1

It seems that the new USB-C connector is good for charging, good for HDMI output, good for connecting to new devices that use USB-C connectors, and good for older USB devices like an old scanner, printer, external hard drive, and video capturing box.

I suppose the older devices can be connected by using a USB-C to multi-port USB hub. However, I wonder how this USB-C connector can be connected to multiple USB-C devices, HDMI output, and older USB devices? For example, let's say an HDMI output adaptor is plugged into the Macbook, then how do you charge the Macbook, and how can another USB-C device as well as an older USB device be both plugged in?

  • I think Apple’s answer to this question would be: buy a MacBook Pro instead. They’re clear about having designed the new MacBook for people who care more about portability than about the possibility of connecting multiple cables simultaneously (apple.com/macbook/wireless). But manufacturers like Belkin will probably “fill the gap” soon with suitable USB/USB-C/HDMI/charging hubs. – Rinzwind Mar 9 '15 at 22:10
  • my original intent was to occassionally connect a USB Flash drive or an external hard drive, and doing so might seem to require a USB or USB-C adaptor that has a power charging USB-C port. One of my current Macbook Airs is connected to an HDMI TV, a video capture box, and an external slim 2TB hard drive. So in that case, it seems I might need to get a USB hub with a USB-C charging port and an HDMI output port, to use what I have right now... also, maybe there will be some "docking station" that comes with this feature, but I use the Macbook Air keyboard and screen, so just a hub should do – 太極者無極而生 Mar 10 '15 at 4:24
  • and so if I get this adapter: store.apple.com/us/product/MJ1K2AM/A/… then it kind of gives what the old Macbook Air could provide, although, if the adapter has 2 USB-ports, then it will be closer to what the old Macbook Air could provide – 太極者無極而生 Mar 10 '15 at 4:30
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Although Apple named it USB-C, it's officially called USB Type-C.

USB Type-C does not allow daisy chaining like Thunderbolt or FireWire. That being said, you will need a USB Type-C hub.

USB Type-C Hub

A USB Type-C hub will likely have:

  • One USB Type-C DFP (Downstream Facing Port) connecting to the host.
  • Multiple USB Type-C UFP (Upstream Facing Ports) connecting to devices or another hub.

or

  • Multiple USB Type-A UFP (Upstream Facing Ports) connecting to devices or another hub (USB Type-A are the old USB ports).

USB Type-C hubs will need to comply with the USB 3.1 specifications. USB 3.1 provides backwards compatibility to older USB standards, therefore you would be able to add older USB devices with the use of an adapter or if the hub provides older UBS Type-A ports.

Example: USB Type-C hub

With a USB Type-C hub, you could add multiple USB Type-C devices, for example 2 USB Type-C monitors, as long as the host can drive/support them. In that sense, USB Type-C hubs work just like 'normal' USB hubs.

Example: USB Type-C devices

LaCie announced a USB Type-C external hard drive. If you add this to a laptop with only 1 USB Type-C port (and this laptop also charges via that same USB Type-C port, like the MacBook 12" mid-2015), then you cannot use the hard drive and charge the laptop simultaneously, unless you add a USB Type-C hub (that allows for charging) between the laptop and the hard drive.

Example: USB Type-A devices

You could add a USB Type-C to USB Type-A hub or adapter. For example an Apple USB-C to USB, USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to VGA adapter. Thereby making old USB devices, like a keyboard or a scanner, available to your host.

Note that using a USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to VGA adapter you can simultaneously:

  1. Charge your MacBook
  2. Use HDMI/VGA
  3. Use an old USB Type-A device (this can also be a USB Type-A hub with multiple devices).

USB 3.1 specifications

Please read the USB specifications, including USB Type-C, for more details: http://www.usb.org/developers/docs/

1

The Apple HDMI and VGA USB-C adaptors have USB-C and USB ports as well as the HDMI or VGA port. See here, for example.

  • what about multiple USB-C devices? Keep on daisy chaining? then can't the cabling be kind of messy? – 太極者無極而生 Mar 9 '15 at 20:00
  • I'm pretty sure the Type-C port on that adapter (and similar third-party adapters) can only be used for charging the host computer, not for daisy-chaining further USB devices. – nekomatic May 23 '18 at 13:29
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The USB Type-C port is a curious beast. It is, in fact several connectors in one:

  1. A high speed data path
  2. Power delivery
  3. A USB 2.0 port

Now, the high speed data path can be used for really speedy USB, 10 GBit/s "Superspeed+" mode. Then you can connect this to a speedier version of the plain old USB hub and have as many USB 1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1 devices connect to the hub as you wish.

Or it can be used in an alternate mode. This can be a lot of things, currently DisplayPort, HDMI, MHL is supported but the potential is there for Ethernet and even PCI Express and whatnot. However, let me emphasize again: if you do this then your superspeed+ USB is not there. You can still use the power delivery lanes and the USB 2.0 port. The latter is a usual High Speed USB 2.0 port, goes into a USB for USB 2.0 devices.

There will be a lot of confusion because the charging only USB C connector on the (some video)/USB2/(USB C charging port) adapters is visually not distinguishable from the versatile port on the machine. Theoretically you could even build an adapter which has all sorts of ports on it and a button that switches which one is active.

Even more confusion will arise when accessory manufacturers will create a SuperSpeed+ "docking station" that has a kind of DisplayLink chip in it. Remember, DisplayLink is the technology behind USB-to-DVI adapter but this time the bandwidth is quite there to do uncompressed video over USB 3.1 -- it's less than half of the available bandwidth. With compression you can even do a dual display adapter! At least for 1080p60 or 4k30 you can. Perhaps it'll even be possible to drive a 4k60 monitor this way. There's a possibility that such a docking station will feature one or more of the familiar blue USB 3.0 ports or even USB-C ports just for fun and confusion. Because these USB-C ports are now locked to USB mode and can't be used with native display adapters.

Other docking stations, however, will switch the USB-C connector to DisplayPort, add an MST (MultiStreamTransfer) hub and drive three displays natively and happily (as long as they are only 1080p). These ports can have USB 2.0 ports but not 3.0/3.1.

Basically there will be a tonne of scenarios where users can plug in something into an USB-C port and it simply won't work. At all. Or where you plug in a monitor, expect it Just Work and faced with needing to download drivers.

  • If you downvoted this, care to add a comment where am I incorrect? I'd like to learn. – chx Mar 12 '15 at 7:20
  • 2
    I did not downvote you, but can you put down relevant answer instead of dumping info like an encyclopedia article? Also, you wrote down "Oh I can't wait to answer all the confused people." If you pose yourself as superior, it seems like people don't like it – 太極者無極而生 Mar 12 '15 at 11:34
  • OK I removed that. Also, even the Wikipedia article doesn't contain all the various scenarios... – chx Mar 12 '15 at 17:46
  • USB 3 SuperSpeed and DisplayPort as an Alt Mode are not mutually exclusive for USB Type-C; since the connector supports four differential high speed wire pairs, it is possible to e.g. dedicate two of them to DisplayPort and two to USB 3.1 (Gen 1, i.e. 5 Gbps) Superspeed. VESA has some nice presentation slides on some possible configurations: displayport.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/… – lxgr Apr 7 '15 at 13:06
  • Wow. I stand corrected. So you might end up with a DisplayPort connector with only two lanes active which in 1.2 AFAIK is not enough for 4K@60 Hz. So I think the confusion part is still correct. – chx Apr 7 '15 at 16:45

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