What Is USB-C? An Explainer

USB-C is set to replace the USB interfaces we've used since the mid-1990s. Here's why that's a good thing.

Some of the newest laptops are 13.1mm at their thickest point, which leaves little space for I/O ports like the 7.5mm tall USB socket. Any connector still needs some vertical clearance internally to connect to the motherboard and the rest of the system, as well as clearance for the physical plug itself. Enter the new USB-C connector, which will help PC manufacturers create thinner and lighter laptops and tablets.
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What Is USB-C?

USB-C is the hot, new industry standard connector and cable used for connectivity and power . The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum, the group of companies that has developed, certified, and shepherded the USB standard. It counts over 700 companies in its membership, including Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. This is important, because it's more likely to be accepted by the majority of PC manufacturers. Contrast this with the Apple-promoted (and developed) Lightning and MagSafe connectors, which have limited acceptance beyond Apple products.

So, It's Like Micro USB?
Yes, the USB-C connector looks like a micro USB connector at first glance, but it's slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no up or down orientation. As long as the connector is lined up right, you won't have to flip the connector to plug it in! The cables also have the same connector on both ends, so you won't ever have to figure out which end to plug in, unlike the older USB cables we've been using for the past 20 years.

Is This USB 3.1?
Yup, this is USB 3.1, which is theoretically twice as fast as USB 3.0. It's fully compatible electrically with USB 3.0, though obviously it won't plug in physically without an adapter. By the way, it's about as fast as the original specs for Thunderbolt (10Gbps).

What About Those Adapters?
Some laptops don't come with any adapters aside from the charger and a single USB-C cable. Others will be available separately. Apple's USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter will be $19, but the one that will give you the most utility is the decidedly expensive $79 USB-C AV Multiport Adapter, which gives you USB 3.1 Gen 1 (the old connector), USB-C pass through for charging, and an HDMI port. Since USB-C is an industry standard connector, cheaper adapters are inevitable. (Check out our list of USB-C cables and adapters that are already on the market.)

What Else Does it Support?
The USB-C connector supports DisplayPort, HDMI, power, USB, and VGA. Notably absent is Thunderbolt, which is superseded by USB-C, just like FireWire was replaced by Thunderbolt. USB-C-to-Ethernet is a no-brainer, but you may have to daisy chain an older USB-to-Ethernet adapter to your USB-C adapter for the time being.

And Power?
The MacBook comes with a 29-watt power supply, while larger laptops have 85- to 135-watt power supplies. Traditional AC adapters use a morass of different sizes and shapes (barrel, MagSafe, Lightning, micro-USB). Indications are that the USB-C standard supports at least 100 watts of power delivery, so it's possible that USB-C could replace most power adapters as a standard in the future. Using USB to power a laptop isn't new, though. Look at the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro $1,099.00 at Lenovo, which has a full-size USB 3.0 power connector.

So I'll Have to Buy New Cables and Adapters?
Yes, unfortunately, you will. However, once you buy a cable or two, they will work with everything that supports USB-C, unlike the situation today, where pulling a mini USB cable out of your bag to charge your micro USB-equipped Samsung Galaxy S6 phone is almost as useless as grabbing a Nokia Pop-Port or Sony Ericsson charger.

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We're only scratching the surface of what USB-C can do, but one thing is certain: the next generation of cross-platform connectors is here, just as the original USB stadnard replaced Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), FireWire, parallel, PS/2, SCSI, and serial ports on Macs and PCs.

Article source: PCMag.com
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BlackBerry’s next smartphone may run Android

BlackBerry doesn’t dominate the smartphone market they way they used to. They’re still fighting, though, and now it’s thought that they’re preparing to deploy a secret weapon.

An awkward-sounding secret weapon, really: a portrait slider phone that runs Android. Not one that runs Android apps, mind you — BB10 devices can already do that. They even ship with Amazon’s app store pre-installed. No, this particular BlackBerry would run the full Android OS, just like a Galaxy S6 or a Nexus 6.
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Wi-Fi That Charges Your Gadgets Is Closer Than You Think


IT’S EASY TO take Wi-Fi for granted (as long as you have the password). But what if it did more than facilitate your Pinterest habit? What if instead of just connecting your devices to the Internet, it charged them as well, no wires required?

That’s the promise of new research from a team at the University of Washington, which has developed what it’s calling a “power over Wi-Fi” system that can recharge batteries through the air, from up to 28 feet away.

The system comprises just two components; an access point (a router), and custom-built sensors. “The goal of the sensors is to harvest RF (radio frequency) power and convert it into DC power,” explains Vamsi Talla, a researcher on the project. “The second piece, the access point, there we actually developed a custom solution on it, just a software modification that would enable the access point to act both as a good power delivery source and, simultaneously, also as a good Wi-Fi router.” In other words, it achieves power over Wi-Fi in a way that both works with pre-existing hardware, and doesn’t interfere with your Internet connection one bit.

Those are two important distinctions. As Popular Science notes, Energous already sells a device that transmits power through the air through RF signals. It requires entirely new, dedicated hardware, though, and loses the Wi-Fi aspect. The UW research, meanwhile, can coexist with traditional Wi-Fi routers, pushing both data and energy simultaneously. Or, more accurately, efficiently harnessing the energy that your router already puts out.

As for Wi-Fi interference, there’s a hard cap on how much output of any kind your router can manage at once, sort of like how putting more ketchup on a hot dog leaves less room for mustard. But the UW team came up with a clever workaround to make sure neither charging nor connectivity goes sideways.

“If we wanted to just blast as much power as we possibly can, that would kill your Wi-Fi, because you’d have power on the channel all the time,” explains Bryce Kellogg, another researcher on the project. “We optimized the router so that we can deliver what seems like, to the sensor, constant power without impacting your Wi-Fi too much. Instead of having continuous power on one of your Wi-Fi channels, we split it among your three non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels. That allows us to deliver about the same amount of power without impacting any one channel very much.”

The team has already tested this out with temperature sensors, a camera, and rechargeable batteries, powering all from ranges of 20 feet, 17 feet, and 28 feet, respectively. If those applications seem a little small-fry, don’t blame them. Blame the FCC, which has imposed a one-watt limit on router power output, for reasons that are mysterious to Talla and company. Should those restrictions loosen, you could start to see far more robust applications.

And you won’t just see them in a lab. The UW team has already installed functional systems in six Seattle-area homes, using Asus RT-AC68U routers outfitted with custom code. It’s worth noting both that the router model they used is several years old, and ultimately inconsequential. It could just as easily be the router in your office right now. “In theory, it’s just a firmware upgrade,” says Talla, with the caveat that hardware manufacturers would need to be on board. While they don’t have any deals in place currently, the team is actively exploring the possibility.

They’ve already founded a startup to help take what they’ve achieved so far and turn it into an actual product. And they see plenty of opportunity for improvement along the way, from increasing the maximum range by making the harvesters more efficient, to tweaking the code to beef up the access point.

“The work we’ve published, you could think of it as the first proof of concept,” says Talla. “But it’s by no means the optimal solution. We’re actively working to make it better.”

They’re also working on nailing down exactly who their market might be, whether it better fits more industrial or commercial needs. The answer would probably be much more clear if they weren’t faced with FCC-imposed wattage limitations, but there’s still plenty of appeal in smaller doses.

Besides, even if they can only ever dispense power in trickles instead of floods, it’s an impressive achievement. Forget power mats and battery packs; the energy we need is already all around us. Now we have a way to harness it—and stay connected, too.

Article source: Wired - Power over Wi-Fi
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