You’re probably well aware that USB cables are used to transfer data between devices but you may not be as familiar with the USB-C connector, which is reversible and supports different kinds of data transfers and power delivery. USB-C is also much faster than other kinds of USB connectors and is the connector that most newer computers, laptops, phones, tablets and other devices use now.
The newer usb c charging cables connector is smaller than the original USB-A and USB-B plugs you’re used to seeing on many devices. But it can be easier to use, and it can also provide more power than the older USB types. That power is transferred via something called a “Power Delivery” protocol, which can send up to 100 watts of current, enough to charge a laptop or some large monitors. That’s a huge improvement over the 2.5 watts that traditional USB-A cables can supply.
But not all USB-C cables are created equal. They can have different voltage and current ratings, support only USB 2.0 or up to USB 4, be eMarked or not eMarked (that’s how the manufacturer proves it follows the USB-C specification), passive or active, and some can even support alternate modes like DisplayPort, MHL, HDMI or Thunderbolt 3. Some also carry a lot of wires that increase their thickness and weight, which increases their cost.
When it comes to determining how good a cable is, most of the factors are based on its data transfer and charging capabilities. We look at the max transfer rate it can achieve, which will be listed in its product description and/or technical specs. We also test the wires inside the connector to see if they’re hooked up correctly, and we do a resistance test to make sure the metal shell is properly grounded to the cable.
All that testing adds up to a final score that we can compare against the scores of every cable we’ve tested. Our score system is a little complex but it allows us to give you an overall recommendation about whether a cable is worth buying or not. The higher the score, the better the cable is at transferring data and charging.
It’s important to note that, despite having high marks in both categories, not all the cables we tested were equal in terms of performance. A few had significant issues in one category or the other. The most obvious issue is that some were only rated for charging, while others are designed for high-speed data transfer.
Another factor is how thick and heavy a cable is, which impacts its pliableness and its ability to fit in tight spaces. Thicker, heavier cables are harder to bend and have more wires, which means they can be less pliable than their lighter-duty counterparts.
You can also buy adapters that let you connect a USB-C cable to a USB-A port, which can be useful if your desktop or laptop has a few older USB-A ports that you still need to plug into. But be aware that that’s a compromise: The cable will be slower in both charging and data transfer than it would be if you had used a cable with the correct type of connector from the start.