB 3 connectors and ports were pretty much always blue.

> USB 3 connectors and ports were pretty much always blue.

I’ve never seen a blue connector and ports in most laptops are just body coloured like in MacBooks.

It's rather ubiquitous, I'm surprised you haven't seen them. The plastic bits in the USB 3 ports in my motherboard, case, keyboard, _and_ the USB ports built into my monitor arms are all blue. Lower USBs are black. It's not universal, but it is very common.

Aren't those the ports? The ports are blue. I haven't seen a blue connector.

The metal bits aren't, but the plastic inside is.

Ubiquitous outside of Apple ecosystem only though.

And barrel jacks in power land.

But suffice it to say, the situation was simpler / more user-friendly.

There's a lot of telephone garbling going on in a lot of the replies to this thread about the switch.

There's a really detailed post from one of the third party dock makers (genki) about all the specifics of the switch's usb-c PD implementation, including the fact that the switch uses a (nearly) bog standard usb-c pd controller chip: https://www.reddit.com/r/NintendoSwitch/comments/ckaiiv/an_e...

Just because nintendo won't warrant use of third party docks or claim compatibility doesn't mean it's not compatible. Nor does any anecdotal experience of a usb-c charger frying a switch (I've fried a dell laptop's battery with a busted usb-c cable, does that mean dells aren't conformant?).

Same, USB-C is one of those things that for me just works.

I buy USB-PD chargers and cables from reputable brands, and everything just charges. When I use the cables for data transfer, it just works -- no muss or fuss like there were with some of the charge-only converter cables for charging micro-USB devices.

Now if I were using Thunderbolt 3, yeah, you need a higher-end cable and there are restrictions on cable length for speed purposes (or moving up to a more expensive active cable). But I think that's a fair trade-off for being able to use that same cable for everything else as well.

We cannot WAIT until our household says goodbye to the last couple devices with legacy ports and we can throw the last few converter dongles in a drawer. Looking at you, Apple and Amazon Kindle -- when are you going to get with the program and ditch your legacy Lightning and micro-USB ports respectively?

Ah so that’s why the thunderbolt cables are 1.5 feet :)

Yes, the signal degrades more with longer cables which reduces the usable bandwidth. Short cables up to about 0.5m (1.5 feet) can use the full 40 Gbps. Slightly longer cables up to 1m can still carry enough signal for Thunderbolt 3 but usually at reduced speeds (20 Gbps).

Above about 1m (3 feet) a passive cable usually isn't good enough for TB3 connections and you have to use a more expensive "active" cable. Active cables have built in signal-boosting circuits -- they're amplifying and re-transmitting signals, not just passing them over the wires.

Which specific cables (or brands) would you recommend?

Anker, Belkin, and Cable Matters cables are solid. For chargers, Anker and RavPower. Aukey can be good too.

For other brands you need to check the specs carefully to see what the rated power and transmission speeds are (and take anything from a fly-by-night brand out of China with a grain of salt).

100% agree with you on how convenient USB-C can make things. Being able to carry one 60-90w brick with multiple USB-C PD outputs and charge pretty much all of my devices off of it is amazing.

On the other hand, I would say that all of us here on HN probably aren't the target audience for this article. Collectively, I'd say HN readers are likely to understand that different USB-C bricks, cables, and devices are going to support different things and research our purchases accordingly. The article seems to be more targeted at people who will grab a $3.50 gas station cable and expect it to charge their phone at 18w and laptop at 65w.

> The article seems to be more targeted at people who will grab a $3.50 gas station cable and expect it to charge their phone at 18w and laptop at 65w.

In their defense, all those cable look exactly the same.

I haven't gone through the whole usb-c/thunderbolt reading yet [1], so I might as well make the same mistake. And the fact that you're supposed to do the whole reading thing is probably the source of the problem.

You see the same plug, same colors on the connector, you EXPECT to work the same.


[1] Most of my devices are micro-usb, my Dell work laptop charges via thunderbolt/usb-c but I've got the Dell dock for that.

