The USB-C cables are available in different versions with different data transfer rates. With USB-C, a new standard hit the shelves of the electronics store in 2014, and the symmetrical USB connector was born. Since then things have become more complicated because what looks like USB-C is not just USB-C. The generations, from USB 3.1 Gen 1 to USB 3.2 Gen2x2, differ not only in their names, but also in their range of functions and in some cases enormous. In addition, if you pair them incorrectly, there is a risk that your end devices will burn out; Backward or cross compatibility is only possible to a limited extent. The completely identical MacBook charging cables and high-speed Thunderbolt 3 cables offer different functions, because a charging cable charges but transfers data at a snail's pace, video signals are not sent at all. To make sure you choose the right accessories for your needs,
USB-C is not the same as USB-C, the term is used generalized. There are differences in the generations, some cables transfer data at a snail's pace, others at up to 40 GBit per second. Some cables only charge devices, while others also send video signals in 4K. So that you don't get confused in the tangled cables, we present you the best cables in this test.
Our test winner is a USB-C 3.1 cable of the second generation, which charges with 100 watts or 5 amps and transfers up to 10 GBit per second. For half the price you get a USB-C 2.0 cable with a good 60 watt charging power. The Thunderbolt 3.0 cable with a transfer rate of up to 40 GBit per second is slightly more expensive. In addition to these recommendations, you will also find four other cables that should meet all requirements: a USB-C to USB-A cable, a USB-A to USB-C cable and a USB-C to micro-USB and a USB-C to Lightning cable. We are also introducing an all-rounder solution that combines Lightning, USB-C and micro-USB.
If you are still not sure which product you actually need, we will explain the differences between the individual USB generations, explain what the certification is all about, which USB-C features are important when and answer frequently asked questions Questions on the subject.
1. Anker Powerline II USB-C to USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
It supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 transmission and can charge any laptop with a USB-C socket at top speed. In our test, the manufacturer Anker wins in every category and always delivers the important USB-IF certification. With the Anker Powerline II USB-C to USB-C-3.1 cable of the second generation, you get an all-round powerful product for around 17 euros. With 100 watts, it charges just as quickly as a Thunderbolt cable and is impressive with a transfer rate of 10 GBit/s, which more than justifies the relatively high price. As a little extra, the 90 centimeter cable has a Velcro fastener.
For around 9 euros, the Anker Powerline II USB-C to USB-C 2.0 cable gives you 60 watts of charging power and 0.48 Gbit/s. This cable is particularly suitable for charging smartphones, tablets and some laptops, but it can also transfer data. The compatible devices include the Samsung Galaxys S8 to S10 and the Note 8, Apple's iPad Pro is also a perfect fit. The Huawei Matebook, Apple's MacBook from 2016 and the 13.3 inch MacBook Pro can also be charged without limitation. The Huawei Mates 9 and P10 are sometimes not compatible, so you should definitely check the device list on Amazon before buying.
The Thunderbolt 3.0 USB-C cable which costs around 25 euros and was the most convincing in this category, also comes from Anker. At 40 Gbit/s, data transfer is particularly fast, plus 100 watts of charging power. That's enough for all common laptops, including a 15-inch MacBook Pro. The cable length of 50 centimeters takes some getting used to but guarantees a good speed and longer Thunderbolt cables weaken here.
2. Belkin USB-A to USB-C
This USB-A to USB-C cable only runs at a snail's pace, but its length and functionality in general make up for it. For around 15 euros you can get a USB-IF certified USB-A-2.0 to USB-C cable from Belkin . It transmits data at a speed of up to 0.48 Gbit/s and can charge with 60 watts or 3 amps. It's amazingly powerful. Normal USB-A cables only reach 15 watts, even with QuickCharge it is usually no more than 20 watts. So you can use the Belkin cable to charge a MacBook Air yourself. Even if the transmission rate is not too high, it scores with its length of 1.8 meters. An alternative with a fast 10 GBit/s is the USB-C to USB-A cable from Amazon Basics which costs just under 8 euros, so thanks to the second generation USB 3.1, you can charge almost anything with it. But it's only half as long.
Aukey offers two USB-C to USB-A-3.0 adapters for 8 euros. This is suitable for easily converting a USB-C socket into a USB-A connection. Even if there is no USB-IF certification here, the adapter transmits up to 5 Gbit / s and charges with 60 watts at a current of 3 amps. If a plug is too small for you, and you can use the AmazonBasics USB-C to USB-A-3.1 adapter cable. This is available for around 9 euros and is 15 centimeters long. The transfer rate and charging speed are the same as the Aukey product, but by comparison it has the USB-IF certification.
The USB-C to micro-USB cable is also from AmazonBasics for just under 8 euros. Thanks to the USB 2.0 standard, it transmits data at 0.48 Gbit/s. This is also USB-IF certified. The length of 90 centimeters serves its purpose when charging cell phones, power banks and the like.
