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C is the key: Explaining USB Type-C

What really makes this new standard special

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For years, people have grown accustomed to using USB ports for almost all of their devices. Whether you need to charge your phone using your computer or use a controller to play games, you can always count on a USB port to be readily available for you. But 2018 was the year of change and innovation, and the USB port you know and love welcomed change in a big way.

Introducing: USB Type-C, the newest port added to the family. Its round shape brought many new uses and functionalities to your ports. But, how different is it from its much older brothers? How have companies revolutionized its use in mainstream devices?


What is this USB Type-C port?

The USB Type-C (USB-C) port is a not-so-recent discovery in the world of tech. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) developed this USB port back in 2013, and launched it into mass production the following year. The connector is a reversible oval shape, much different from the usual rectangular shape of the previous generation. Its reversibility allows any orientation of the cable for transferring files or charging your device.

USB-IF developed USB-C following the USB 3.1 standard. Such a standard was particularly used because of its faster transfer speeds and charging capabilities. With a USB-C port, you can transfer an hour-long movie in less than 30 seconds, provided you have the appropriate connector for it.

Computer and smartphone manufacturers have incorporated the USB-C port in most of their devices. One of the early adopters of the new technology was Apple, with their redesigned 12-inch MacBook in 2015. Other computer manufacturers followed in the later years, especially with the release of the Thunderbolt 3 technology used for gaming machines.

It’s the younger, faster and more all-around sibling

USB-C has been around for the past four years, and it has gradually developed into an all-around port for users. Alongside Thunderbolt 3, the USB-C port posts the highest data transfer speed across all the available USB connections in existence. Not only that, USB-C ports these days can now connect your devices to external GPUs and displays, and charge your devices. Most USB-C ports even support fast charging for smartphones.

While the technology behind it is supported by a USB 3.1 standard, it’s still very much different from other USB ports that use the USB 3.1 protocol. For starters, the USB 3.1 standard found in USB-C ports are USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, which offer twice as much performance in data transfer as USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. Most of the Gen 1 ports also use an older USB Type-A standard, which works for most of your gadgets and peripherals today. However, you would need more adapters for other functionalities, like displaying to a monitor.

But the USB-C port is a far cry from the old USB 2.0 and 3.0 protocols, which have been in existence for 14 years (and counting). Data transfer speeds for those two protocols are significantly slower compared to the USB-C port. An hour-long movie would ideally take around one to two minutes on a USB 2.0 port. Also, older USB protocols don’t really allow you to power up devices that need more electricity. So, charging devices on them might not be as fast.

Supercharged with Thunderbolt 3

So, you’re probably wondering what really makes a USB-C port just that fast. It’s not so much that it’s round, or that it’s new; rather, it’s the technology inside it. Late 2015 saw the arrival of the new Thunderbolt 3 standard specifically for USB-C ports. It first started out in most Windows laptops before making it to the 2016 MacBook Pro and several gaming motherboards.

What Thunderbolt 3 does for USB-C ports is to significantly increase its capacity and capabilities by a mile. We’re talking faster file transfer, heightened gaming experiences, and being able to plug in 4K displays for clearer images. Thunderbolt 3 also allows much bigger devices to be charged at a controlled rate. This is mostly evident with the MacBook Pro, several high-end Ultrabooks, and most recently, the 2018 iPad Pro.

The charging capacity brought about by Thunderbolt 3 deals with a tweak to how USB power delivery works. USB power delivery standards state that each USB standard has specific conditions that must be met to power up devices. Early versions of USB ports only allow a small amount of electricity (2.5W) for delivery, while USB-C allows for the full 100W.  Basically, you went from just powering up your mouse and keyboard to charging your entire laptop.

What’s to come for USB-C?

At this point in time, you’re already living in the future that the USB-C port hopes to achieve. Suddenly, you can simply bring a USB-C cable around, plug it into a powerbank, and you can already charge your expensive MacBook. More and more devices are starting to adopt USB-C because of its potential to enhance your tech experience as a whole.