Yeah, I definitely understand the complaint. As I said in another comment, I think we're slowly approaching the point where you can mostly expect them to work the same. When the first Macbooks and other laptops with USB-C arrived, compatibility and adoption was awful, and we're finally getting to a point where things are less awful.

Would it have been better if they all worked exactly the same from day 1? Absolutely. Do I think we'll get to a point where USB-C is categorically better than what came before? Also yes.

Are those people who buy cheap cables in the wrong?

Maybe I do need to buy those gold-plated cables.

I wouldn't say that they're in the wrong, but I would expect people to have some expectations about the quality, durability, and capabilities of a super cheap cable.

Overall, I don't think it's entirely unfair to expect people to pay $10-15 for a quality cable, especially since these modern cables are often expected to carry significant amounts of power.

No, $10 for a cable with significant amount of power is unreasonable. If you ever dealt with some power cables, you'd know that 1 meter of the highest quality copper power cable for continuous delivery of say 15 amps (3 x 1.5 mm^2) shouldn't cost more than $0.6. And that's enough for 300 watts of power given 20 volts. But you probably will never see that much copper in a USB-C cable, at best you'll see third of that and with a flimsy insulation, which costs two orders of magnitude less than $10.

Power cords aren't that different - you can buy cheap and crap 6ft cords for $3 that won't last or you can buy construction-site worthy cords that get thrown around for $30+

Most charging cables get treated more like a power cord on a construction site - they don't just get plugged in and hidden behind a TV so the quality of the shielding and connectors is paramount to withstand the twisting and strains

Getting into anecdotal evidence here, but, as a consumer, I've seen what happens to the hyper-cheap cables after a few weeks to months of use: they tend to fall apart or fail in fun and interesting ways.

On the other hand, I have never had a $10-15 Anker or some other brand cable fail on me without serious abuse. As a consumer, I'll happily pay the extra few dollars for the expectation of durability, a warranty of some sort, and the knowledge that the cable should Just Work with most of my devices, even if I know that the price is way out of proportion to the materials involved.

Can't speak for all other consumers, of course, but I would expect that many have figured the same thing out over the years of purchasing Micro USB/Lightning/30pin/etc cables.

$1 for the 2m of cable, another $1 for plugs, $1 for manufacturing costs/packaging/shipping = $3. This results in a market price of $10 (30% goes to the retailer [amazon FBA fees etc], 30% goes to the manufacturer and these have to cover salaries, office space, tax, etc etc)

But I think this is a problem when the elkjøp guy gave my wife the wrong usb-c cable for charging her phone.

Part of me thinks we're just in a very long, drawn-out adoption process for all of this.

Things seem to have gotten much better since the first USB-C only Macbooks and other devices started to arrive, so my hope is that we'll reach a point within another few years where one can pretty confidently purchase a cable or charger and assume it'll work with a standard device. It certainly does suck for now that you can end up with the wrong thing if you don't do a ton of compatibility checking.

Nintendo says you shouldn't use anything except 1st party cables with the Switch. There were articles a couple of years ago talking about Switches being bricked.


This is on Nintendo being jerks. Just because web server X doesn't implement the standard correctly, that does not make TCP or HTTP bad.

No, but the average consumer doesn't care who's actually at fault. They're just confused when their stuff doesn't work/is flaky. There is a difference between the standard in theory and the standard in practice, and I've seen a remarkable number of ordinary people very confused about whether various things actually work with each other, and a lot of it out in the real world is very poorly communicated and out-of-spec.

Note that most bricking was with 3rd party docks (due to the Switch not so standard conform HDMIish + charging alternate mode).

Bricking your switch with a "pure" charger mostly only happens with but fully standard conform chargers used with the wrong cable.

Most (all?) Hight voltage/amper chargers like e.g. for laptops work just fine on the switch.

Through it's a bit more troublesome for the dock.

