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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

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ levels up battery, sound quality

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With the the headphone port nowhere to be found on the Galaxy S20 series comes a pair of improved true wireless earbuds — the Samsung Galaxy Buds+.

It’s a step up from last year’s Galaxy Buds. While last year’s version promised 6 hours of listening time, the Galaxy Buds+ takes it up to 11 hours on a single charge. You also get another 11 hours with the charging case.

In terms of sound quality, these are still tuned by AKG. It employs 2-way dynamic speakers and 3 mics to deliver better sound and voice quality

Inside the box you’ll also find a variety of wing and ear tips so you get the fit and comfort that’s made just for you.

It doesn’t have the noise-cancelling chip that you’ll find on the true wireless earbuds offered by Sony, Apple, and Huawei. Its approach to noise-cancelling has to do more with its physical design and rather than a tiny chip.

Speaking of its design, it retains the form factor of the original Galaxy Buds — which is great since it doesn’t look anything like the AirPods which many other manufacturers have taken a cue from. Speaking of Apple, if you’re not a fan of the AirPods’ design, you’ll be happy to know that the Galaxy Buds+, along with its companion app, will be compatible with iOS devices.

Availability

The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ will be available in Cosmic Black, White, Red, and Cloud Blue, starting February 14, 2020 on Samsung.com, followed by major mobile carriers and retailers on March 6, 2020 and will retail for US$ 149.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds+ price and availability in the Philippines

A minor improvement

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True wireless (TWS) earbuds are popping up one after the other. Samsung’s latest — the Galaxy Buds+ — is also making its way to the Philippines.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ improves upon the battery life of its predecessor promising up to 11 hours of listening time in a single charge. You also get another 11 hours thanks  to the charging case.

Its approach to noise cancellation has to do more with its 2-dynamic speaker and physical design which means this may not be in direct competition with the likes of the AirPods Pro, Huawei Freebuds 3, and Sony WF-1000XM3.

It maintains the same design as its predecessor — a welcome look in the sea of TWS earbuds that all look like AirPods. If you use an iPhone but are not fans of the AirPods’ design, you’ll be happy to know that the Galaxy Buds+ will also be compatible with iOS devices.

Price and availabilty

The Galaxy Buds+ will be available starting March 6, 2020. It will retail for PhP 6,990.

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The Nokia Power Earbuds come with ‘150-hour battery life’

Available only in China

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A few years ago, Nokia’s expansion beyond phones would have been preposterous. Since its dominance at the start of the millennium, Nokia has always found its closely guarded niche in the phone-making business. However, the company has announced the first Nokia-branded televisions late last year. Now, they are going even further.

Recently, Nokia has launched its own wireless earbuds in China. The Power Earbuds touts the most bombastic feature ever seen in wireless earbuds — a 150-hour battery life.

Design-wise, the Power Earbuds have the traditional set of components for the emerging technology: two in-ear pieces and a charging case. The set comes in two colors: charcoal black and light gray.

Inside, the earbuds sport a 6mm graphene driver unit, supposedly putting out high-quality audio. It is compatible with Google Assistant, allowing hands-free operation.

Further, they can support Bluetooth 5.0, extending usage by up to 800 feet. For durability, the Power Earbuds are certified for IP7 resistance. Supposedly, users can submerge the earbuds underwater for up to 30 minutes.

As for that battery life, Nokia presents an interesting caveat. The earbuds themselves don’t last for 150 hours; instead, they last for a more believable 5-hour charge. Each bud contains only 50mAh capacity for battery life.

The gargantuan battery belongs to the charging case. The 3000mAh case has as much battery life as a smartphone. As such, users can charge the earbuds multiple times through the case before charging the case itself.

The Nokia Power Earbuds are available exclusively online in China. They retail for CNY 699 or around US$ 100.

SEE ALSO: Nokia 2.3 has AI on a budget

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