May 20, 2023 - In today's fast-paced world, technology is constantly evolving to meet our needs. With the introduction of USB-C, we have seen a significant shift in the way we connect and transfer data. USB-C, also known as USB Type-C, is quickly becoming the standard for connecting and charging devices, offering a range of benefits, including fast data transfer rates, high power delivery, and the ability to connect devices in a seamless and effortless way. Its symmetrical design and small size have made it a favorite among consumers and manufacturers alike. However, one of the most notable features of USB-C is often overlooked: its directionality.
In this blog, we'll explore why the orientation of USB-C connections matters, how it can affect your devices, and how to overcome this challenge.
One of the most significant advantages of USB-C is the ability to transfer data and power at lightning-fast speeds. USB 3.2 gen 2 is capable of data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps, which is twice as fast as USB 3.2 Gen 1. This means that you can transfer large files in just a matter of seconds.
In addition to data transfer speeds, USB-C also has the ability to deliver wide range of power, such as 60W, 100W and even more. This means that you can charge your laptop, tablet, or phone faster than ever before.
The Symmetrical Connector – Orientation Matters
Unlike USB Type-A and Type-B connectors, which have a distinct top and bottom orientation, USB-C is symmetrical. This means that it can be plugged in upside down or right side up, without any issues. This feature was designed with the consumer in mind, allowing for a more seamless user experience. However, the orientation of the connection can have implications for the devices being connected in case of connecting two cables to each other (passive adaptor in the middle).
With 24 pins, the USB-C connector divides into two lines: A and B, with identical functionality. This means that the host and the device can communicate with each other and "play" on the same pins. But not all signal types require all 24 pins. For example, 4K 60 uses two of the four lanes (4 pins), but 8K uses all four lanes. The host and device must know from which pins the signal is coming (data lane '0' or data lane '1'), and what the power capabilities are.
In other words: for the connection to work properly, the host and device must be able to "play" on the same pins. If the host or device (e.g. a laptop or monitor) cannot identify which "side" was connected, the link will not be closed, and the signal will be lost.
Inside the host and device sides, there are two resistors that help identify the orientation of the connection. When a USB-C cable is connected point to point, this technical information is transparent to the user.
However, problems can arise when extending the connection by connecting two cables through a passive female adapter. There is a 50% chance that the connection orientation on one side of the adapter is the opposite orientation on the other side. This means that the host will get the signals from the pin's in the opposite line, resulting in a black screen or lost signal.
Solving the Orientation Issue
To solve this orientation issue, Kramer has developed multiple solutions. First, Kramer has stamped its logo on the same orientation side for all its cables. This means that even when extending two cables, it's easy to keep the orientation. Another solution is to use the Kramer Active Repeater PT-3UC, which eliminates the need to match the orientation between the two cables. This device acts as a signal booster and repeater, extending USB-C passive connection up to 4 meters (double the range), eliminating the need to match the orientation between the two cables.
In addition, Kramer has developed long USB-C Full Feature cables that can reach up to 50 meters. This innovation helps avoid the need to connect two cables together and extend the signal. Using a long cable allows you to overcome the orientation problem altogether, providing a hassle-free solution.
USB-C is more than just a connector, it is a game changer. Its symmetrical design may be convenient for consumers, but it is important to understand the implications of its directionality for host and device communication. When using USB-C cables and adapters, it is important to ensure that the orientation is matched correctly to avoid no signals and black screens. With solutions like the Kramer Active Repeater PT-3UC and the new long USB-C Full Feature cable, you can extend your USB-C connection without worrying about orientation issues.
By Meir Farkash, Product Manager • Kramer Connect