However, people still find it difficult to switch to USB-C, and for good reason. Most devices continue to use a USB Type-A or micro-USB connector, especially gaming controllers and peripherals. Also, they can argue that the old ports are more accessible. In a not-so-distant future, using a USB-C port could potentially replace a phone’s headphone jack.

The future of USB-C is still uncertain. Companies will iron out the new technology more so it can become mainstream for the future. Let’s just hope that by the time that happens, there won’t be a USB Type-D yet.

Accessories

Sony’s new XB900N are cheaper noise-canceling headphones with extra bass

A more affordable option

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Image credit: Sony

The premium noise-canceling WH-1000XM3 headphones from Sony might be the best in its class, but it’s quite pricey. Surprisingly, the Japanese maker has announced a new pair of noise-canceling headphones that is US$ 100 cheaper.

The new Sony WH-XB900N (be sure to remember that) is a more accessible alternative for those who are in the market of noise-canceling headphones. It’s priced at just US$ 250 and offers similar features to Sony’s flagship model.


Design-wise, it looks a lot like its more premium sibling and that’s probably intentional. They may look the same, but the XB900N is different on the inside. For instance, it has an inferior noise-canceling chip and it lacks the ability to adjust for atmospheric pressure when on an airplane.

Image credit: Sony

On the bright side, the XB900N is great for bass lovers. It might have fewer noise-canceling features, but it has a lot more bass. It’s also equipped with touch panel controls, microphone for Google Assistant or Alexa, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.2.

Sony promises up to 30 hours of playback time with noise-canceling on a single charge, which is not shabby. Speaking of, a 10-minute quick charge will give up to an hour of play time.

The new XB900N is expected to go on sale at the end of June.

Source: Sony
Via
: Gizmodo

SEE ALSO: Sony WH-1000XM3 Hands-on: As good as advertised

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OnePlus increased their headphone dongle’s price by more than 50 percent

Bad news for OnePlus 7 Pro users

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In today’s topsy-turvy world, the headphone jack is a luxury. Most smartphone makers have dropped the former necessity, prompting a surge in dongle sales. Now, to enjoy music on your smartphone, you’ll need an unwieldy USB-C adapter or an expensive pair of Bluetooth earphones. The economy has drastically shifted.

Recently, OnePlus joined the depressing jack-less train. Last year’s OnePlus 6T notably started the new trend. Likewise, this year’s OnePlus 7 Pro launched without the beloved feature, settling instead for a USB-C slot. As with other companies, OnePlus made the dongle a necessity.


Surprisingly, the new premium flagship does not ship with a free dongle. Unlike with other smartphones, a OnePlus dongle is a separate buy, crimping your wallet even further. Even worse, the OnePlus 6T shipped with one in the box. The lack of a free dongle is a big disappointment for dedicated OnePlus fans.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Spotted on Reddit, OnePlus quietly increased their dongle’s price by more than 50 percent. Previously, the dongle cost a workable US$ 8. Now, according to OnePlus’ official online store, the dongle costs a pricier US$ 12.95.

Of course, the OnePlus 6T’s free dongle offset the cost, anyway. However, it’s a different story for OnePlus 7 Pro users. Besides the flagship’s main price, customers will also shell out an additional fee for audio features.

Notably, the price hike has not applied for other international markets yet. For example, India’s store still sells the dongle for the original INR 390 price tag. If anything, the American price hike likely stems from the recent deterioration of US-China relations.

Unfortunately, OnePlus has not issued any announcements if the hike will also apply for other markets. Regardless, as with other recent news, the customer is bearing most of the geopolitical brunt.

SEE ALSO: Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. is the new face of OnePlus

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MPow Headphones Hands-On: Are these worth your while?

