Since its arrival over five years ago, USB-C has pretty much taken over when it comes to smartphones and laptops, but the standard has still lacked a bit on the highest end. Now, with the USB-C 2.1 revision, the connector will be able to push up to a whopping 240W of power.
The USB-C 2.1 revision was announced this week, and Googler Benson Leung quickly pointed out one of its biggest additions. Outside of the arrival of USB4, devices can now pull up to 240W worth of charging power from a USB-C cable, more than double its previous limit of 100W. This is accomplished by allowing for a higher maximum voltage of up to 48V that can deliver the extra power at 5A.
Extended Power Range adds support for cables, chargers, and devices that support up to 240W of power. More information about EPR is forthcoming (in a new revision of the USB PD spec).
What devices need such an obscene amount of power? Leung says that some PC makers, such as Dell, are shipping laptops that draw up to 240W from a traditional barrel-jack adapter to satisfy power-hungry CPU/GPU components. Under the new standard, USB-C would be able to fill that power requirement instead of requiring the user to lug around an additional power cable. On a personal anecdote, I own an Asus G14 laptop that draws nearly 200W on its barrel-jack, but is limited to just 65W over USB-C. With this change, future versions of my laptop may not require a barrel-jack plug at all!
The one caveat here, though, is that these speeds will require a special cable to work. Compliant cables will need to support 50V at 5A and will be marked with specific icons so they’re easily identifiable.
As far as smartphones go, this change obviously has no impact, but it could be important for Chromebooks eventually. Most Chromebooks on the market today are more than satisfied by speeds under 65W, but as gaming rests on the horizon for these machines, the extra power could eventually be useful.
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