Why is a new specification being released if the current one has not yet finished taking off? This is precisely one of the reasons for the arrival of USB-C 2.1, but there are many more and above all, there are very few reasons not to want to make the final leap to this specification and finally leave all of the above behind. Is this new USB-C 2.1 the expected revolution in the industry?
USB-C 2.1, all advantages or disadvantages?
It has taken USB.org no less than two years to bring this specification to life through multiple changes, experiments, and especially testing with industry leaders. We already knew the USB-C 2.0 version, but what has changed in this new 2.1?
Let’s first talk about what hasn’t changed as such: the connector. The standard remains the same, the same shape, the same size and the same anchors, which also means that it will be totally retro compatible as it already happens with USB-A.
But saving this, the changes are already noticeable. In the first place and as something physical we will have at least two pins that are totally different: from the A4 to A9 and from B4 to B9, which now have the added feature that they should not short-circuit to ground during the connection of the connector.
This is important as it is vital for power, power supply, and to maintain compatibility with version 2.0 smoothly.
New EPR specification
USB-C 2.1 brings us yet another derivation of the same call EPR or Extend Power Range. This shunt, which in many cases will not even be flagged (badly done), will raise the maximum voltage to an amazing 48 volts, which will allow us to work with no less than 240 watts at 5 amps.
Although the comparisons are odious and distant in amperage and voltage, this consumption is similar to that of a custom RTX 3070, there is nothing. This in theory will cause so-called arcing in cables and connectors due to increased power supply, hot connections and disconnections of cables and a long etc.
Therefore, these EPR connectors and their cables must be marked to indicate that they are not SPR like the current ones and that they can supply more current to compatible devices. This is where the PD charging protocol comes in, known colloquially as USB-PD, since this mode allows more power to be delivered to the devices that require it.
And here are the benefits of this USB-C 2.1, since if we look at the current PD standard we will see that it is limited to 100W, 20 volts and 5 amps. From this we pass to the named 48 volts and 5 amps, so the entire industry is going to undergo a radical change in the way and method of managing energy to its products.
Manufacturers applaud USB-C 2.1, a charger for everyone?
It is not surprising that each model or series of laptops, for example, has a different charger and is not compatible with the other models. This is mainly due to the technical and energy requirements of each model, where it is tried to save costs based on the design of the device.
With the arrival of USB-C 2.1 we could see a standard for everyone, a single charger that can supply power to any laptop in a stable way. The problem is that surely the manufacturers will decide to simply differentiate SPR chargers from EPR and we will somehow return to the point where we are today, but very simplified, something is something.
Is it possible for problems or short circuits to arise with that much energy?
With 240 watts of consumption in a single cable, this being USB-C and with the number of devices on the current market, many of you will be wondering if there may be problems when loading or unloading with certain cables.
USB.org itself responds to this with the commented Arcing or Kickback. There are two separate mechanisms that can create the necessary voltage differential for arcing and with enough current they can damage the contacts due to overheating.
- Inductive kickback
- Sink discharge
Even before either of these mechanisms occurs, there is initial heating due to all current being channeled through a very small contact point where the power density creates enough heat to potentially melt the metal. The first arcing mechanism is due to inductive recoil which can easily create a voltage delta of 12 volts or more. This event begins at the contact break and lasts less than approximately 100 ns.
Inductive kickback arcing occurs at any VBUS voltage; occurs regardless of the starting DC voltage on VBUS. This arcing has not been seen to cause long-term damage to USB Type-C cables in the past, as the current is likely too low to overheat the metal (beyond forming a temporary fused bridge the size of a micron) to a point where it is permanently destructive.
Calculating the inductive arc energy as ½ Li2 results in approximately 5 µjoules, which is too low an energy to damage metal and correlates well with observation over the lifetime of USB Type-C connections in practice.
That is, not enough physical damage is seen to understand that it may represent a risk to the component or connections of the device even with the passage of time, although they have minimal wear. This is reassuring, since even if the charger is actually 240 watts we will not melt a device with a lower charging range.