Little-known brand promises value-for-money products

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When people talk about headphones and earphones, the brand MPow isn’t the first one that comes to mind. The company boasts quality audio gadgets at really competitive pricing.

Of course, we have to tell for ourselves if these headsets are really any good. We gave a pair to each of our four guys. After a through hands-on, we asked for their verdict.


MPow H7 [Dan]

I’m unfamiliar with MPow. Admittedly, I Googled about the brand and my particular model. Apparently, the MPow H7 is one of the best-reviewed wireless headphones on Amazon US (and other shopping portals). I slightly expected great things. Indeed, the H7 is good for its price. However, it has a couple of shortcomings.

The good: The H7 sounds better than any headphones I’ve used for US$ 20. It’s a balanced pair of headphones for general listening. Bass is really good for electronic music. Vocals are pretty clear in acoustic hits. It’s comfortable and lightweight. I could wear them for hours without any discomfort. Also, I have no issues with pairing on my laptop or my phone.

The bad: The H7’s light weight makes it feel a bit cheap. It’s not exactly a bad thing; you’ll wear this more than you’ll hold it, after all. Additionally, the H7 looks so generic. That’s perfectly subjective, though.

For its price, the H7 is an easy recommendation for those looking for a pair of comfy, good-quality over-ear wireless headphones. It’s certainly not a looker — at least for me — but it deserves the praises it has received so far.

MPow S10 [Rodneil]

The MPow S10 is positioned as a workout companion. However, my usage proves that it can be more than that.

Still, I used it for a few workout sessions. The IPX7 helps take out the worry of getting sweat all over. The fit around your neck and on your ear was also perfect for me. I love that the buds are magnetic. You can even wear it like a pseudo-necklace when not in use.

Coming off the Galaxy Buds, I can say the audio quality lacks a little bit of texture. It just doesn’t have the crispness that I got from Samsung’s wireless earbuds. Of course, the quality isn’t that bad. For video editing and video calls, the quality is more than adequate.

There were also zero problems pairing. Switching from my phone to my laptop was seamless. It’s pretty versatile for a pair of earphones marketed as a sporting buddy, and at US$ 24.99, I would say it’s a pretty darn good deal.

MPow H5 [MJ]

The MPow H5 was a total treat. It’s comfortable to wear and carry around. For US$ 40 headphones, it comes complete with features you can see in similar yet more expensive products.

Its noise-canceling capabilities actually work against the blabbers and chatters while giving a pleasant, sound experience. It can’t completely block the human voice. Still, I think it’s a good thing as it removes the need to pause your music when people approach you. For clearer communication, you can turn off the noise-cancellation with an easily accessible button.

What I liked the most is its ability to switch Bluetooth connection between devices seamlessly. There are times that I had to switch devices (especially when I run out of battery). It’s helpful to stay connected so I can maintain focus on the task at hand.

MPow EG3 [Kevin]

The EG3 is all about gaming, and then some. It specializes in first-person shooter (FPS) games especially with the 7.1 surround sound. It puts you in the middle of the battlefield. You can tell where each sound is coming from. Together with its decent audio performance, gaming becomes a more immersive experience compared to when you only have ordinary headphones on.

Personally, I look for a specific sound when I play games and a different one when I listen to music. MPow’s Audio Center makes it easy with an equalizer and customizable audio profiles. It also has an array of effects such as environment effects, pitch shifting, and a built-in gooseneck microphone. Speaking of the mic, it has an impressive quality good enough for recording voice overs.

Notably, MPow aims for quality products with competitive pricing. For a pair of lightweight headphones delivering good audio and packing premium features, the EG3 is priced at just US$ 29 — more affordable than most models in its tier. Considered altogether, it’s hard to pass on the EG3.

Overall verdict

Four different people, four different devices, one brand. The verdict is pretty unanimous. These MPow headsets aren’t the absolute best in terms of quality. However, in terms of value for your money, these headphones are easy recommendations.

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