Why are they saying 'bricked' when they mean they were destroyed? 'Bricking' is normally a firmware issue.

Do we say that a car was 'bricked' when we trash it in an accident?

Bricking is generally considered to be invisible destruction that renders a device useless but still cosmetically intact. People used to call these things paperweights with a hint of irony because there are lots of fancy paperweight designs. Nowadays people view such devices to be as useful as bricks. They are heavy and take up space but they are still intact and jokingly enough you could actually use them as construction material.

A car that was destroyed in an accident would not be considered bricked because it has sustained cosmetic damage. You can't use it for it's aesthetics alone. e.g. in a museum. A Tesla car where the battery charger has died could be considered a bricked car though.

This doesn't seem like a factor in favor of USB-C. I regularly charge any of two dozen USB device in my house from any of a half dozen smart chargers, using too many micro-B cables to count, and it has been months since I spent even one moment thinking about compatibility among them all. This kind of setup was already common.

My USB-C devices are the ones I need to worry about. All of the chargers I've bought (not the ones that came with devices) have at least one USB-C port, but the charger I have in my bedroom is too weak for the laptop I'm using in the family room right now, which is precisely why they stay in different rooms. And then there's the Switch, as others have mentioned. At least for the devices I own, USB-C is far more differentiated/fragmented than USB-B. The only thing that's unified is the physical connector.

ETA: I see a lot of other comments saying they don't have problems. Almost to a one, they seem to be Mac users talking about fairly static setups, and recommend "top of the line" (i.e. expensive) docks etc. I suggest that those experiences are even less representative of the typical non-HN user than my own.

> Almost to a one, they seem to be Mac users talking about fairly static setups, and recommend "top of the line" (i.e. expensive) docks etc.

You don't need "Top of the Line" anything, you just need to avoid random junk. Micro-USB isn't much better in this regard. The cheaper cables charge slower and have slower data transfer rates.

The big difference here is many USB-C devices need a lot more power, so when you buy a crappy cable, it's a lot more of an issue.

Bringing up the Switch is unfair to USB-C. That would be like complaining about IEC C14 if Nintendo decided to make a connector that was just a hair larger and swapped hot and ground. Not being compliant is completely Nintendo's fault.

> Bringing up the Switch is unfair to USB-C.

Not really. Other interconnect standards have often (sadly not always) made it much harder for a small error like this to cause actual physical damage. USB-C made it easy, despite decades of learning on the subject. Yes, the fault is mostly Nintendo's, but USB-IF wasn't totally innocent either.

Every discussion about USB-C quickly devolves into one group saying that it's a mess and pointing out all the intricacies and complexities, and another group saying "hey, I'm charging my stuff and it's fine!".

USB-C was not supposed to be a glorified power cable. It promised much, much more, and manufacturers annoyingly restricting the port choices on newer laptops made that promise even more prominent. It has failed miserably on that promise.

I don't think the public knows or cares about any promises made. The vast majority of people are extremely happy that they can charge their laptop and their phone with the same cable. That's a major improvement from previous generations of chargers and has absolutely simplified the situation. And it's only getting better.

I agree completely and we should blame Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch.

Speaking about Thunderbolt via USB-C it is incredible to sit in my work desk, connect a single cable to the notebook and suddenly having a desktop computer with three external monitors, keyboard, mouse, and many other ports. I have not tried an eGPU yet but will be happier if thunderbolt evolves faster and gives more extensibility options to notebooks. I cannot forget to mention that another USB-C dongle that I use can also be connected to the mobile phone and converting the mobile phone into another desktop computer with mouse, keyboard, and an external monitor. Before USB-C and Thunderbolt you should acquire specific dongles for specific devices.

Until they manage to get Ethernet through that cable without a converter - it's no bueno.

As for an eGPU user - the issue with eGPU is the cost of setup, but Thunderbolt docks are also stupid expensive(above $200 for one). I built my eGPU setup for $350(PowerColor+RX550), as a good Thunderbolt dock is in the range of $300.