We also recommend another cable from Anker, the Powerline II USB-C to Lightning cable for 13 euros. This stands out from other third-party suppliers for Apple accessories thanks to the MFi licensing. This ensures compatibility with MacBooks, iPhones and Co. The 90-centimeter cable transmits according to the USB 2.0 standard, i.e. at 0.48 GBit/s and offers Power Delivery, better known as Fast Charging.
If you are looking for an all-rounder, then this adapter variant from Anker is a good deal. The Anker Powerline II 3-in-1 cable costs 16 euros and is 90 centimeters long. It corresponds to USB 2.0, which means it transmits data at 0.48 GBit/s and loads with a maximum of 15 watts, and it is also certified with MFi. So you have a standard USB-A connector on one side and a micro-USB connector on the other. There are now two adapters, one for USB-C and one for Lightning. That makes this 3-in-1 solution quite universal. For daily use, however, we recommend separate cables, as handling can be a bit tedious. It is particularly recommended for travel or as an emergency cable. If you find yourself in the rare situation of constantly having to switch between these three connection standards, then the Anker solution is still advisable.
What is the difference between the USB generations?
To give you an overview of the different USB standards, you will find the most important facts at a glance here. We concentrate here on data transmission, as the charging performance depends on other factors.
- USB 2.0: This standard from 2002 transmits data at 0.48 Gbit/s.
- USB 3.0: Previously known as USB 3.1 Gen1, it is now properly called USB 3.2 Gen1 or USB Superspeed. Data is sent and received at up to 5 Gbit/s.
- USB 3.1: This standard was previously called USB 3.1 Gen2, now known as USB 3.2 Gen2 or USB Superspeed +. The data transfer rate is 10 GBit/s.
- USB 3.2: This is usually described with the addition Gen2x2 or USB Superspeed ++ and can deliver up to 20 GBit/s. But this is only possible as USB-C.
- USB 4: The latest standard is based on Thunderbolt 3 and transfers data at up to 40 Gbit/s.
On the safe side: cables and adapters only with certification
Certifications are not there to make products more expensive or to make the complicated search for suitable accessories even more difficult. Rather, you should adhere to these codes to be on the safe side. The market for third-party goods is enormous, especially when it comes to Apple products, the temptation is great to buy significantly cheaper accessories from lesser-known brands. However, cables that have not been tested can break a lot in the worst case, you overload your device and it can burn out.
Since there are now just as many manufacturers with the necessary certifications who also offer inexpensive products, you should not take any unnecessary risk. The USB Implementers Forum, also known as USB-IF, is primarily responsible as a non-profit company for the marketing of USB, but also manages the necessary specifications and checks whether devices comply with the high standards. Cables are only really recommended with a USB-IF certification. For Apple products, there is also MFi licensing which enables third-party suppliers to produce according to Apple's standard. MFi stands for "Made For iPhone".
Which USB-C features are important?
Since cables with a USB-C connection can not only charge, but can also transfer data, images and audio, we will show you here when you need which feature and thus which cable. The data transfer is, as already mentioned above, depending on the USB standard. So you should be clear about the transfer rate you need before buying. USB 2.0 is certainly not the fastest at 0.48 Gbit/s, but in isolated cases it does its job - that's enough for occasional images. If you need a cable that transfers a lot of or large data, you should look for USB 3.1 or higher. 5 to 20 Gbit/s are possible here. Thunderbolt 3 has the fastest rate of 40 GBit/s.
In addition to data, USB-C can also transfer images and sound. In so-called alternative modes, the contacts are used for other purposes and can thus be used for video signals. DisplayPort, MHL, Thunderbolt 3, PCI Express and HDMI are basically possible. These modes are then called DP-Alt (for Displayport) or HDMI-Alt. In principle, the decisive factor for the USB standard is how high-resolution the image should be in the end. USB 2.0 creates FullHD with converters, i.e. 1,920 to 1,080 pixels, but often without sound. USB 3.0 can then manage up to 2,048 to 1,152 pixels, including sound.
From USB 3.1, i.e. SuperSpeed+, the USB-C cable can function as an independent transmitter. Specifically, this means that it works without a converter and delivers HD video quality and sound. With a resolution of 1,920 to 1,080 pixels, USB 3.1 can transmit at 60 Hertz, higher resolutions such as UHD only at 30 Hertz. A Thunderbolt 3 can then play on up to two 4K screens at 60 Hertz, one 4K screen at 120 Hertz or one 5K monitor at 60 Hertz. The power supply for USB-C ranges from 15 watts at 3 amps and 5 volts to 100 watts at 5 amps and 20 volts. The latter is better known as Power Delivery or PD.