10 Best USB-C Cables (2022): For iPhones, Android Phones, Tablets, and Laptops

With various standards and charging technologies in operation, it is much more difficult than it should be to figure out what a cable can do. There are some things worth knowing when you shop.

USB standards: The Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard dates back to 1996, but has seen many new standards, revisions, and connector types in later years. Instead of reviewing them all here, let’s try to highlight what’s important.

Connectors: While USB-C is fortunately becoming a standard connection type, you want cables with connectors that fit your existing devices. Today, this could still mean USB-A, Lightning or even MicroUSB. Remember that the capabilities of any cable are limited to the oldest type of connection.

Data: The data transfer rate is always in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). You will know the speed that a cable should be able to according to the standard:

  • USB 2.0 supports 480 Mbps
  • USB 3.0 supports 5 Gbps
  • USB 3.1 supports 10 Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1 supports 5 Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 supports 10 Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 3 supports 20 Gbps
  • USB 4.0 supports 40 Gbps

Power: Although cable manufacturers always indicate the maximum charging speed, your device will determine how much power it consumes, so it’s important to know what standards it supports and combine the cable with the correct power adapter. The charging speed of a cable is measured in watts (W). Sometimes manufacturers will list cable specifications in lower case. If there is no W in the list, you can calculate it by multiplying the voltage (V) and current (A), assuming they are listed.

USB-A ports are limited to 12 watts. USB-C ports can reach 240 watts (previously they were limited to 100 W), but that depends on the device. For example, USB-C typically offers 18 watts to a phone. Apple Lightning ports can work with USB-A or USB-C cables.

Thunderbolt was a proprietary interface developed by Intel and Apple, but is now open for copyright-free use (still certified by Intel). With Thunderbolt 3, the standard adopted the USB-C connector and is capable of transferring data at speeds of up to 40 Gbps and can offer 100 watts of power using the PD standard. Thunderbolt 4 provides several improvements related mainly to the video signal (support for two 4K screens or one 8K screen). It also supports the USB 4 standard and is backwards compatible with previous standards. We plan to test the Thunderbolt and USB 4 cables over the next few weeks.

The power supply standard (PD) is the closest we have to a common standard. Some manufacturers, such as OnePlus, Oppo and Xiaomi, still have proprietary charging standards. Below is Qualcomm’s Fast Charge (QC) standard, which was the most popular for phones for many years, although Quick Charge 4+ supports PD. Even PD has a variant called Programmable Power Supply (PPS), which is part of the USB PD 3.0 standard. PPS allows real-time adjustments to maximize efficiency and charge phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range up to 45W instead of the usual 18W.

Cable certification: There are a few different types of cable certification. When a cable is certified, this usually means that it has been tested independently and conforms to specific standards. As a buyer, you can rest assured that your cable works as stated by the manufacturer. Certification can be expensive, so many cable manufacturers avoid it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their cables are of poor quality. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing USB technology. Led by members such as Apple, Google, HP, Microsoft and Intel, it sets specifications and offers certification. If a cable is USB-IF certified, it has been tested to make sure it meets its standards. Apple has its own Made for iPhone (MFi) certification for Lightning cables.

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