I have the Ethernet usb dongle hanging off my monitor, so it is one cable to my MacBook Pro.

> Plus, I can charge my MacBook on either side, so that's basically life changing on its own.

Yeah, be careful with that - for some MacBook Pro models charging from the left side will cause overheating and CPU throttling issues.

I was curious about this so had to go digging. For those that want the citation: https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/why-you-shouldnt-cha...

There is a preferred side, but if you need juice, you can sit down in a coffee shop[1] you don't need to worry about it. Just make sure your main setup at home/ your office is correct.

[1] we'll be able to do that again sometime right?

I had the same issue on my old MagSafe MBP though, and there you don't even have the option of charging on the right to work around the problem

Does this still occur with the latest version of MacOS?

From my understanding it's a motherboard layout/cooling issue. Not going to fix that with software.

Definitely possible to limit the wattage received on that side in firmware.

I haven't heard of any change; my own setup is on the right. I will say that the corner of my computer where power is plugged in is uncomfortably hot.

Is it closed ?

Because I've had my MBP plugged in for the last 6 months, driving 2 external 4K displays on one side, power-in on the other, and an OWC 10Gigabit dock in the last port.

It's cool to touch, but I have the lid open (I use the LCD as the third display). I've read of people saying it gets hot when the lid is closed...

Nope, it's open; I use it as a second monitor as well. It's also on a stand (Roost) that exposes probably 99% of the bottom of the computer to air as well. 2019 Macbook Pro 16".

This is while the computer is under load (a Google Meet in Chrome, which is a power hungry little SOB). Also, the power is the only thing in the hot corner.

If it's always plugged in, then you're not charging the battery and there is less heat generated. I only have issues when it's charging the battery (maybe the battery controller is over there?)

The mess isn't about you, it's about the rest of us.

Old USB printer cables have a "USB-A" end that goes into your computer and the USB-B end for the printer. You can't mess that up.

I've recently handled multiple support calls from a family member due to USB-C confusion. I have to explain "This USB port is only for power, this USB port is for power and data. And don't try to try use HDMI through your USB hub because it some some strange problem. Use this other USB-C port only for your monitor".

Maybe USB C is better for a few, but it's worse for many.

I have an external IDE/SATA hard disk dock that has a USB A port on it... and comes with a USB A to A cable. It's absolutely insane.

Stupid manufacturers will do stupid things with any standard. Nobody should be making a laptop with one USB C port that's power only and one that's power and data.

Yeah, the worst part about USB C is that PD is optional. The electrical requirements of PD make it difficult to support on all ports though. If you have USB C ports on the left and right side you would have to route power from one side to the other. If your PCB traces have to support 5A over a long distance then things can get quite difficult.

Am I the only one who misses the Magsafe chargers? My kid just yesterday pulled my wife's laptop off her desk to the ground because she got caught in the charging cable.

It was such a game changer to not bend plugs/break laptops when you got the cord stuck on something.. and we gave that all up just to have one port.

I do miss it but less than what I expected. My laptop has a good autonomy, so I'm less dependent on charging. Also, most of the charging happens when it's linked to the usb-c monitor where you can't trip on the cable (which is above the desk).

It gets even better when you find out you can get a HDMI/Power dock that works with Switch, laptop, phone and can provide video and charge them all without having to carry 15 cables with you.

Can it be confusing? Yes. But it's a hellova improvement from bunch of disjoint cable standards we had before.

I could see it being great if all your devices are on it. But when you have usb-c, usb micro, usb mini and usb-b devices, the cables are a total pain. On top of the special pain usb-c brings onto itself. I have a cabinet that is basically dedicated to usb cables, using organizers to keep them all accessible and searchable. That does help a lot. But I feel like having to go that far is a sign usb was not as well thought out as it could have been.

Well that just means you are not replacing all your devices every 12 months like the manufacturers want....

