Can USB-C Be Used For Display?


The arrival of the USB-C port has made many users happy that it is easy to insert the cable into it. Most of the latest tablets, phones, and laptops are equipped with a USB-C port. When the Type A rectangular ports were replaced by these new ports, many companies incorporated the change in their products. Interestingly, Apple has also moved to USB-C, and you can find these ports in the latest Chromebooks and MacBooks.

An Intro to USB-C

USB-C is an essential upgrade to the USB port that became popular instantly. This latest hardware design enabled inserting the cable either way, unlike the older USB ports that required the right orientation to fit in. It allows data exchange and power between computing devices and supports many powerful technologies like USB Power Delivery.

Today, many USB-C ports are in sync with the second-generation USB 3.1 data transfer standard. These boast data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps and power delivery of up to 100watts.

USB-C and Display

Increased data transfer speed would mean that they can output video to any display using the same connection. USB-C has something called the Alternate Mode or the Alt Mode for videos that are useful in getting video output with the help of adapters.

This option makes it possible to make USB-C to HDMI cables that need no converters to directly push video from a USB-C device to an HDMI display. So, a single cable can be used to form a connection between a USB-C port and an HDMI display.

A direct connection from the USB-C port to DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, or any other connectors on monitors, projectors, or TVs enables video transfer to these displays. This is a boon for those who own the latest tablets and phones, as they can effortlessly link these to projectors.     

The Alt Mode lets USB-C cable carry non-USB signals. It also supports Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, and MHL. The USB-C devices with Alt Modes can then transfer these signals apart from the normal USB data if the right USB-C cable is used.

The USB-C port supports video for a 4K display, but you may have to use converters to carry audio data accurately. The HDMI Alt Modes for USB-C connectors supports 3D video, 4K resolution, and HDMI-CEC. The things that are not supported include HDMI 2.0b features and HDR video.

What is Thunderbolt?

Introduced in 2011, Thunderbolt was developed as a technology for connectivity born out of a collaboration between Apple and Intel. This technology enabled the transfer of PCI Express data for storage and DisplayPort Graphics for the monitor.

Initially intended for Apple’s MacBook Pro, many other brands use this technology these days. Presently, Thunderbolt 3 is the most powerful version of this technology, adding USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectivity. This latest version made the technology universal by making it compatible with USB-C, and it was no more limited to Apple products. 

Many computers have more than one Thunderbolt port, but a single port is enough to connect up to six peripherals in a daisy chain.

USB-C and Thunderbolt

Initially, USB and Thunderbolt were two entirely different connection technologies. Later these technologies became similar, and when USB-C was introduced, Thunderbolt was made to connect using only USB-C ports. Eventually, Thunderbolt capabilities were added to USB-C ports, making them more efficient.

USB -C and thunderbolt
USB -C and thunderbolt

Here are the features offered by Thunderbolt 3.

  • Native audio support
  • Several devices can be linked as a serial connection and accessed by one PC
  • Data transfer speed of 40Gbps which is way faster than that offered by USB-C
  • Compatibility with all USB devices and devices that need Thunderbolt 3 connection
  • Can support a 5K display or up to two 4K displays
  • Longer connections call for special cables

Can A Port Be Only USB-C?

It is definitely possible for a port to be only USB-C. Such ports enable connection through the USB 3.1 protocol, and they usually lack Thunderbolt 3 capabilities. However, some ports support both connectivities, and these are named ‘USB-C Thunderbolt 3’ so that users know that they can be used with either of them. Devices that support either of these technologies can be connected to ports that support both.

Incidentally, a Thunderbolt 3 port can also act as a USB-C port, even though the reverse is not true. In the past, there were separate Thunderbolt connections, but it became a universal connection with the introduction of Thunderbolt 3. But note that accessing the full capabilities of Thunderbolt 3 is only possible with special Thunderbolt 3 cables.

Which is Better USB-C or Thunderbolt 3?

Compared to older USB ports, USB-C offers excellent speed and versatility with the ability to charge up many accessory devices. Even though Thunderbolt 3 is better than USB-C in many ways, there is no need to have a Thunderbolt 3 port if you can manage with USB-C alone.

If you want to connect 4K monitors as a daisy chain, you may require a Thunderbolt 3 port. A USB-C port may not suffice here. Thunderbolt cables support Thunderbolt docking stations that come in handy when connecting several devices to your computer.

Thunderbolt 3 is recommended for those who work with large data files. With a transfer rate of 40Gbps, Thunderbolt promises higher video bandwidth while using more than one 4K displays. It is also excellent in transferring large chunks of data more quicker.     

USB-C has hit the market with many benefits like easy video delivery and direct connection from the latest mobile devices to displays, to name a few. Higher rates of data transfer and power delivery are other highlights of this latest port that have prompted manufacturers to introduce it in their latest devices. USB-C is in its early days and hopefully will offer more advantages to transform the tech world completely.   

Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

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