What to Avoid When Shopping for USB-C Cables

USB-C cables are fairly new on the electronics market, but they’re quickly taking over for laptop, tablet, and cell phone cables all over the place. It probably won’t be long before these USB cables become truly “universal,” but for now, there are still some kinks to work out in the system. Specifically, there are some poorly-made USB-C cables available for sale that could potentially fry your devices, if you’re not careful.

Benson Leung, a Google engineer who worked on the team that developed the Chromebook Pixel tablet in 2015, found this out the hard way. The new tablet was one of the first to use C-type connectors for the USB cables, which are designed to be universal in shape, size, and direction. Leung was in charge of testing the tablets’ charge capacity — but when he unwittingly purchased a cable that was missing the two extra wires needed to support the SuperSpeed in C-connectors, it completely ruined the device.

“This is a potentially dangerous condition, not just one of inconvenience,” Leung said.

So he took it upon himself to start sharing his findings with vulnerable consumers who might be purchasing the same cables through the Internet. He’s posted dozens of Amazon reviews that let other potential buyers know when the USB cables in question aren’t meeting the proper specifications.

As a result of Leung’s diligence — and other volunteer reviewers like him — Amazon no longer allows third-party marketplace sellers to offer USB-C cables or products that fail to comply with all of the relevant USB standards.

While there are many different types of cables that you can buy off-brand for a cheaper price and the same quality performance — HDMI high-speed cables or lightning cables, for instance — it’s best to stick with only the reputable dealers for USB-C type cables, at least for now. Note that most of the problems seem to occur with USB cables with two different types of connectors on each end: C to A, or C to B, for conversion purposes. Hopefully, as USB-C becomes standard across all devices and industries, this problem will become a mere hiccup of the past.

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