Heh :) a lot of current devices I buy still use usb micro. I'm mostly dealing with modern fpga recreations of old game consoles like analogue.co's products. Maybe usb-c has some kind of licensing cost that makes it prohibitive for smaller companies?

The versatility of the port is amazing. It’s very useful to be able to use the same cable to charge, move data, and push audio and video.

However, it’s confusing AF. I feel like the first failure really is that it’s very unclear which ports and which cables support which features and how fast. You really have to know the technical differences when shopping. And you basically have to label every cable you buy, otherwise you have no idea what it’s capabilities are when you find it in your closet a year after buying it.

The other huge issue is spec compliance. It’s not clear to the average consumer whether they’re buying spec-compliant devices or non-compliant device-killers.

Did you read the article? USB-C is not just a charging cable. I can understand you are happy, but your happiness could have been achieved with ubiquitous micro-USB with extra power delivery capability.

The real disappointment is that USB-C could unite power and data delivery so that you won’t have to think about using a different shaped input for display/power. Due to patchy support this is not possible. It is explained in the article well.

This is also my experience. Quest, iPad, MacBook, headphones etc can all mostly use the same chargers. Really all I need to track is that the MacBook needs a thicker cable and this pretty much solves any compatibility issues.

This article feels like an engineer complaining like: "the spec is too long for me to read and is therefore bad."

Except the switch doesn't actually use usb-c pd, it's a different proprietary thing that uses a usb-c connector.

This is such a terrible design decision.


No it uses USB-C PD!

It's just incorrectly implements the switch to an alternate mode which it uses for it's duck which causes 3rd party docks to fry switches.

It's generally more sensitive in that alternate mode as it draws more power.

The dock itself is a different matter.

But the switch does implant USB-C PD just fine.

I'm frequently charging it with my laptop charger and many people do so as far as I know.

It's also why using a power bank with the switch works just fine.

Same for me, also that I can use the same docking station for my work and my private laptop is awesome. Of course the support for the (quite complex) standard is not fully there yet, so one cannot blindly buy or connect new stuff.

I haven't experienced USB-C much yet, but I have a good tangle of micro-USB cables that I need to label:

* Some carry data, but won't charge things.

* Some charge, but don't carry data.

* Some charge at a higher amperage.

Once upon a time, back when we used PS-2 connectors for keyboards and mice, we had the same problem. A keyboard wouldn't work in a mouse port (although they were the same physical connector), but a mouse might work in a keyboard port.

Would it be wrong for me to say I would like to take an old PS-2 cable and strangle anyone who thinks this kind of antics are a good idea?

Well, tfa mentions the Switch in particular as having potential issues with some chargers:

>Other devices, like the Nintendo Switch, only partially support the standard, and some unsupported chargers have bricked devices, reportedly due to the Switch’s maximum voltage being exceeded.

It also mentions issues with some devices/ports supporting "Power Delivery" and some not, and no way to tell them apart by just looking at them.

So, yeah, you can get lucky and everything just works, but that's not universal.

Btw. It's only unsupported third party docks and chargers which themselves are not standard compiland.

If you ignore laptops, then Micro-B basically did charge everything in my house. The introduction of USB-C made things worse, because now I have to deal with both connectors.

Only until everything is USB-C ;-}

Like in 10 years when due to innovation we start migration to another standard...

Same, I'm a big fan. The only issue I have is that 1) the power bricks aren't cheap, small, and powerful enough and 2) charging things through my MBP doesn't work well because the wattage (60) isn't high enough. The external hard drive won't work if my phone is plugged in as well.

GaN chargers are pretty cool. I found the Hyper Juice to be a shit product though. Still waiting for Anker to release some high watt chargers.

Sharing a charger isn't the only cool thing. Being able to attach an ordinary USB-C thumb drive to an iPad is a very useful too. If only computers (including MacBooks and desktop PCs) had more (2 is never enough) full-featured (Thunderbolt-enabled) USB-C ports (and didn't give up built-in SD card readers) that would really be awesome.

