Hands-On With USB-C on the Chromebook Pixel 2

This has been an exciting week with the launch of Apple’s new Macbook with a single USB-C port (technically USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C). Then just a day later Google announces their Google Chromebook Pixel 2 2015 — shipping immediately with several useful USB-C accessories.

So we had to get our hands on one and show the power of USB-C. A few of the breakthrough aspects of the new USB-C port:

    • Capable of delivering data and power with direction being negotiated (a dock could power a laptop, or a laptop power a dock).
One Bus to rule them all, One Descriptor to find them,
One Receptacle to bring them all and in either orientation bind them

– Our geek spin on Tolkien
  • Power up to 100W – devices start at 5V but can negotiate up to 12 or 20V at 5A. The Chromebook Pixel’s supply is 12V 3A (60W), and because this is now standardized, it should be able to power any device (including the new Macbook) … well, in theory.
  • Devices can negotiate to repurpose half the data lines as an “Alternate Mode”, with a native DisplayPort video channel defined by VESA being on of the first Alternate Modes defined. The Chromebook Pixel appears to support this, which is how it implements its USB-C to HDMI adapter.
  • The USB-C port is very small, thin, but strong. Pins are mirrored on either side of the port and hardware detects and corrects for orientation, so devices can be plugged in either way and work the same.

Dozens of companies and of course Intel were involved with the definition of USB-C. But the surprise here is Apple. Historically, they’ve intentionally created proprietary connectors or re-purposed standards in non-standard ways. But with USB-C, we’re seeing a serious Good Guy Apple moment. They contributed significantly to the USB-C connector, from supporting either orientation (like the proprietary Lightning connector) to making sure USB-C could be a functional superset of every bus that’s gone before. It’s a huge credit to Apple that they saw the potential for a single bus that could be standard across every device – Mac, iOS, Windows, Android, whatever.

Enough talking. Let’s see it in action.

And here are some of our devices that we show in the video that work with the Chromebook Pixel 2.

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