That's how I wish it was for me but it's not. So far the largest charger I've been able to find only has 2 USB-C plugs. So, switch + pixel + pocket wifi + macbook air

Then I have lots different computers. My Macbook Air has USB-C, my MacBook Pro has USB-A, My brand new desktop PC has USB-A, my Razer laptop has both USB-A and USB-C, my Playstation has USB-A. I have USB-A SD-Card readers and USB-A hubs.

Then, when If first got the Macbook Air I ended up going through 3 different USB-C hubs until I finally figured out how to buy one that actually supported 4k-60hz (the first 2 only supported 4k-30hz). Then later, I tried to use the Razer on a USB-C monitor. It worked but at some point the keyboard and mouse were flaky. Turned out apparently I needed a Thunderbolt HUB, not a USB-C hub (plugs are the same) so now I've gone through 4 hubs.

you can read about the 4 or 5 kinds of possible USB-C hubs you might end up with if you're not careful. I have no idea how a non-techie figures this out.


And then, I still have 3 iPhones that all use lighting (USB-A to lighting) and a few other devices at are USB-Micro (Kindle for example)

And several external hard-drives that are all that USB-3 wide plug to USB-A

I'm sure by the time USB-D arrives USB-C will be great and all my cables will be USB-C on both ends and all my devices will only have USB-C sockets but right now it's a mess

Yeah I have to say I share that sentiment.

Now when I travel I use my Lenovo charger to charge my Android phones and tablet.

Unfortunately work provides me with an iPhone so that's still one more charger. One more piece of plastic floating around the ocean in the future. God damnit apple...

A usb-c to Lightning cable would get you to to a single charger. Also allows charging phone at low current from laptop in a pinch.

I got a USB-C to lightning cable and it works great.

Yea I agree. I'm super negative and I don't think I've ever liked any other USB before, but this standard is great. I only wish some of my older hardware had it, won't buy a new tablet without USB-C.

The problem is that they all probably can't share chargers or cables.

Be aware that cables of different specs of usb-c are known to burst into fire when you use them for charging or to connect devices of different specs.

My HP Elite X2 G3 tablet charges with other usb chargers only when off. When on, a HP windows utility pop ups that says not a good charger and then stops charging.

>> The fact that my laptop, Switch, iPad, and several other devices can all share a charge has made my life much easier.

It must be nice to have all new things. I cannot afford to renew all my devices every few years, nor do I want too. Just looking around my room now, I probably have several thousand dollars worth of SDR dongles, battery packs, wifi adapters, raspberry bits and external drives for various projects. They are all on the old connectors/standards but work perfectly well. I have no intention of tossing everything because there is a new cable standard with go-faster stripes.

Did you actually read the article? The problem is that not all usb-c ports/cables/chargers are the same, but they all look the same.

You have the Switch V1? Mine is the V2 and I even charged it with a powerbank and works just fine.

I felt the same way as you until my laptop was destroyed by a third-party charger.

> Plus, I can charge my MacBook on either side, so that's basically life changing on its own. :)

You may want to read this stack exchange answer: https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/363933

> TLDR; If your MacBook Pro runs hot or shows a high % CPU for the kernel task, try charging on the right and not on the left.

that is just the physical properties of the cabling. basically just power.

I wish the iPhone used USB-C...

Completely agree.

Micro-USB was better. Especially since there are still so many existing devices that used micro-USB ports.

Only if you forget that there were at least 10 differente incompatible standards on how the device told the charger to pull more power.

What is different about that with USB-C?

Obviously: PD existing. And most devices, even those that have custom modes (e.g. OnePlus Warp), support PD too.

Microusb usually didn't burn out or brick the device

No, those cables are not durable at all. Cheap or expensive, they don't last more than a few months with heavy use.

Yet, over the years, I've only had one or two break. I have years-old Motorola micro usb cables that still work perfectly, and which are still in use. They were not all garbage.

The couple daily use cables I've got have lasted years. Only cables I've had break regularly are headphone cables.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact